World Ranger Day 2015

31 July is World Ranger Day and the summer months are a good time to spot two of our favourite native species: the South Downs National Park rangers (Ranger rangerii), and South Downs volunteer rangers (Ranger volunteerus).

Over the autumn and winter months these two semi-wild species spend much of their time out in the hills, where their activities include laying hedges, clearing invasive scrub and coppicing. They can sometimes be seen seeking warmth, clustered by a bonfire in their winter plumage of fleeces, waterproof jackets and thick gloves.

Last summer four new assistant rangers were released at locations across the National Park as part of a programme to boost rangerii numbers and, in turn, improve habitat conditions for volunteerus. It’s not always easy to find the assistant rangers – they are not creatures of routine and don’t enjoy a captive life of desk admin – plus they react very badly if you attempt to fit them with radio collars. But early morning you can find them at their email, with the kettle on, or preparing kit for the volunteers.

For World Ranger Day we tracked them down to see how they’re coping in their new homes. We were pleased to find all four assistant rangers – Alison, Sam, Laura and Matt – settling in well. Common patterns of behaviour include showing a strong interest in other National Park fauna – particularly in boosting small mammal numbers, habitat surveys and supporting members of local communities.

During the summer months you can find all species of ranger on our stands at shows and events across the National Park. This is a great way to find out about their habits, habitat and how they get involved with local communities on activities like pond clearing, improving access and finding out about local wildlife and heritage.

So please do say hello to our rangers and volunteer rangers if you spot them. They’re friendly and hardly ever bite.

And follow them on Twitter at @Ranger_sdnpa