Durham Wildlife Trust is seeking public support to secure funding for a project that aims to reintroduce grass snakes to part of South Durham.
The Trust has entered The Shedding the Myth: Reintroducing Grass Snakes project into the Aviva Community Fund but needs public support to be successful in the application. Without 10,000 votes the project cannot go ahead.
If it does secure the £10,000 funding, Durham Wildlife Trust will work with partner organisations to source donor grass snake eggs which will be incubated. Young grass snakes will be reintroduced into suitable locations with the right wetland habitats.
As well as releasing grass snakes into Low Barns Nature Reserve, Durham Wildlife Trust’s reserve near Witton le Wear, DWT will work with local landowners to encourage them to get involved.
Volunteers and local people will play an important role in surveying, monitoring and raising awareness about the importance of grass snakes. This will help them become established again in the local area and protect them for the future.
Zoe Hull, Head of Operations and Development at Durham Wildlife Trust, said: “This is an important project and we hope that people will support us. We know that some people are frightened of snakes but the grass snake has a very uncertain future and needs our help.
“There are many examples of British wildlife, like hedgehogs and water voles, which were once a common sight but are now in decline. Suitable habitat is disappearing due to pressures from development, pollution and climate change. Remaining habitats become isolated, animals find it difficult to move around and find suitable shelter and food.
“Grass snakes are no exception. The wetland habitats that they favour are disappearing as land is drained or ponds filled in. These majestic, non-venomous reptiles are particularly vulnerable to loss of habitat, finding it difficult to move between suitable habitats if a new housing estate or road is built in their way.
“Numbers of grass snakes have crashed across County Durham, disappearing from the area around Low Barns, where there have been no valid records for the past ten years. Young people are growing up without seeing beautiful creatures.
“Enthusing, and engaging with, local communities including school children, young people, volunteers, local residents and local landowners will be key to this project’s success.”
If funding is secured, Durham Wildlife Trust will carry out a programme of engagement activities and educational sessions with local schools and communities to raise awareness about grass snakes, reptiles and the habitats that support them.
Zoe said: “The sessions will talk about the importance of grass snakes, explaining that they are not dangerous but an animal to be celebrated and cared for along with all wildlife. They are a vital part of a rich, varied and healthy countryside.”
The sessions will provide advice and tips about what everyone can do to help wildlife flourish in their local area. This will include showing people what they can do in their own garden, such as leaving areas of dead wood as shelter for small animals or feeding the birds and helping communities to work together to improve communal greenspaces which will provide habitat for grass snakes and other creatures.
You can support the funding application by visiting https://community-fund.aviva.co.uk/voting/project/view/4-3085