Press release: Volunteers needed for springtime wildlife surveys

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Charity calls for help recording endangered wildlife in gardens and on local riverbanks

This spring, leading wildlife conservation charity People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) is calling for volunteers across the UK to take part in their annual spring surveys in a bid to help endangered wildlife and the habitats they call home.

From March onwards, volunteers are needed to record any wild mammals, such as hedgehogs and foxes, spotted in gardens or other green spaces as part of PTES’ Living with Mammals survey. From April to June, volunteers are asked to visit a local riverbank or waterway in search of elusive water voles for the National Water Vole Monitoring Programme. And, later in spring, volunteers are needed to health-check Britain’s hedgerows for the Great British Hedgerow Survey and record any sightings of spectacular stag beetles as part of the charity’s Great Stag Hunt from late May into July.

David Wembridge, Mammal Surveys Coordinator at People’s Trust for Endangered Species says: “With blossom on the trees, and bats and hedgehogs emerging from hibernation, spring is a wonderful time to connect with the great outdoors and get involved in conservation.”

“Whether it’s spotting wildlife in your garden or local park, walking a stretch of waterway or hedgerow, taking part in a survey is a brilliant way to help conservation. Every record – even if you look and don’t spot anything – is valuable to understanding how different populations and habitats are changing and how we might protect them. Taking the time to appreciate the natural world on our doorstep, listening and looking, fosters a connection and powers a whole lot of amazing citizen science!”

Water vole by David Edwards
Water vole, credit David Edwards.

Living with Mammals (March onwards)

To take part in PTES’ Living with Mammals survey, volunteers simply need to record what wild mammals they see each week in their gardens, local parks or other green spaces such as allotments and churchyards. Any sightings (or the signs left behind such as footprints or droppings) are recorded online. Free advice is available to help those new to wildlife surveying – you don’t need to be an expert!

Any wild mammal, however commonly seen, provides useful data. Last year almost 800 sites across the country were surveyed throughout the year, with over 20 different species spotted. These include garden regulars such as hedgehogs, foxes and grey squirrels, but excitingly there were also records of rarer species in certain parts of the country, including red squirrels, hazel dormice and water voles.

National Water Vole Monitoring Programme (15th April – 15th June)

With their glossy dark brown fur, blunt snout and furry tails, water voles are arguably one of the UK’s most endearing mammals and were immortalised by Ratty in The Wind in the Willows. Once a common sight along Britain’s waterways, water voles are sadly now endangered. They have experienced one of the most serious declines of any native wild mammal as a result of habitat loss, fragmentation, and predation from non-native American mink.

To help, PTES is asking volunteers to visit their nearest stream, river, ditch or canal between 15th April and 15th June, in search of water voles (or their signs) and record what they find online. Tell-tale signs include footprints, feeding stations, burrows in the riverbank or listening out for their characteristic ‘plop’ as they dive into the water. No prior experience is needed, and free training via Zoom in April and May, and ID guides, are available online.

Last year 176 sites were surveyed across the country, with water voles found at 53 of them. Essex had the highest number of sites with water voles, followed closely by Norfolk. The sites surveyed were a combination of pre-registered sites suggested by PTES and 29 new sites registered by volunteers. These figures build on 2022’s results whereby a total of 95 sites were surveyed, with water voles spotted at 37.

The Great British Hedgerow Survey (May – October)

Hedgerows provide a lifeline for many endangered species such as hazel dormice, birds and butterflies, providing a home, food and acting as safe corridors across the countryside. But, these precious habitats are under threat and the quality of hedgerows that remain needs to be understood and improved.

Between May and October volunteers can help by taking part in PTES’ Great British Hedgerow Survey. This involves health-checking a local hedgerow(s) by filling in a simple survey form. Key features of the hedge are recorded, such as the height, width, structure and what tree species are present.

The results provide instant feedback about how healthy the hedgerow is and offer bespoke management advice to the landowner. The data enable PTES’ conservationists to build a nationwide picture of Britain’s hedgerow health and how it’s changing over time, which is key to ensuring that this iconic habitat is best protected.

The Great Stag Hunt (Late May – July)

Spectacular stag beetles start emerging from the ground on warm sunny evenings from late May and continue to be seen well into July. They’re easy to spot – they’re the UK’s largest beetles and the males are instantly recognisable with their antler-like jaws. Once emerged they fly around gardens, parks, woodlands and the wider countryside in search of mates. Stag beetles can also be seen on walls and warm tarmac surfaces, and their larvae (large white grubs) are often found in deadwood by gardeners.

Volunteers are asked to record any stag beetles they spot online. A free beetle ID guide is available online to help volunteers tell the difference between stag beetles and other insects, too.

Stag beetles are mostly found in southern England (except the North and South Downs), but there are hotspots in the Severn Valley and in coastal parts of the southwest. Last year over 14,000 stag beetles, including 200 larvae, were spotted by thousands of volunteers. As expected, most records were from south east England, with a staggering 2,269 beetles recorded in Hampshire, 2,154 in Greater London and 1,355 in Surrey. However, there was one unexpected record from North Ayrshire, Scotland. Stag beetles don’t normally live that far north, so PTES needs people in Ayrshire to look out for stag beetles this year to understand whether the record is from a resident population or if it was an accidental visitor to the region. In 2022 a stag beetle was recorded in Cumbria for the first time, but like the recent Scottish record, more records needed to know whether it was a one-off or not.

To take part in any of these surveys or to find out more about PTES, visit

–  ENDS –

For high res images, interview requests or further information, please contact Adela Cragg:

T: 07532 685 614


Notes to Editors

Available for interview

  • David Wembridge, Mammal Surveys Coordinator, People’s Trust for Endangered Species
  • Emily Sabin, Water Vole Officer, People’s Trust for Endangered Species
  • Megan Gimber, Key Habitats Officer, People’s Trust for Endangered Species

County breakdowns

National Water Vole Monitoring Programme (2023 results)

CountyWater voles detectedWater voles not detectedTotal sites surveyed per county
West Sussex21214
South Yorkshire55
East Sussex112
Greater London22
West Midlands112
South Gloucestershire11
South Lanarkshire11
West Lothian11

The Great Stag Hunt (2023 results)

CountyNo. of records in 2023
Greater London2154
West Sussex685
Isle of Wight21
East Sussex12
North Ayrshire1

About People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES)

  • PTES, a UK conservation charity created in 1977, is ensuring a future for endangered species throughout the world. We protect some of our most threatened wildlife species and habitats, and provide practical conservation support through research, grant-aid, educational programmes, wildlife surveys, publications and public events.
  • PTES’ current priority species and habitats include hazel dormice, hedgehogs, water voles, noble chafers, stag beetles, traditional orchards, native woodlands, wood pasture and parkland and hedgerows.
  • PTES has Species Champions for two of its priority species: for hedgehogs The Rt Hon Chris Grayling, MP for Epsom & Ewell and for water voles The Rt Hon Hilary Benn, MP for Leeds Central and Chair of the Brexit Select Committee.
  • Visit and follow PTES on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube & LinkedIn.

Header image credit Neil McIntyre

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