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Robert V View Drop Down
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    Posted: 27 Mar 2007 at 2:55pm

Hi all,

i wonder if you would all consider this seriously and let me have your suggestions as to wording.

I'm considering writing an open letter to the local paper critisising the work of the conservators of Epping Forest, but, I don;t want to go overboard or be blatantly rude, but, something has to be said.

This year, is the first time in 19 years (yes 19 years of drought and flood) that I have not made one single sighting of a Grass Snake on any of the plains in EF.

Now i'm not going to speculate as to the reasons but one thing I do know, whatever cover there had been on the plains for emerging adults or newly hatched youngsters, have been decimated by the "long horn experiments" through out the forest.

I wrote to the Conservation Officer in 2004 warning of the situation and the decline in GS numbers even then, but he just wrote back the same old spiel about needing to promote Heather growth and reduce Birch and Purple Moor Grass.

In my eyes (and I'm trying hard not to be unduly critical given the aims) the whole thing has been a disaster. Yes, there are some minor crops of Heather (about 12mm tall) in odd aptches, but generally, the trampled mess is cropped, sh*t all over and fit for no reptile. Obviously, some still survive in Glades and nooks and crannies, but, I cannot see any way back for GS when every year they rope off several areas and smash it all to bits. I'm sorry to go on, but, it rankles that an area that was almost legendary since the days of Malenoir can be treated with such ignorance.

The really ironic thing is that two years ago, two of the so called wardens wanted to arrest me for bagging, weighing, measuring and photographing newly emerged Adders.

Wow, I'm fuming.....Help.

RobV
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Vicar Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Mar 2007 at 4:54pm
Robert,

I do understand your frustration.

I would suggest that the first thing to do would be to have a darn good think as to what other reasons might have caused the proven (you have records!) decline. Then you can set about 'testing' each theory to see if it stands up.

It seems to me that they are unlikely to just accept blame, and are more likely to point to some other factor. This is where a well thought out plan of action will expose any knee-jerk diversionary tactics, if any are employed.

I find it hard to comment as I don't know the site nor the situation. Either way, it sounds as though the animals have already suffered.

So sorry mate

Steve
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote administrator Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Mar 2007 at 5:45pm

If I could help I would Rob. My experience with any challenge to management is that very often it doesn't get beyond a load of generic responses - the classic being that reptiles benefit from 'open' habitat - totally missing the point that reptiles require three dimensional habitats with a mixture of cover and more open basking areas. Seems we all have the same experience, frustrating isn't the word for it when your on the ground and can see the damage done.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Peter Vaughan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Mar 2007 at 6:31pm

A bit worrying all this.  Increasingly it seems that grazing - in particular grazing by cattle - is seen as THE answer to heathland biodiversity management.   On one local reserve ponies are grazed - they haven't eliminated the reptiles and appear to be helping to re-generate the heather.   But there is a desire to replace them with cattle.  I am not entirely sure why - I think its because certain breeds of cattle will munch their way through a wider variety of invasive plant species.  That may further improve the variety etc of the flora but...

Peter

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Robert V View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Robert V Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 Mar 2007 at 1:42pm

 

Mmmm, thanks all for your sentiments etc.

In a way, I think Steve's right, I should try to eliminate every other possibility but, as I'd already alerted the powers-that-be in '04 of the decline of one area the year after grazing started there, and others had warned as early as 1998 of the detrimental effects in other grazed areas, they would find it hard to deny the link between the two events.

BUT. Here is an part of what they told me and I quote....."None of the reptile species in the forest are faced with extinction in the forest, or in Essex, although their numbers have reduced markedly because of loss of suitable open habitats over the last century, and they should all benefit in the long term by an expansion of the more open heathy habitats and more edge habitat...."

It goes on to say the benefits to Heath Wood Rush, Creeping Willow and Black Sedge! Obviously much more important than any reptile huh?

Anyway, if it can happen here, it can happen anywhere, and though a few might chuckle when I mention trying to increase the protection for Grass Snakes as well as Adders, mark my words, if we don't, in twenty years, we'll be lucky to photograph either.

Of course, I could try and reverse the thinking altogether and any GS I find, I could transfer to a "safe site" in Kent maybe or even down in Somerset?! Now theres a thought....

R  

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Vicar Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 Mar 2007 at 2:40pm
Just thought it worth a mention...

There are some of us on this forum, for whom herpetology is an amateur hobby, which we do for the joy of observing the animals, and our mortgage payments are in no way dependent upon national or regional conservation organisations.

What I'm saying is, if somebody has good evidence, but is shy of causing waves because their livelihood depends upon keeping certain organisations on side, there are some of us who do not need to tread so lightly.

Certainly feel free to PM me about any such issues in Surrey.


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Robert V View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Robert V Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31 Mar 2007 at 4:45am

 

Wow,

I'm glad (in a way) that I'm not the only one with 'issues'.

Again, I think Steve is right; some of us are 'just' herp amateur enthusiasts and only have an ineterest in one or two sites, but, an intimate knowledge of such sites surely can be useful for understanding herp needs nationally?

It seems to me that there are major differences of opinion as to what "reptile/herp/snake needs" are as is evidenced by above in Dave and Tony's debate and if such differences exist in such things as what constitutes a perfect reptile environment, then how can land owners or organisations like the conservators of EF know exactly what to do and what NOT to do???

For what its worth (and I realise few are listening) I think that Nn perfect habitat is not the same as Vb perfect habitat and to a certain extent, thats where EF suffers through total lack of understanding of each as they're just treated as snakes in the grass and expected to survive upheaval.

So, like Tony down at Hartland, I'm on a hiding to nothing and no wonder you went over to SA Tony, where I imagine wild, still looks a bit like wild.

I'm going over there again in a about an hour...... Glutton for punishment i suppose. The trouble is that....... I can never stop being interested!

RobV
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Vicar Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 Apr 2007 at 4:48am
Eelmoor marsh appears well managed for reptiles, with good densities of Nn, Af and Vb, although fewer Zv than expected.

To give an idea of the grazing intensity at the site, I think there are about six Przewalski horses, and a similar number of cattle over 79 hectares.

By all accounts, the flora of the site has benefited greatly.

I've heard that the number of cattle may double soon.
Steve Langham - Chairman    
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote herpetologic2 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 Apr 2007 at 5:52am

Basically your stuffed when it comes to reptiles in the Forest Rob, though ask for the crested newt records from the conservators......

Overgrazing an area which is important for this species is a criminal offence hence the police should be involved.....wait a minute

The Epping Forest SSSI citation states that there are excellent populations of all the amphibian & reptile species found in Essex - if features of a SSSI are being damaged by works (grazing) which are being used to help restore other features of the SSSI then they have to review this and mitigate for this damage - reptile numbers going down due to reduction of vegetation structure

I would suggest that the open letter may back fire....... though I cannot stop you from doing that

The one thing I would like to have is your records over your time studying the reptiles at Epping Forest - we need to collate all the available data together I have some data, Roy has some and if we put all this together I would be willing to write a report for the conservators and Natural England......

 

Let me know

 

Jon

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote herpetologic2 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 Apr 2007 at 5:54am

PS I do feel that the management of the Forest is not benefiting the reptiles and so the numbers appear to be declining due to the removal of their habitat - hence the need to rectify this as the reptiles are protected under the SSSI citation!

PPS also mammals, invertebrates will also be reduced due to the complete removal of molinia tussocks etc

PPPS what we want them to do is to provide suitable compensatory habitats - brash piles, windrows, areas of molinia/bramble/bracken so that the animals survive long enough to colonise the developing heathland in 30 to 40 years

PPPPS - How far do your grass snakes range Rob?

 



Edited by herpetologic2
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