2017 News

Snake fungal disease identified in wild British snakes for first time 19 June 2017

Europe’s wild snakes could face a growing threat from a fungal skin disease that has contributed to wild snake deaths in North America, according to an international collaborative study, led by conservation charity ZSL (Zoological Society of London) alongside partners including the U.S. Geological Survey. The new study is published in the journal Scientific Reports. Caused by the fungus Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola, snake fungal disease (SFD) can lead to symptoms including skin lesions, scabs and crusty scales, which can contribute to the death of the infected animal in some cases. SFD was first recognised in wild snakes in eastern North America around a decade ago. Prior to this study, the only wild populations found to be affected had been those in the central and eastern United States. Now, an analysis of samples collected from wild snakes in the United Kingdom and the Czech Republic between 2010-2016 has confirmed the presence of the pathogen and SFD in Europe for the first time. While the disease poses no known risk to humans or livestock, scientists are calling for further research to fully understand the significance of SFD to Europe’s snake populations. Lead author and wildlife veterinarian Dr. Lydia Franklinos said: “Our team at ZSL found evidence of SFD in grass snakes (Natrix natrix) from the UK and a single dice snake (Natrix tessellata) from the Czech Republic. The analysis found that the fungus strains from Europe are different to those previously identified in North America – suggesting that rather than being introduced across the Atlantic, or vice versa, the disease could have been present below the radar in European snakes for some time. “Of all terrestrial vertebrate wildlife, we probably know least about health conditions that affect reptiles such as snakes, so this study represents an important milestone and one that will hopefully encourage greater focus in understanding the threats facing these animals.” Dr. Jeffrey Lorch, a microbiologist with the USGS National Wildlife Health Center and the study’s co-author, said: “The fungus that causes SFD is already known to occur across the eastern half of the U.S. and infect over 20 species of snakes. Comparing how SFD affects wild snakes on different continents may help us pinpoint the factors causing the disease to emerge and help managers identify mitigation strategies.” The increasing emergence of deadly fungal pathogens – including white-nose syndrome in bats, chytridiomycosis (chytrid) in amphibians and SFD in snakes – is of grave concern to wildlife disease experts worldwide.

Derbyshire ARG Pond surveys spring 2017

The Group ran a series of pond surveys this spring to monitor amphibians, particularly great crested newts but also palmate and smooth newts, in ponds in the White Peak area of the Peak District National Park. These involved 9 ponds on 3 different nature reserves belonging to the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust to add to their species monitoring data. Also we visited 6 ponds on two different farm holdings at the request of their owners and the Peak District National Park Authority farm advisers. In addition for the second year running we visited the pond near Hartington which had been randomly selected by Freshwater Habitats Trust for their PondNet great crested eDNA survey. The surveys were also advertised to people who had been on our great crested newt training courses so that they could gain more field experience in bottle trapping, torchlight surveys and eDNA water sampling.

2015 News

14 September 2015 Derbyshire Butterfly and Reptile site destroyed

Butterfly Conservation's Lowland Derbyshire Conservation Officer Jim Steele and Ken Orpe have found that most of an important area on the northern edge of the former Stanton Ironworks site was destroyed at the end of last week. The low mosaic habitat supported 26 species of butterfly, common lizard were recorded there and grass snake are know from the adjacent ponds. The vegetation and soil has been scraped off and dumped in large piles next to the boundary with the Nutbrook Trail. The site does not have planning permission yet and there was strong representation from naturalists to safeguard this area in the development of the remainder of the site, especially as in the master plan it was shown as a landscaped area and wasn't going to be built on. It has been reported to Erewash Borough Council's enforcement officers.

6 August 2015 Annual Joint Herpetological Scientific Meeting

This year's meeting will be held at Trinity College, Dublin on Saturday August 29, the first time it has been held in Ireland. It is being organised by the Herpetological Society of Ireland with support from the Dublin University Zoological Society, ARC Trust and ARGUK.

6 July 2015 Advice note on new killer disease

Following the finding of the new chytrid disease that kills newts and salamanders in a captive collection and at a captive breeder's facility in the UK a disease alert note has been issued. Compiled by the Zoological Society of London with assistance from other bodies it is principally aimed at breeders, stockists and zoos to alert them to the risk and to try and prevent its escape into the wild where it could devestate native newt poulations. The document is published on the Garden Wildlife Health Project website

5 July 2015 Non Herp news - Hen Harrier Day location

It has been confirmed that the HEN HARRIER DAY EVENT on Sunday 9th August in the Peak District will be in the Goyt Valley. The exact location is Goyts Clough Quarry situated between the Errwood Hall car park and Derbyshire Bridge on the road up the valley. Further details about access arrangements will be published on the Hen Harrier Day website www.henharrierday.org

6 June 2015 Non Herp news - Hen Harrier Day

It has been confirmed that a HEN HARRIER DAY EVENT will be held on Sunday 9th August in the Peak District. The exact location is still being negotiated, but it will be within easy travelling distance of Buxton. Lets hope it won't be as wet as last year's one at Derwent Dam. The news this weekend that the total of missing (ie most likely illegally killed) hen harriers from the very few nesting pairs in NW England now stands at 5 makes this years repeat event even more important.

Also, there will be an evening event to celebrate the Hen Harrier the day before on Saturday 8th August 2015 in Buxton. A host of celebrities will be involved including hopefully Chris Packham, Jeremy Deller (Turner Prize winner), Mark Cocker (author), and Mark Avery. Last but by no means least, Henry the Hen Harrier will appear live (unlike many others) on stage. Details to follow, watch the Hen Harrier Day website www.henharrierday.org

10 May 2015 GCN Training Course

The Derbyshire ARG GCN Training course was held at Hilton Village Hall for 18 people over the weekend. Thanks to David Orchard for running the training session and starting the field work session and to Derbyshire ARG members for assisting with the field sessions. The field sessions quickly found GCN eggs and good results were obtained from the torchlight survey and bottle trapping.

24 April 2015 Toad crossings.

A relatively cold and dry spell delayed most toad movement in the county until temperatures rose following a wet spell just before Easter. The migration to the ponds drew to a close in the week beginning 13th April as more animals were found leaving the ponds after breeding. Measurements of the body length of male toads on their way to the ponds were undertaken at several sites to contribute to the Toadsize project being run by Amphibian & Reptile Conservation and ARGUK

24 March 2015 England Biodiversity Strategy 2020.

Have you heard of this, which the Government has set up led by officials from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs together with staff from Natural England. It replaces the UK Biodiversity Action Plan that failed to meet most of its targets by 2010 and was quietly dropped. We are now nearly half way towards the end point of the EBS 2020 and at long last officials have realised that outside of their world virtually none of the public are aware of the strategy. Many of the Conservation NGOs have dropped out of the process and are addressing the loss of biodiversity through their own projects as they don't consider that the Government's strategy has any chance of arresting the continuing decline.

14 March 2015 Training courses organised.

Details have been announced of two training courses being run by Derbyshire Amphibian and Reptile Group. A reptile survey training course followed by a site survey is being run on Saturday 25th April for Derbyshire ARG members and local DWT nature reserve volunteers. This will be based at Holloway between Cromford and Crich; see the Events page for details and booking information. A training course covering Great Crested Newts, their ecology and survey methods is being held over the weekend of Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th May. This will be based at Hilton, south west of Derby; see the Events page for details and booking information.

1 March 2015 Toad signs.

After their successful trial at Monyash and Little Hayfield last year, Derbyshire ARG has bought another 30 toad crossing signs printed on Correx for use at some of our toad crossings this spring. They will be used at Furness Vale, South Wingfield, Ridgeway, Church Wilne, Bretby, Foremarke, Radbourne and Grangemill this year.

17 February 2015 Adder survey season starts.

With the first adders found out in Derbyshire today, the 11th year of adder monitoring surveys that contribute to the Make the Adder Count Project is starting.

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Page last updated 6 August 2015.

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2014 News

9 December 2014 ZSL identify more disease threats on the horizon for amphibians.

Ranavirus disease, that particularly affects frogs with symptoms such as "red leg", emaciation and sudden die-offs, has now spread across England after its introduction from America in the 1980s and surveys a few years ago showed that the chytrid fungus causing the infection, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, is present at a low level in the UK. This has been implicated in extinctions and population reductions particularly in frogs and toads across the world in the last two decades. Now two more fatal diseases have broken out in Europe in the last few years and present a real danger to our amphibians if they reach the UK. Mass mortalities in northern Spain affecting several species of frogs, toads and newts have been found to be caused by a new more virulent ranavirus currently going under the name of CMTV (Common Midwife Toad Virus after the first species in which it was found). This has now spread to other locations and species.

At the event at London Zoo on 9th December, organised by the Zoological Society of London, it was revealed that mass mortalities of European fire salamanders in Holland have been caused by a new chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans, and this has now spread into Belgium. Testing has shown that this fungus is fatal to many species of newt, including most species of Triturus newts that include the great crested newt, as well as other newt species. Frogs and toads are not affected by this fungus, which appears to originate in Asia and to be present but not causing illness in some Chinese newt species that are imported into Europe in large numbers for the pet trade.

22 October 2014 Derbyshire ARG adds support to Campaign to save the Peak District’s upland peatlands

The RSPB today issued a press release about its Stop the Burn campaign. A range of organisations including local councils and wildlife groups are backing an RSPB campaign to bring about the end of burning on deep peat, a harmful practice that is destroying parts of the Peak District. Formed over millennia, the upland peatlands of the Peak District provide many benefits for society such as storing and purifying water, locking away carbon and giving a home to a variety of plants and wildlife.

Sadly, most of the Peak District’s upland peatlands have been damaged by historic industrial atmospheric pollution and a range of management activities including grazing, drainage and burning. As atmospheric pollution has been reduced, conditions are now suitable for bog forming plants, such as sphagnum mosses to grow. However widespread burning is preventing the recovery of these bogs. Burning is widely used by game managers to help create the best conditions for red grouse. Carefully managed burning on shallow peat is not normally cause for concern but when it takes place on deep peatlands, it can permanently damage these fragile habitats.

An evidence review by Natural England (the agency responsible for the protection of the countryside) concluded burning on deep peatlands has a negative effect on carbon storage, water quality, and on some plants and wildlife. Earlier this month, Leeds University published the results of a five-year study, providing further compelling evidence that burning has wide ranging harmful effects on deep peat.

An analysis of burning intensity for grouse moor management has identified the Peak District as one of the most intensely burnt areas in the UK so the RSPB decided it was the most fitting place to launch its For Peat’s Sake, Stop the Burn campaign. As a result, more than ten organisations including Sheffield City Council, Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and Derbyshire Amphibian and Reptile Group have joined its call for Natural England to put an end to the burning on deep peat.

12 October 2014 Work party at Hilton Gravel Pits Nature Reserve

Luckily the small group who turned up for the work party at the Nature Reserve enjoyed a dry and sunny day after a wet week. A section of the eastern margin of main newt pond at the reserve was cleared of the dense willow scrub that has invaded the area and most of the stumps were treated to try and prevent coppice regrowth in the future. Following the exceptionally dry September the recent rain had restored some water to the northern half of the the pond. A further date may be set in the new year to carry out more clearance work.

30 September 2014 Woodland Festival

A dry, warm and sunny weekend ensured large numbers of visitors attended the Derbyshire County Council's Woodland Festival at Elvaston Castle Country Park. Lots of them spoke to us at the Derbyshire ARG stand, provided several sighting records around the county and many children had fun colouring in the pictures of amphibian and reptiles and handling the adder sloughs that we took along.

20 September 2014 Further update from the Garden Wildlife Health Project

Compared to other taxa, our understanding of disease in British amphibians and reptiles is relatively poor. We have been building a database of disease incidents in amphibians since 1992 and, with the GWH project, we now also conduct investigations into the diseases of wild reptiles in Great Britain. Every report submitted contributes to our understanding of disease threats and each dead animal submitted is examined by a wildlife vet. The post mortem results are recorded on a national database and samples are archived into one of the largest wildlife tissue banks in the world. These are invaluable resources that provide a solid grounding to study and safeguard the health of British amphibians and reptiles. Our results inform and influence government and NGO policies on conservation management through, for example, the GWH forum and Defra’s GB Wildlife Disease Partnership. Our investigations so far have helped to inform some of ARG-UK’s best practice guidelines.

All this is possible because people (like you!) are motivated to get involved and report what they are seeing. So next time you are out herping, please report any sick or dead amphibians or reptiles to us at Garden Wildlife Health Project: http://www.gardenwildlifehealth.org/

It’s free to get involved in GWH, and you’ll receive feedback from a veterinary surgeon about the incident. Furthermore, the project regularly performs post-mortem examination on carcasses to determine the cause of death.

16 August 2014 Survey finds common lizard and slow-worm

The first visit today to the cover objects laid out in early June near Hassop to check on a 2011 sighting of slow-worm during tree felling on a lichen rich slope. Apart from field voles, wood mice and innumerable ants' nest two slow-worms and two common lizards were found. There is another trip to the site planned for 20th September (weather permitting), email the secretary if you want to come along

11 August 2014 Grass snake eggs hatching

First sighting today of two new-born grass snakes on a muck heap specially constructed for them near Bolsover

08 August 2014 New snake leaflets from Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (ARC)

ARC have launched their summer snakes campaign to get people to record snake sightings in their gardens. It also includes a series of information leaflets that can be downloaded from their website . These include "Identifying Britain’s snakes: a poster to help you decide which kind of snake you’ve spotted"; "Snakes in gardens – Key facts"; "Snakes in gardens – Frequently asked questions" and "Snakes and garden netting: a guide to help you reduce the chance of snakes getting tangled and dying in netting"

15 July 2014 Update on the Garden Wildlife Health Project

Don't get put off by the name, they are really needing reports of sick, dying or dead reptiles that you find anywhere - NOT just in gardens. Since the official launch of the project they have received 480 reports of amphibian disease incidents and 82 carcasses from these incidents. These were mostly common frogs and common toads with a small number of palmate newts and smooth newts.

They have received very few reports of reptile disease, but they have all generated bodies for post-mortem examination.

The GWH Project could be investigating disease (both non-infectious and infectious) in reptiles and amphibians to a larger degree if they had a wider range of samples and reports. While reports of common toads and common frogs from suburban sites have been good, they are interested in learning about the fate of all British amphibian and reptile species from all regions. Details are at

Garden Wildlife Health Project: http://www.gardenwildlifehealth.org/

13 July 2014 Reminder for Pleasley visit on Saturday 19th July

Don't forget this free event, no booking required just meet in the site car park by the former colliery engine house at 11am.

12 July 2014 Dawn to Dusk at the Avenue Event

A successful time was had at the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust's event at their nature reserve at Wingerworth, on a hot sunny day. DARG members ran the pond dipping sessions everyone of which turned up many smooth newt tadpoles. A few great crested newt tadpoles were also found, along with lots of dragonfly and damselfly larvae and many other invertebrates.

18 June 2014 BBC get the wrong newt in Ripley

Newts get the blame again when they may not even be present in this non-story on the BBC website headlined "Soil mound move at Ripley site delayed due to newt risk" where a house building company claims it cannot move a large mound of soil near to one of its developments because there may be newts on the site. Presumably this refers to the risk that the protected great crested newt might be in the vicinity. However the BBC have illustrated it with a stock photo of the un-protected and non-native alpine newt..

7 June 2014 Slow-worm survey underway.

After several false starts over the past couple of years we have now put out several refuges on the site at Hassop above where a casual sighting of slow-worm was made in 2011. The date eventually chosen, when the Peak Park Ranger could assist with transporting the materials to within 100 metres of the location, started with lightening and thunder but luckily those thunderstorms had passed before we were carrying metal "tins" across the hillside. Unluckily they were replaced by steady heavy rain. Visits are planned in August and September to check the site.

27 May 2014 Belper Wakes Event

A successful day was had at the well attended Belper Wakes Event on Bank Holiday Monday, with the DARG stand attracting many visitors. Quite a few amphibian and reptile records were received from the public including from neighbouring counties

18 May 2014 Interim Derbyshire toad crossing results

Not all the figures are in yet but already 9,000 toads were moved across the roads by volunteer patrols in Derbyshire, though unfortunately around 1,000 toads were still killed on the roads at these locations. Some other amphibians were found, mostly some frogs and smooth newts, with a few great crested newts being recorded at Monyash, Radbourne and Grangemill.

18 May 2014 Successful Training event at Whitworth Park

Despite the heavy showers a successful amphibian training workshop was held at the Whitworth Centre in Darley Dale. Thanks are due to the Centre for the free use of a room and supplies of tea and coffee. Bottle trapping confirmed smooth newts in the Boasting Lake, which added to the records of frog and toad there.

3 May 2014 new Amphibian Identification Guide published.

A new revised and updated version of the Amphibian ID guide has just been published and is available from the ARGUK and the ARC websites. To download the 6 page colour guide in pdf format click this link or visit the ARGUK or ARC websites. This new version includes more information on the alien species that are found in some parts of the UK such as the green frogs, bullfrogs, midwife toads and alpine newts

8 April 2014 Derbyshire toad crossing on Burton TV news

The team from Burton TV news came out to film our Bretby/Repton Shrubs toad crossing, including commentary by Bob Baker, the crossing co-ordinator and DARG committee member. To view the footage which lasts about 12 minutes visit their website

31 March 2014 Derbyshire adder "posted" to London

The vets at the Institute of Zoology (IoZ) in London were interested in a freshly dead adder found dat the weekend. They are behind the Garden Wildlife Health Project being run by several conservation organisations to examine disease in garden birds, hedgehogs, amphibians and reptiles. As very few sick or dead reptiles are found in gardens and little is known about their diseases they are particularly interested in reptiles found anywhere. Despite following previous guidance about posting carcasses to the IoZ, today they found out that the Royal Mail won't allow them to have dead adders sent by post in case the postman somehow gets injected with venom! Therefore the IoZ had to arrange for a courier to come and collect the dead adder (securely packaged in a stout container) from us and transport it down to London. Remember if you come across dead or dying amphibians or reptiles that you think may be suffering from disease then please visit the project website and click on the box saying Report sick or Dead wildlife.

31 March 2014 Toad migration under way

After a start stop beginning to toad movement across Derbyshire during most of March the mild weather last week started some significant migration to their breeding ponds. The wet weather on Monday evening brought them out in real numbers so our Toad Crossing Patrols were really busy. Unfortunately travelling around that evening showed large numbers of casualties on the roads in many places where loads of toads have been squashed by the traffic.

15 March 2014 The Sanctuary LNR Derby#4 : Derby City throw in the towel

Last night Derby City Council slipped out a press release saying they were abandoning the construction of the cycle track on their Local Nature Reserve. They blamed the Wildlife Trust for taking legal action, resulting in a court judgement ordering the City Council to stop work until the court case is heard, saying the delay meant that they would be unable to complete the work within budget. Looks like a success for careful campaigning by the coalition of 15 wildlife groups and the over 1,000 objections sent to the Council's Planning Department.

7 March 2014 Grass snakes and Toads are about

First sightings reported today of grass snakes seen out of hibernation. Frog spawn starting to be seen across the county and quite a few common lizards were about last weekend. With forecast milder weather in the next little while, toads could soon be migrating to their breeding ponds. A few have already been reported from Bretby & Foremark toad road crossing patrols

19 February 2014 The Sanctuary LNR Derby#3

A court order has been served on Derby City Council to stop them bulldozing the Nature reserve until there is a full court hearing into the case for a judicial review of the planning permission

7 February 2014 A sad day for wildlife in Derby#2

Investigations are being made next week into what could be major errors in the proposed lizard mitigation works on the Sinfin site in Derby. Video posted on the internet shows most of the site apparently flattened by heavy machinery.

7 February 2014 A sad day for wildlife in Derby#1

Derby City Council made unwelcome news and set a precedent for the destruction of nature reserves when they approved the construction of a cycle race track and a mountain bike area on their own Sanctuary Local Nature Reserve (as declared under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act). This was despite over 1,000 objections to the planning application being received. Tim Birch, Conservation Manager at the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, said during the meeting: "This would set a shameful local and national precedent. It will be the first time a local authority nature reserve is destroyed by the same council that created it." Local naturalist Nick Moyes who was involved in setting up the reserve 10 years ago said: "In reaching this decision, the authority has gone against its own planning policies." and TV naturalist Chris Packham called the proposal "wanton vandalism".

5 February 2014 News from last weekend's Herpetofauna Workers' Meeting

The 2014 meeting at Bristol Zoo Gardens was a sell out, with many more people wanting to attend but it had reached the capacity limit for the venue. Two of the talks related to toads on roads with the results from the Toadsize measuring project in 2013 suggesting that there is a greater size range in the toad population where toad patrols are present.

A study of road gullies in Holland gave very similar results to the findings in Perth & Kinross last year - that road gullies are a death trap with an average of 1.5 vertebrates per gully pot. Amphibians make up the majority (87%) with the rest being small mammals, leading RAVON the Dutch government wildlife agency to estimate half a million adult amphibians and many times this figure of juveniles are killed in gully pots each year. Work is being undertaken on new designs that incorporate a construction allowing amphibians to escape.

17 January 2014 Garden Wildlife Health project launched

Amphibian and Reptile Groups are being asked to assist in this project set up by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), Froglife and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. ARGUK and ARC along with others like The Mammal Society and the British Hedgehog Preservation Society are also involved as Forum members with the project.

It aims to monitor the health of, and identify disease threats to, British wildlife based mainly on observations by members of the public in their gardens or locality. If you come across dead or dying amphibians or reptiles that you think are suffering from disease then please visit the project website and click on the box saying Report sick or Dead wildlife. In some cases you may be sent a package to send the dead animal to the ZSL vets for an autopsy to determine the cause of death.

7 January 2014 Save The Sanctuary Local Nature Reserve, Derby

Derbyshire Amphibian and Reptile Group is one of the 15 strong coalition of conservation groups objecting to the proposals to destroy a significant section of the reserve for a cycle race track and mountain bike area. A planning application was submitted to the City Council just before Christmas and objections have to be in by 17th January.

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Read the 2011, 2012 & 2013 news items on the news archive page

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