Most of the mammals to be seen along the banks of the River Thame are, of course, farm animals such as cows and sheep. You’ll also see plenty of dogs being walked and the odd cat. Cows and sheep have a major impact on the river and its banks when they can get to it as they trample and often destroy the banks, and they defecate into the water. We are working with farmers to fence off the river when appropriate and enable drinking through pumps. Dogs also damage river banks and, when let off the lead, can seek out bird nests among the reeds, often eating any eggs or chicks and scaring the parents.
That being said, we welcome responsible access and want people to enjoy the river, but ask you to be aware of the damage that pets can cause and control your dog.
Opportunities for wild mammals are limited by the fact that the entire Thame valley is farmed, and areas that can act as a refuge with good habitat are very limited. Therefore water voles are missing and sightings of otter are rare. There are plenty of foxes, hares, rabbits, rats, mice, field voles, stoats and weasels and possibly polecat. There are also introduced species such as muntjac, and mink, which are very successful predators on much of our native wildlife. They compete with stoats and weasels, which are also present in some areas. We are very proud that we have otters along our river too!
We know very little about the locations and populations of all of these wild species, and it is important to know more, particularly about mink, which is a severe pest which worries farmers as well as conservationists.
As well as starting habitat surveys, we are deploying camera traps to get a better idea of what animals live on the river.