Latest survey shows that sightings of some garden animals in the UK are becoming rare. The results indicate that only a small percentage of people living in the UK have ever seen a red squirrel.

The numbers have been tallied from the second round of a survey conducted by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). While the RSPB normally conducts a survey regarding birds, the society also chose to ask respondents about other garden wildlife as well. This is the first time the RSPB has added other animals into the survey questions since the society first started the Big Garden Birdwatch 36 years ago. RSPB's partners in the survey include the People's Trust for Endangered Species (PTES), the Mammal Society and the Amphibian & Reptile Conservation Trust (ARC).

"This massive survey shows how important our gardens are for the amazing variety of wildlife living there," said RSPB conservation expert Daniel Hayhow. "The State of Nature report showed that we need more information across many species groups, so widening the Big Garden Birdwatch's scope to include other animals made perfect sense."

The Big Garden Birdwatch is considered to be one of the biggest wildlife surveys in the world and almost half a million people participated in the event. Participants in the survey noted down information on birds and other garden wildlife to provide conservation experts with more information about many types of animals that reside or visit gardens around the country. The RSPB also started an event in order to educate people on how to care for these wild animals. The latest results show that red squirrels and hedgehogs are becoming more and more scarce in UK gardens.

Many of the survey respondents reported seeing grey squirrels. In fact, over 72 percent have seen these animals at least once every month. While numerous, grey squirrels are considered to be an invasive species. Moreover, grey squirrels are also known to carry virus that is lethal for the red squirrel. In comparison, only 3 percent of the respondents have reported seeing a red squirrel.

The results of the Big Garden Birdwatch also showed that hedgehogs are also becoming less common in gardens. While 67 percent of the respondents have reported seeing a hedgehog, the problem is that they were seen in less than a third of the gardens included in the survey. Moreover, conservationists have also reported that hedgehog populations have dwindled by approximately 30 percent since the year 2000.

"Gardens can be ideal habitats for mammals but from the Big Garden Birdwatch and' (PTES) mammal surveys, we know that only a minority of gardens are regularly used by hedgehogs - one species we're particularly concerned about," said PTES mammal survey coordinator David Wembridge. "With numbers falling in the wider countryside, doing more to encourage hedgehogs into the green spaces around our homes and places of work could make a big difference."

The survey was also able to gather more information about amphibians such as toads and frogs. Around 28 percent of the respondents reported seeing toads at least once per month. The common frog was indeed more common and almost half of all the respondents reported monthly frog sightings.

"Those taking part in this year's Big Garden Birdwatch have captured one of the largest snapshots ever recorded for some of our most endearing and threatened mammals," said the Mammal Society chief executive Marina Pacheco. "It's fantastic to know that gardens can be a vital refuge for rapidly-declining species like the red squirrel and hedgehog. As well as taking part in an enjoyable survey, participants have greatly increased our understanding of the distribution and relative abundance of UK mammals." 

ⓒ 2021 All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.