Over the past year, wildlife has become accustomed to living without us. There have been fewer cars on the road and fewer people about, and our wildlife has responded by spreading out a little further. What’s going to happen as the people and the cars start coming back?
Spring is breeding time, so our wildlife is especially active right now. We’re at a vital moment in the wildlife calendar, as success or failure sets the scene for the rest of the year and beyond. In 2021, we have the unusual scenario of humans emerging from lockdown at the same time as our wildlife is becoming more active. To avoid a possible and disastrous clash, we need to start as we mean to go on –by remembering that wildlife also has a space in this world and needs our support.
Last weekend, I spotted 10 squashed toads along a short stretch of road. I suspect that many drivers are unaccustomed to looking out for ‘toads on the road’, especially at night. But toads, hedgehogs, bats, badgers and all sorts of wonderful wildlife are nocturnal, meaning that they move about, interact and hunt in the darkness. Common toads care about where they breed and often migrate back to the same ponds every year. They always travel the same route – regardless of what now interrupts it - which is why they can end up crossing roads. Recognising this (rather magical!) toad behaviour and driving with care will mean that we’re more likely to spot them in enough time to slow down and avoid them. Small adjustments to our own behaviour will protect our wildlife.
Humans are also creatures of habit and we’ve missed being able to move about as we would normally but making room for wildlife is not going to prevent that. In fact, if lockdown has taught us anything it’s how much the sound of birdsong or the sight of flowers in bloom lifts our spirits. When nature feels good, so do we! As we emerge from our hibernation together this year, let’s remember that wildlife deserves to feel just as safe as we do. After all, we’re stepping out of our homes and into theirs.
Here are some tips on how to give our wildlife a helping hand as you start to enjoy our glorious Yorkshire and beyond once again.
Driving carefully, especially at night, will make all the difference for all sorts of wildlife – whether that’s toads, hedgehogs, badgers or birds feeding by the roadside.
Take your litter home with you
Unbelievably, littering is on the increase and Yorkshire’s green spaces, parks, beaches and nature reserves are being trashed. Every piece of rubbish is dangerous to wildlife – they can get tangled in it, choke on it, or be suffocated by it. Take home everything you bring with you and safely pick up and bin any litter that you see.
Keep dogs on leads
Even the friendliest of dogs can frighten or harm wildlife. Many birds nest on the ground and a dog can unwittingly trample on eggs or scare a bird off a nest (they may well never return and their chicks will die). Staying to marked paths and keeping your dog on a lead is the safest thing to do.
Report wildlife crime
Sadly illegal shooting, trapping and poisoning of wildlife are still common. You may not recognise the significance of what you’ve seen, so it’s always worth reporting anything unusual. If a crime is taking place call 999 immediately, otherwise phone 101 and provide as much information as you can.
Don’t rush to spring clean
Birds are nesting in our hedges and beloved creatures like hedgehogs are hiding in long grasses, so think of them before you get that strimmer out. Spring clean your house instead and leave any outdoor tidying to later in the year.