Should pest animals be put on the ‘pill’ rather than culling them?

One of the most noticeably colourful invasive species is the parakeet

Increasingly, scientists are coming up with simple ways to avoid wildlife pregnancies through medication in food. In the UK species needing this sort of thing include

These vary in the cost to the UK economy (as do the various invasive species elsewhere in the world). Below, you will find a list of many of these species in the UK, along with (where available) an estimate of the size of the population and the cost that they come with from the damage that they do. Click read more, to look at all of the different species we have talked about.

Read more: Should pest animals be put on the ‘pill’ rather than culling them?
  • Grey squirrels: Squirrels are estimated to cost £7 million in England and Wales just to forestry, the total is estimated at £14 million. The royal forestry society stated “Grey squirrel damage to trees in England and. Wales is estimated to cost £37m a year in lost timber value, reduced carbon capture, damage”. Likely a more complete figure. While the only successful elimination campaign was on Anglesey (9,597 grey squirrels were killed at a cost of £1,019,000) using natural forces, such as pine martens, many areas would just need time. They are found throughout mainland UK and many islands except areas like Anglesey and various islands, as well as areas where pine martens still live – their range includes much of Scotland and parts of Wales. Allowing the Pine marten to recover would greatly increase the number of no grey squirrels area – and various tests have shown that isolating populations can quickly depress them to near zero (despite being one of the most common places to see squirrels, city populations are only sustained by continual immigrants from the surrounding area. There are thought to be around 2.7 million grey squirrels.
  • wild boar: different to the Grey squirrel, the wild boar is native. It is true that most boar is not pure, and as such with the pig DNA breeds far faster, making its control harder. The countries population is thought to currently be 2600. Their presence of wild boar greatly improves the health of woodland, so we hope that they will not be exterminated, but rather allowed to spread to other woodlands (or indeed moved). It can be an issue for farmers, and there are needs to work on this, but their net effect is likely to be positive.
  • deer (both over-large native populations & introduced species). It is thought to be around 2 million deer in the UK, with around 600,000 born each year.
    • Red deer- 360,000 in UK, with most being in Scotland. Perhaps only 50 in Wales This has grown hugely over the last 100 years. Growth estimates 2.23% growth a year. NATIVE
    • Roe deer- 800,000 in UK, with around 70% in Scotland. Perhaps only 50 in Wales. Estimate is that the population is growing at around 2.3% a year NATIVE
    • Sika deer- 11,500, 9000 in Scotland and 2500 in England. They originated in Eastern Asia and were introduced in around 1860. NON-NATIVE- founding population originates from escapees from various deer parks around the UK (though I think it is easy to argue that deer parks should only contain native deer, in the UK
    • Fallow deer: around 100,000, thought to have hugely increased in last 20 years but increase per year is not forthcoming. NON-NATIVE -They originate in Asia, attempts to introduce them into places like Spain have often failed due to surviving populations of predators like wolves.
    • Muntjac deer: NON-NATIVE – Introduced to Woburn Park in Bedfordshire in 1838, they started to escape shortly after. Current population is roughly 52,000, but with a growth rate, that has been measured between 1980-2009 at 12% per annum. Should this continue, it would only take 2 decades for the population to exceed 500,000
    • Chinese water deer: NON-NATIVE – there are just 3600 deer living in the UK, though this is thought to be growing each year. Alarmingly, this small number represents 10% of the global population. It is possible that these might represent a back-stop which could allow their reintroduction back into their native habitat. The population is thought to be growing.
  • Feral goats: thought to be the first animal farmed, as early as 5000BC, but it is thought to have been roaming the UK for around 10,000 years. The Snowdonia goat population is thought to have doubled to 500 in the last 5 years. Originally thought to be around 250 herds around the country, that has dropped to just 50. The current population is thought to be around 1500
  • Pigeons- Descended from native, via domestication: The wild animal is the Rock dove, the feral pigeon is a domesticated species which escaped. The feral pigeon is thought to be around 18 million. No serious effort has been made to eliminate them, though problem populations can be rapidly reduced by bird boxes for birds of prey like peregrine falcons.
  • Parakeets NON-NATIVE 32,000 in 2012 potentially twice that number by now. Various possible starts to the population include escapees from a film set of ‘The African Queen’ an aviary damaged by falling parts of a plane. However, once here their population rapidly grown. They have a very strong beak, which means that they are often able to create access points into buildings from incredibly small openings. Once inside they can cause electrical short circuits and more.
  • Wallabies: unknown population size, the peak district population is thought to be extinct, having not been seen in the wild since 2000.
  • Many, many more

Total damage from invasive animals, in the UK, is estimated at £5 billion over the last 40-50 years.

The problem of invasive species appears to be a problem around the world. Places like the Kruger national park in South Africa, while looking native, have 146 species alien species, and what will happen in the future.

The suggestion is, by stopping these species from being able to have young the population will disappear over time. Virtually every country on earth has invasive species, but we need to work on stopping these accidental or illegal introductions. There would have to be a range of different ways of to get the contraceptives into the animal, food which a red deer could consume would not be edible for a parakeet.

Oddly, one of the groups most at fault here, is so called animal rights groups. Regardless of where the species origin is, they are just set loose. This is foolish, as both the released animals, and the area into which they are released are likely to suffer horrifically – often through starvation, though the animal will often do much damage before they die. So called animal rights groups are foolish in the extreme if they think that this improves the life of any of the animals in question.

Environmental and political stories from the UK in recent times

On this post, I will list a group of articles on British politics. Unfortunately, there have been quite a lot in recent times, hence this way to deal with them. These are mostly to do with climate and environment, rather than animals, though obviously this is of importance. It should be noted, that while some of these sound like they are contradictory, they are not, though I would argue that some suggest underlying conflict which needs sorting asap. (Given its length, do use ctrl f, which will allow you to jump to any article that specfically interests you

Rishi Sunak facing renewed pressure over plans to max out North sea oil

Bottom trawling of fishing nets has been found to release large amounts of carbon – 370 million tonnes each year around the world (a problem in the north sea, but also worldwide)

4 Electric heaters adverts banned in the UK for suggesting they are cheaper than gas

UK ‘used to be a leader on climate’, cry EU lawmakers, as the UK backtracks, Northern Ireland ‘dirty corner of Europe, Various environmental protections dropped since Brexit

Wind power saved Northern Ireland £243 million last year

Surprise, Surprise: as the government was told, a 10 year study has shown culling is not best way to cut Bovine TB (but are they going to listen?

-Tories (UK conservatives) urged to end idiotic £1.8 billion tax break for UK fishing fleet

‘Smart’ trap trial raises hopes American mink can be driven from the UK

-UK government refuse to admit idea that nature has rights

UK finally (earlier this week) quit a treaty -Energy Charter Transition, which allowed fossil fuel firms to sue governments over climate policies

UK to ban boilers in new homes, and rules out hydrogen as  heating source, but it already makes little sense as a car fuel

UK government is removing the right to climate protesters defence is feared to erode the right to trial by jury

A new battery in the UK is to store enough power keep 90,000 homes running through a blackout

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Paignton zoo in Devon has a baby Dik-Dik

The dik-dik is a small antelope, found in East Africa. I have been lucky enough to encounter them on many occasions, when on safari in Kenya.

They tend to move around in pairs, and the bond is so strong, it is not uncommon for them to follow each other out in front of cars.

A Kirk’s dik-dik in the wild

With a population of almost 1 million, this species is listed as least concern, never-the-less it is of great interest to see it in captivity.

Paignton zoo had a baby dik-dik arrive on new years day, so it will be even smaller than normal.

Chinese water deer, while vanishing at home, are thriving in the UK

Certainly not native, but doing well

There are perhaps only 10,000 of this species in China, though there are around 700,000 living across the border in South Korea (slightly different subspecies).

They are also doing well in the UK with around 2000 living in the country, having been introduced by the Duke of Bedford into his animal collection, and then quickly escaped (around 100 years ago)

This makes the UK an important part of this species survival. It is particularly easy to see in the Norfolk broads, but is also found in other counties in this area.

Onshore wind is the cheapest renewable resource, so why is it not being built

Why is this not returning to a be a common thing

From 2015 to last year, there was a defacto ban on onshore wind. This was because of a change by David Cameroon, who changed planning rules, so it took just one objection to block a wind project. This was a stupid idea, and indeed was only put in place as a result of NIMBY (not in my back yard) concerns from wealthy donors and conservative MPs.

Why should we care, if these wealthy people blocked onshore wind for all that time? Well it is estimated that the lack of extra onshore wind capacity is costing around £510 million to the UK public, because it is easily the cheapest electricity. To put that in perspective that is £182 per household (this is from july 2022-june 2023).

We need to reverse this foolish decision now. We need every wind turbine we can get, in the effort to reach carbon neutral power generation in the UK as soon as possible.

Continue reading “Onshore wind is the cheapest renewable resource, so why is it not being built”

Otters not yet safe in Cumbria

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The recovery of otters in the UK continues apace, but threats remain

Otters were once one of the most common predators in the UK. However, being apex predators, they are the first sign of contamination in the system. This is because, while each fish may have a low enough dose to not be impacted, when the otter has eaten many fish they are impacted.

The main threats have been chemical runoff from farms, though sewage is also a problem. 

By the 1980s, the British otter was virtually extinct from large parts of the country, only surviving in remote places, far from people and pollution. Oddly, otter hunting with special hounds was not banned until 1981, which will not have helped.

No more! Otters are now found within all counties of the UK. Now, it is true that otters are hard to see – they have always been. Generally they are species which require you to be out at strange times of the day, or just very lucky.

There are places to head where this is not the case, such as the Isle of Mull and similar islands around the UK, where the otters are dependent on the tide, so can be easier to find active in daylight.

On mainland Britain, it seems that Cumbria is an increasingly good place to look, with all suitable habitat now occupied.

Time will tell, but hopefully in the near future, this will be the case all over the UK.

“EU must cut carbon emissions 3 times faster to meet targets”

A new report has calculated that the EU is only cutting carbon emissions at 1/3 of the rate which is required in order to meet the 55% cut – from buildings, transport and agriculture by 2030

While emissions are falling, they are not falling anywhere near fast enough

Over the last 30 years, carbon emissions have dropped by 32% . while this is an impressive amount, it is far short of the promise.

The best predictions for the future, are that by 2050 the EU will have cut emissions by around 43%. While this is an important step, it is far short of what has been promised.

More importantly, at the current rate, we will have only met a further 1/3 by 2050.

The job is not done – much of the carbon emissions from the last 3 decades have been easy to achieve. They have been achieved through efficiency gains, and moving production offshore. Very little change in the EU behaviour has been required.  

An easy gain, both for individual cost, and emissions is electric cars. A faster transition is likely to save countries much money too (though it is true that at the current time, there is an issue with the tax revenue coming from fossil fuel sales.

It is far cheaper to run clean alternatives, so we must make that show in the figures.

Some governments are making efforts to help, but not in every way. For instance, in the UK, you can get money towards an electric car, but not a used one (which given the reduction in price, is likely to go further and help more. On heat pump the government is doing better – with the increase in the air-source heat pump grant, the cost to individuals has reduced to around 3500 (on average buying a heat-pump as well as installing and changing radiators to work with the lower temperature (bigger) the cost is around £11,000. However, many people have missed the advertising, and are unaware. It is true that new build homes will not be allowed to install boilers after 2025. 

However, older houses with gas boilers will be unaffected by the change until 2035. But the average cost for a new boiler, plus installation is thought to be around £4000, in 2023, meaning that for many homes, it will be cheaper to replace now.

Furthermore, while an air-source heat pump is thought to be around £50 more to run each year, should something like a thermal solar panel be added, the cost is far lower.

With carefully designed rules for builders, the switch to low cost private transport, and low cost private house heating can be cheap and obvious. At the current rate, though, this is not being met.

In the UK, clearly better understanding and education is essential, and builders need to see that adding things like thermal solar panels is a must.

Will it happen? will the EU meet our 55% target? at current speed, it is clear that this will be hard work. However, if this money is not found, we are likely to need far more in the future to adapt to the world we are creating.

White-beaked dolphin

White beaked dolphin

The white-beaked dolphin  is a marine mammal belonging 

to the family Delphinidae (oceanic dolphins) in the sub order Odontoceti (toothed whales). Their distribution is shown in the map.

The white-beaked dolphin is endemic to the cold temperate and subarctic waters of the North Atlantic Ocean, most commonly in seas less than 1,000 m (3,300 ft) deep. Due to the fact they are not fully adapted to Arctic conditions, they are more vulnerable to predators, most notably polar bears. Within this wider region, white-beaked dolphins are most commonly found in four locales: on the Labrador Shelf close to southwestern Greenland, around Iceland, off the northern and eastern coasts of Britain, and off the coast of Norway. In the Faroe Islands between Iceland and the United Kingdom the White-beaked dolphin is at risk of being hunted during drive catches of the long-finned pilot whales. They may also be incidentally trapped in the purse-sein and trawl nets of the area. There are no recognised subspecies.

The dolphin may easily be misidentified as the Atlantic white-sided dolphin, although the white-beaked is commonly found further north. The white-beaked dolphin is also typically larger, and does not have yellow streaks on its side.

Below is a video (no sound) of them filmed under water off the coast of the UK. Northern parts of the UK have populations, including Lyme bay and areas around the hebrides.

They are thought to number 100,000, so are listed as least concern.

Atlantic white-sided dolphin

Atlantic white sided dolphin (by Anna)

Atlantic white-sided dolphin

The dolphin is slightly larger than most other oceanic dolphins. It is just over a meter in length at birth, growing to about 2.8 m (9.2 ft) (males) and 2.5 m (8.2 ft) (females) at maturity. Females reach sexual maturity at between 6 and 12 years, and males between 7 and 11 years. The gestation period is 11 months and lactation lasts for about 18 months — both typical figures for dolphins. Individuals are known to live for at least 17 years.

The key distinguishing feature is the white to pale yellow patch found behind the dorsal fin of the dolphin on each side.

Groups found off Newfoundland generally number around 60 while those found near Iceland much smaller. The diet of Atlantic white-sided dolphins includes mainly herring, hake and squid. However, they consume a large variety of prey including small mackerel and various bottom fish. They have been observed to cooperatively hunt on the surface. It has been suggested that larger groups split while feeding.

The estimations for the U.S. shelf and shelf-edge water suggest that the population size is about 300,000. Additional 120,000 individuals have been estimated to spend summer in the Gulf of St.Lawrence. In the eastern North America waters the numbers increase southwards in winter and spring in association with cold waters from the Gulf of Maine. The International Union of the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) currently classifies Atlantic white-sided dolphins as Least Concern. The North and Baltic Sea populations of the Atlantic white-sided dolphin are listed on Appendix II  of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals. They are listed on Appendix II as they have an unfavourable conservation status or would benefit significantly from international co-operation organised by tailored agreements. These species of dolphin are known to fall victims to in a polluted environment, a study from 1997 confirmed that the British and Irish populations of Atlantic white-sided dolphins to succumb to these effects.

Below is a list of any articles we might have written on the species, and below that is a video. Below this, we are hoping to add many links that will help you see these in the wild. If you work in tourism of this species or hospitality where they live, we would be interested in listing your services on here, to help people come and visit.

See Animals Wild