WANT to learn more about our native white-clawed crayfish?

Then here’s your chance thanks to a joint effort by the Friends of the Dales charity and environmental consultant PBA Applied Ecology, based in Giggleswick.

The two are offering a rare chance to see behind the scenes of a project to conserve the species in the Dales.

Ann Shadrake, executive director of Friends of the Dales, said: “We are very pleased to offer a really special – and free - day exploring the conservation of our native crayfish, thanks to the support of PBA Applied Ecology.

“We’ll be based at The Knight’s Table, Little Stainforth, on Saturday October 19, for a morning presentation from Alex Gould, project ecologist.

“Alex will tell us about the pioneering crayfish captive breeding and re-introduction project he’s been leading in Ribblesdale. Later in the day he will take us on two private field visits.

“Part of our remit as a charity campaigning for the Dales is to showcase conservation success stories. This day will give people an exclusive behind the scenes look at real conservation in action.”

The white-clawed crayfish (WCC) is Britain’s only native crayfish species but it is being driven to extinction by the American signal crayfish which out-competes ours for food.

The American species, introduced to the UK in the 1970s where it escaped and got into water courses, also transmits the deadly crayfish plague which, ironically, does not affect the signal species.

As a result, WCC are listed as an endangered species on the IUCN Red List and face global extinction by 2050 if no action is taken.

The Applied Ecology Trust project is part of Stories in Stone, a scheme of conservation and community projects concentrated on the Ingleborough area. The scheme was developed by the Ingleborough Dales Landscape Partnership, led by Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust (YDMT), and supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

PBA Applied Ecology, local fisheries expert Neil Handy and work experience students from local schools have also been involved throughout the project.

 Chris Lodge, Stories in Stone project officer, said: “We’re delighted to be able to support such an exciting project, which builds on previous efforts in the area to safeguard a nationally important population of this globally threatened species.Along with other Stories in Stone projects, we and our partners are doing what we can to conserve and enhance the wildlife in the Ingleborough area.”

Since spring 2018 PBA Ecology’s Alex Gould has been working alongside Neil Handy to refurbish what has previously been one of the UK’s most successful WCC captive breeding facilities, which had also been funded by YDMT.

Mr Handy, who manages the captive breeding facility, said: “In the wild less than 10 per cent of WCC hatchlings survive beyond their first year but at this captive breeding facility up to 95 per cent survive. The juveniles raised in this facility can be reintroduced to suitable sites where they have gone locally extinct across the Dales.”

One such site has been identified on private land near Horton-in-Ribblesdale. During the 2018 breeding season almost 200 juveniles were reared at the captive breeding facility. These juveniles were reintroduced near Horton-in-Ribblesdale in October 2018.

The adult WCC were kept for the 2019 breeding season. Juveniles are currently growing and will be introduced to the receptor site at the end of this month.

Females baring fertile eggs have also been recorded showing that the population is thriving..

There are a few places remaining on the crayfish conservation day so anyone wishing to go along and see the work for themselves should reserve their place by email to: ann.shadrake@friendsofthedales.org.uk