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YOUNGSTERS have been helping [..].

YOUNGSTERS have been helping snakes survive the winter by building them hibernation homes.

The 18 helpers descended on Chopwell Woods to erect the structures for grass snakes.

The team, led by the Friends of Chopwell Woods, dug holes, cut logs and scattered turf to create a safe haven where they can flourish.

Grass snakes are rare in the North East as many have lost their habitat to urban development.

But it is hoped the two new structures, adding to three others in Chopwell Woods, will provide a snug spot for snakes until they emerge from hibernation in March.

Kathryn Craig, 17, of Whickham, Gateshead, is a member of the Youth Action Group who worked with the Prince's Trust on the project.

She said: "It is important to ensure animals have a safe, warm place to hibernate. The area chosen was especially good as it was next to the little river and near somewhere the snakes could lay their eggs."

The group was split in two with half preparing the site whilst the others chopped and gathered logs.

Hibernacula are built by digging a large hole in the ground and then draining away the water to prevent ground frost.

Logs are then piled into the hole and covered with turf to create a shelter for reptiles and other animals.

Carole Fountain is the task leader for the Friends of Chopwell Woods (FoCW) who directed the youngsters on the day.

She said: "The great thing about these types of projects is the fact that people are learning new skills whilst having fun in the fresh air.

"All the group got stuck in, digging, lifting, carrying, sawing and relaxing at lunchtime around a camp fire."

Durham Biodiversity Partnership asked the FoCW to build the hibernacula to improve conditions for grass snakes along the River Derwent.

Volunteers were then signed up from the Gateshead Voluntary Organisation and the project was carried out in light of Make a Difference Day.

Miss Craig added: "Volunteering helps you to gain confidence when meeting new people and it feels good to know you've helped even if it''s only with something small."


Youngsters at work on the project to help grass snakes FINISHED The youngsters with the hibernacula they built for the snakes
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Nov 25, 2010
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