Most of the mammals to be seen along the banks of the River Thame are, of course, farm animals such as cows and sheep. Cows and sheep can have a major impacts on the river and its banks. They can trample the river banks, creating bare ground and reduced vegetation cover. This in turn increases sediment runoff into the water course, which can suffocate fish eggs and invertebrates. They often defecate into the water which in turn can increase nutrient levels in the water. We are working with farmers to reduce the impacts of livestock on the Thame. This can include fencing off the river when appropriate and provide alternative drinking through pumps.
Dogs are also a regular visitor to the River Thame but when off the lead can also damage river banks and can disturb breeding birds and other wildlife. 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 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 so please record your sightings.
As well as starting habitat surveys, we are deploying camera traps to get a better idea of what animals live on the river.