- Conserve through study and direct action, the native reptiles and amphibians of Jersey.
- Collect and collate herpetofauna records.
- Provide general advice on native reptiles and amphibians and their habitat management.
- Raise awareness amongst the general public.
Many people have never seen a lizard or a snake and would not know where to see one; yet with simple guidance, the experience could be brought to many people, whilst overcoming the negative perceptions that often hamper conservation efforts.
Volunteer field assistants required – radio-tracking the grass snake in Jersey
Currently we are carrying out a PhD on the “Status and conservation of grass snakes Natrix natrix and slow-worms Anguis fragilis in Jersey, C.I.” Records of grass snakes in Jersey are limited with a patchy distribution. Its status is unclear, with little information available on its ecology and population size in Jersey, there is much to be discovered. The grass snake is undoubtedly the rarest of Jersey’s reptiles. Determining the status of the species will provide insight into the need for intervention and species recovery. One of many research objectives are to investigate and model their movements, home range size, and habitat use therefore the ‘Think grass snake campaign’ needs your help.
We require the support of keen volunteers to work alongside our PHD student to carry out this radio-tracking and monitoring. We are looking for people who are able to commit full regular days of independent radio tracking to up to 3 months starting ASAP. This could be 1 day a week or 5?
Volunteer activities will be focused around intensively tracking and, if necessary, searching for grass snakes and recording basic behavioral data in the field. Training will be given in radio-tracking, habitat assessment and understanding grass snake behavior. Volunteers will also be responsible for entering some of the data collected into the field database.
Applicants will need to:
§ Have a background in biological sciences
§ Be happy to work outdoors and have some previous herpetology experience
§ Have flexibility, commitment and determination to work, under sometimes uncomfortable or frustrating conditions, combined with good physical fitness
§ Provide careful attention to data recording
§ Be able to commit minimum of 1 day per week for 3 months
§ Be resident in Jersey
§ Have transport within Jersey
This is the ideal opportunity for someone looking for practical conservation experience working with reptiles. If you wish to apply, please contact Rob ward email@example.com or telephone 07829968303
Crucial time for grass snakes now
A scientist leading a campaign to save Jersey’s only native snake is asking people to take some simple measures to help the Island’s dwindling grass snake population lay their eggs safely.
Doctoral student Rob Ward of the University of Kent is working with the Department of the Environment on the ‘Think Grass Snake’ campaign, carrying out research on ways to save Jersey’s non-venomous and harmless grass snake.
The grass snake, Jersey’s rarest reptile, relies on warm humid environments, such as those found in compost and manure heaps, to lay and incubate its eggs, so protecting these nesting habitats is an important step in preventing extinction.
June and early July are one of the most important times of the year for the grass snake; the females will have mated in the spring, and are now searching for vital egg-laying sites.
Rob, who’s been tracking grass snakes since the start of spring on various sites in the Island, is encouraging people to keep an eye out for grass snakes that may be using their compost and manure heaps for nest sites, and to report sightings all year round. He is also asking for the piles not to be disturbed until October if possible, to allow the young snakes to hatch after a two month incubation period.
He said: ‘This is one of the most important times of year for grass snakes, as the next generation's chance of survival depends on finding the best conditions. As humans have modified landscapes and habitat over centuries, grass snakes have come to be largely dependent on man-made piles of rotting vegetation, such as compost and manure heaps, to provide the perfect incubation chamber for their eggs.’
Rob continued, ‘Any information from the public, no matter how small or insignificant, is extremely valuable and will make a real contribution to the protection of Jersey’s grass snakes. It all helps build a clearer picture of where they’re living and nesting and how to protect them, and will contribute towards a study which aims to stop the decline of these native reptiles.’
Sightings can be reported through the campaign website www.ThinkGrassSnake.je which has a quick, online survey for submitting sightings. The site provides facts and resources about amphibian and reptiles, and how to encourage them. There is also a dedicated telephone line 441628 (a ‘spotline’) for people to call if they see a grass snake or slow worm.
Report your reptile sightings
The scientist leading Jersey’s Think Grass Snake campaign is calling on Islanders to report any reptile sightings over the next few weeks.
As the days get shorter and the temperature falls, Jersey’s reptiles will soon be searching for places to hibernate over the winter and may not appear again until March or April.
University of Kent researcher Rob Ward, whose work will be instrumental in the future conservation of Jersey’s grass snakes and slow worms, is asking people to send in any reports of grass snakes and slow-worm sightings this month (October) and to keep an eye out in spring for a number of reptiles turning up in the same spot.
The information will build a picture of where our rarest reptiles choose to hibernate. The loss of these sites can have a large effect on local reptile populations.
Mr Ward said: “The more information we have about potential hibernation sites, the more we can do to protect these magnificent but elusive creatures. By recording where reptiles are spotted, we can work out where hibernation may be occurring as sightings start to tail off. Similarly in spring, the first sightings can alert us to the emergence of reptiles from hibernation.”
If you think you may have spotted any going into hibernation, please get in touch with the Think Grass Snake Campaign by calling 0044 1534 441628, or visiting www.ThinkGrassSnake.Je/about
How to tell a possible hibernation spot
- Sites include old rock walls and earth banks, root systems, mammal burrows, piles of debris, and large grass tussocks.
- Hibernation spots are normally in areas that receive some sun to avoid very low winter temperatures.
- Many creatures will share a really good hibernation site and for slow-worms this may mean hundreds all using the same spot.
New British toad species found in Jersey
Collaboration between conservationists from Jersey and the UK, and scientists in the Netherlands and Portugal, has revealed that Jersey’s iconic toads are a distinct new species, different from toads found in England.
The new British species is revealed in a paper published in the October edition of The Herpetological Journal, published by the British Herpetological Society. The data will be presented by scientist/conservationist Dr John Wilkinson at this week’s Inter-Island Environment Meeting, at Durrell (Jersey Zoo) over the next two days (9-10 October).
Jersey is the only Channel Island to have toads. As a new species, unique in Jersey within the British Isles, they will need tailored conservation to ensure their future survival.
Most toad breeding populations in Jersey appear to be in small, privately-owned garden sites which often support only small (and possibly in the long-term non-viable) breeding populations of single numbers of spawning females. Many of these garden sites are in the west or south of the Island.
The Department of the Environment has been working to protect the Island’s toads for a number of years. Ongoing conservation measures include supporting and advising people who want to install a garden pond, improving where toads live and connecting different breeding sites so toad populations continue to thrive.
Jersey’s toad populations are monitored through Jersey Toadwatch, a project jointly run by the Department of the Environment and Durrell. The information is added to breeding records collected since 2005. This data gives conservationists a clearer picture on trends to inform future action.
Dr Wilkinson carried out his PhD research on Jersey toads and now works as Science Programme Manager for UK charity Amphibian and Reptile Conservation. He said “We always suspected there was something special about the toads of Jersey. They grow larger, breed earlier and use different habitats than English toads. Now we know they are a new species, we can ensure efforts for their conservation are directed to their specific needs.”
The Department of the Environment’s Principal Ecologist, John Pinel, added: “Conservation of biodiversity in Jersey has always had a high priority; this news will help ensure that toads continue to receive the positive action they deserve.”
The news is further evidence of Jersey’s biological distinctiveness, especially concerning amphibians. The agile frog Rana Dalmatina, is also unique to Jersey in a UK context, and has been the subject of successful conservation management in recent years.
Campaign to protect grass snakes
Jersey’s only native snake is the focus of a campaign which aims to save it from extinction. Our Island’s rarest reptile, the non-venomous and harmless grass snake is threatened with extinction unless steps are taken to conserve the species.
The ‘Think Grass Snake’ campaign is run by the Department of the Environment together with a number of partners. It aims to raise awareness of the grass snake and to persuade people to report their sightings of snakes and slow-worms. This data will be used in a study, with the ultimate aim of halting the decline of these native reptiles.
There is a campaign website which has a quick, online survey people can submit any sightings to. The site also provides facts and resources about amphibian and reptiles and how to encourage them. There is also a dedicated telephone line for people to call if they see a grass snake.
The campaign will initially be focused on the western side of the island and will be rolled out to other parishes next year.
The campaign, which is funded by a number of companies, charities and not for profit organisations, is led by doctoral student Rob Ward who is studying for a PhD on Jersey’s grass snakes and slow-worms with the University of Kent.
He said: “I’m very keen to hear from the public and learn about any of their sightings or encounters with both grass snakes and slow-worms.
“My main aim is to determine how many grass snakes are left in the Island, where they are, why Jersey’s grass snakes are so rare, and what we can do to improve their conservation status locally.
“If by raising awareness we can help people understand what to look for and then to share their information, this will make a real contribution to the protection of grass snakes.”
The Department of the Environment is appealing for help from the public to assist Mr Ward, so he can build a clearer picture of where grass snakes and slow-worms live and how to protect them.
Islanders who spot a grass snake can contact the spotline on +44 (0)1534 441628.
Record your Sightings
Department of the Environment
Howard Davis Farm
La Route de la Trinite
Telephone: 00 44 1534 441600
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