Storms and floods take heavy toll on wildlife

The scale and extent of the impact of flooding on many species is still being assessed, but it is expected that hibernating animals will have been the worst affected. Photo / APN
The scale and extent of the impact of flooding on many species is still being assessed, but it is expected that hibernating animals will have been the worst affected. Photo / APN

Seals, moles, hedgehogs, badgers, mice, earthworms, insects and seabirds are among the unseen casualties of the British floods, storms and torrential rains of the past few weeks, say wildlife groups.

Conservationists reported that about 600 guillemots, puffins, razorbills, kittiwakes and gulls have been washed up on the south coast, and 250 seals drowned in Norfolk in east England, Cornwall in south-west England and the Channel Islands. A further 11,000 seabirds are reported to have been found dead on the French coast.

The Cornwall Wildlife Trust says dozens of seal pups have been washed up on beaches.

Natural England, the British government's independent wildlife advisory body, has reported damage to 48 of the UK's most important wildlife sites, including those of special scientific interest and national nature reserves.

Tim Collins, Natural England's coastal specialist, said: "It is estimated that some 4500 hectares of designated coastal nature conservation sites in England were flooded. Sea walls protecting at least 80 conservation sites have been breached in Norfolk, Suffolk [east England], Kent [on the south coast] and the Tees estuary [north-east England]."

The scale and extent of the impact of flooding on many species is still being assessed, but it is expected that hibernating animals will have been the worst affected. Moles, field voles and badgers would have been affected.

Battered by nature

Butterflies: Species such as the brimstone and small tortoiseshell are in danger because of the incessant rain and lack of frosts.

Seals: The December tidal surge which coincided with the end of the seal breeding season was followed by a series of massive Atlantic storms. Together they wiped out several seal colonies.

Bird life: The kingfisher has been badly hit because the rains and floods have washed down so much silt that the waters have become too cloudy for them to feed. Wading birds such as snipe, redwing and redshank will be in difficulty if the floods continue into their nesting season.

Trees: Hundreds of ancient trees have fallen in the past three months' storms.

Earthworms: Tens of thousands may have suffocated in the floods, leaving shrews, moles, certain beetles and birds hungry.

- Observer

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