Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Tiny victims of roadside litterbugs: Three million mice and voles die trapped in bottles and cans thrown from cars

Volunteers checking empty bottles and cans found the remains of tiny animals 
Some 3.2million voles, shrews and mice die as they crawl in and cannot escape
One RSPB member found a dead animal in one in ten bottles in south Norfolk 

PUBLISHED: 23:21, 26 March 2018 | UPDATED: 00:27, 27 March 2018

Millions of Britain’s smallest mammals are killed each year because of litter dumped on the roadside, a disturbing study has found.

As many as 3.2million voles, shrews and mice die when they crawl into discarded bottles and cans and are unable to get out.

Volunteers who checked hundreds of bottles and cans for the study found the remains of dozens of tiny animals. Desperate for shelter, they had ended up trapped and had starved to death.

Plastic bottles were the worst offenders, with one in eight containing a tiny dead animal and some packed with as many as seven.

Small mammals are integral to the food chain – eating insects and plants and providing food for larger animals and rare birds such as owls and kestrels.

The 18-month study was led by RSPB volunteer Graham Moates, who had help from charity Keep Britain Tidy.

Mr Moates was appalled at what he found in the rubbish littering the roads, mainly around south Norfolk. Of the 2,174 bottles and cans collected, there were 230 dead animals inside – one for every ten discarded containers. Of these, 118 were common shrews and 59 were bank voles. Based on what he found, Mr Moates calculates that across the country, up to 3.2million animals end up dying this way every year.

‘I never thought it could be this many before I began the research,’ he said.

‘I was expecting an occupancy rate of about one per cent, but it was more than five times that. It is very upsetting to think of how many small creatures die in this way because of human carelessness.’ New regulations making it easier for councils to clamp down on littering motorists come into force next month.

As many as 3.2million voles, shrews and mice die when they crawl into discarded bottles and cans and are unable to get out

Fines can now be issued to the registered keeper of the vehicle, regardless of who threw the litter. And Keep Britain Tidy has unveiled a campaign aimed at motorists, urging them to think before they throw rubbish from their cars.

TV presenter and Keep Britain Tidy ambassador Chris Packham said those who care about the country’s wildlife must act now, adding: ‘We have all seen the impact of plastic bottles on our marine environment in recent months. Now, thanks to this research, we know it is killing millions of the small mammals that are a vital source of food for our native birds of prey.’ Keep Britain Tidy chief executive Allison Ogden- Newton urged councils to use CCTV footage and their new powers to fine offenders.

‘We are spending millions every year cleaning up after selfish drivers who seem to think it is acceptable to throw their rubbish out of their cars, turning our roadsides into a giant heartless wasteland,’ she said.

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