Have frogs, toads or newts recently returned to spawn in your garden pond? Are there hedgehogs in your garden or grass snakes in your compost heap? Do you spy deer when you go on country walks or foxes crossing the street where you live?

Organisers of the Hertfordshire Mammals, Reptiles and Amphibians Atlas (Herts MARA) project are keen to hear about your sightings as they embark on the fifth and final year of an ambitious countywide survey.

By mapping every reliable record they receive and comparing the results with those from a similar survey 20 years ago they hope to answer important questions about population trends. These range from the apparent increase in numbers of foxes found in towns to concerns about a seeming decline in the number of hedgehogs.

There may be hardly anywhere in Hertfordshire where you cannot see a grey squirrel or brown rat. But is it equally true that the venomous adder, Britain’s ‘commonest’ snake, has entirely disappeared from the county? And what has become of the hazel dormouse in West Herts, already restricted to isolated woodland areas by the end of the last century?

Thousands of mammal, reptile and amphibians records have already been collected by the survey, but the organisers want to ensure the final survey results are as comprehensive as possible. Although there have been sightings for at least one species in most parts of the county, there still a few places where nothing, or very little has been recorded so far.

That is why we are asking residents who see mammals, reptiles or amphibians within Hertfordshire and are able to identify – or at least photograph – them to get in touch through our website: www.hnhs.org

When analysed next year, the survey results will be used to produce a new book in a series of critically-acclaimed atlases that HNHS has published over the past decade on the county’s birds, wildflowers, butterflies, moths and beetles, as well as its geology and landscape.

Dr Chantal Helm

Hertfordshire Natural History Society (HNHS)