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No. 49
Having returned recently from the UK, well England to be precise, visiting my dad and family I thought I would deliver a British newsletter this time, so onward with all things from the UK.

It’s a very different world to Australia, similar but alien in many ways, especially when you compare the wildlife, not mentioning the weather.

UK: A monarchy in north western Europe occupying most of the British Isles comprising England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

British bulldog and kennel. Photo: Animal Ark
UK has a range of typical amphibians being frogs, toads and newts. In Australia we have no native toads, just frogs.

Our toads are infamous and a pest introduced in Queensland in the 1935. The cane toad, or giant toad, wreaks havoc with our native wildlife, poisonous if consumed or bitten near its toxic parotoid glands, few native animals can effectively control them. In the UK there are several amphibians and the common toad and Natterjack toad are native and much smaller than the cane toad.

The UK also has just 2 species of frogs; Australia has 230. Britain also has 3 species of newts, small tailed amphibians, which are totally absent in Australia.

Common toad (Bufo bufo). Photo: Animal Ark
Snake season is almost upon us – despite the cold and rain they will be active soon and we are already busy delivering our Snake Avoidance training around WA.

Dates and locations are below. Book soon for the various, dates and locations around WA.

The last wild British beaver was apparently shot and killed in Scotland in 1526. The American beaver is a different species.

British native beavers survived for millennia until hunted for fun, fur, meat and castoreum - a substance found in special anal sacks and used in perfumes by humans, but for waterproofing fur and scenting by the beavers themselves.

Recently a pair of beavers has been released under license to return this species to the British mainland. The Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire, England is the release and study site for the latest reintroduction.

There have also been several unofficial (illegal) releases elsewhere in the UK in recent years. But this marks the official government approved return after a near 500-year absence of a long lost native. Let’s hope they enjoy beavering about once more in the UK.

Beaver (Castor fiber). Photo: Martina Lion, Wikimedia Commons
Yes really the UK does have some nasty spiders. The Noble false widow spider (Steatoda nobilis) arrived in Britain well over 150 years ago on cargo from Madeira or the Canary Islands.

Bites usually cause little reaction, however one man in Blackpool was bitten in his bedroom and spent 9 days in hospital, and was even coughing up blood at one stage. He almost had his arm amputated – doctors drew a dotted line near the man’s elbow and said they would be 'very worried' if the infection passed the marks. Another man in Leicestershire did have his leg amputated after a series of medical issues resulting from a bite.

NHS reports that 54 people reported to hospital with reactions to spider bites, overtaking for the first time snakebite related injuries in the UK. However that is still far less than those affected by bee and wasp stings which account for a dozen or so British deaths annually. Few spiders globally compare.

Probably the world’s worst offenders for deaths and agonizing effects are:

  • Sydney funnel-web (Atrax robustus)
  • Brazilian wandering spiders (Phoneutria fera and Phoneutria nigriventer)
Noble False Widow Spider (Steatoda-nobilis), UK. Photo: Stus-Images, Wikimedia Commons
Yes we do have reptiles in the UK, 1 venomous snake the adder and 2 non-venomous species the grass snake and the smooth snake. Plus there are a few lizards and even amphibians, including frogs, toads and newts.

The European adder (Vipera berus) is actually quite common and found mainly in heathland habitats. The last death from a bite was in 1975; they can make you very sick and medical treatment is obviously recommended for any bite.

Adders feed primarily on small mammals such as voles and mice, but occasionally birds may be eaten also. They have live young. The European adder is a true viper and although similar looking, they are unrelated to our death adders, which belong to a different family of snakes - the Elapidae. This is a case of convergent evolution though - similar habits and features from different lineages.

Adder (Vipera berus) male. Photo: Alastair Rae, wikimedia commons
Queen guitarist Brain May is passionate about hedgehogs, the British version of an echidna (although it doesn’t lay eggs). The little prickly mammals have suffered a serious decline in recent decades – with numbers dropping from 30million in the 1950s to less than 1million today.

His aim is to get them listed as a protected species to enhance efforts to ensure the population is better supported and protected. More at

European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus). Photo: Gaudete, Wikimedia Commons
UK Swans are white and one has gained a bit of a psycho killer reputation in Pembroke Castle. This particular individual, named 'Mr Nasty', has killed up to 20 other swans at Castle Pond in Wales.

Swans are notoriously aggressive when protecting their nests and young (cygnets) and can injure and have even killed a man before by drowning. Mr Nasty however seems to be especially aggressive. They kill other birds by pecking and then climbing on them pushing them under the water to drown.

Our black swans in WA are on the state flag and also on our WA coat of arms.

Mute Swan. Photo: Mindaugas Urbonas, Wikimedia Commons

Coat of arms of Western Australia

SOLO KIT SPECIAL--- A WHOPPING 15% off so only $471.75, AND we will include delivery within Australia.

Just call and pay quoting ENGLISH for the discount - valid until end September 2018.

Solo Snake Handling Kit in Bag
Animal in Focus: BEAVER (Castor fiber)
The recent release back into the UK of a pair of Eurasian beavers is a great bit of conservation news. Reintroduction programs if successful are good news for habitats and also good news for conservation where most news is sadly bad news.

The Eurasian beaver is one of the largest rodents reaching around one metre in body length before the tail. Averaging 20 – 24kg they are the second heaviest rodent, only really surpassed by the capybara of South America.

Once they were widespread across UK, Europe and parts of Asia. Their populations have recently increased via introductions in Norway and Sweden as well – so the beavers are back.

Beavers are pretty unique creatures actively shaping the landscape they live in on a vast scale. By creating wetlands with dams, lodges and even canals they manage and move water around in a way equalled by no other mammal (except maybe humans). As a keystone species they can positively affect the environment with an overall increase of biodiversity by creating numerous habitats for other species to thrive in.

It is also thought that they will help prevent flash flooding that has affected many British villages and towns. The recent release of 2 beavers into Greathough Brook will allow studies to be made to see if their engineering skills in slowing water movements will help alleviate severe flooding that has occurred in the nearby villages of Lydbrook and Upper Lydbrook.

The beaver diet is almost exclusively plant based – they eat a range plants and also the bark of trees. They have been reported to consume fish as well but prefer to forage dead fish rather than hunt live ones.

Beavers are largely monogamous and can produce around 3 kits (young) a year.

Beaver in Netherlands. Photo: Andre Brasse, Wikimedia Commons

Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber) Poland. Photo: Jacek Zieba, Wikimedia Commons

Upcoming Courses and Events
Snake Avoidance Training for Dogs
Saturday 11 August – Geraldton
Sunday 12 August – Geraldton
Saturday 25 August – North Beach, Perth
Saturday 8 September – North Beach, Perth
Saturday 15 September – Harradines Vets, Bunbury
Sunday 16 September – Harradines Vets, Bunbury
Thursday 27 September – North Beach, Perth
Saturday 29 September – North Beach, Perth
Saturday 6 October – Perth Hills
Saturday 13 October - Harradines Vets, Bunbury
Sunday 14 October - Harradines Vets, Bunbury
Sunday 21 October – Albany WA
Monday 22 October – Albany WA
Tuesday 23 October – Kudardup, Augusta WA
Wednesday 24 October – Kudardup, Augusta WA
Thursday 25 October – Nannup WA
Friday 26 October – Nannup WA
Saturday 27 October - Nannup WA
Wednesday 31 October – North Beach, Perth
Saturday 3 November – Rockingham
Friday 9 November – Margaret River WA
Saturday 10 November – Margaret River WA
Thursday 15 November – North Beach, Perth
Saturday 17 November – North Beach, Perth
Friday 30 November – North Beach, Perth
Friday 14 December – North Beach, Perth
Saturday 15 December – North Beach, Perth

Venomous Snake Handling Course
DBCA Parks and Wildlife Service approved for Regulation 17 Reptile Removalists Licence
Friday 17 August - North Beach, Perth
Friday 24 August – North Beach, Perth
Saturday 1 September – Hazelmere, Perth
Friday 7 September – North Beach, Perth
Saturday 22 September - Kanyana Wildlife Centre, Lesmurdie
Friday 28 September – North Beach, Perth
Sunday 30 September - Kanyana Wildlife Centre, Lesmurdie
Thursday 4 October – North Beach, Perth
Friday 5 October – North Beach, Perth
Thursday 18 October – North Beach, Perth
Wednesday 31 October – Perth
Friday 16 November – North Beach, Perth
Friday 30 November – Perth
Saturday 8 December – North Beach, Perth
Friday 14 December - Perth

Fauna Handling Course
Thursday 16 August – North Beach, Perth
Thursday 4 October, North Beach

Public Events
Do come along and see us. Bring your family or friends as well.
The Animal Ark Roadshow will be attending the following events:

Saturday 15 September
Chittering Wildflower Expo
Chittering Landcare Centre, Old Gingin Road, MUCHEA
11am – 3pm
Contact Chittering Landcare for more information

See our diary for more dates or contact us to book.

Call (08) 9243 3044, SMS 0466 688 188 or email David, Jenny or Keely at to book.

Courses held monthly and as required plus on-site and remote site training available.