YOUNGSTERS are being encouraged to become wildlife-friendly during a series of school visits.

Durham Police wildlife officer Sergeant Eddie Bell is helping to put the message across with the help of a feathered friend.

He took a common buzzard, from his wildlife sanctuary west of Consett, to show to pupils at Tanfield Lea Junior School.

The youngsters were also shown harvest mice, which are becoming sparse due to loss of habitat and modern farming techniques.

Derwentside District Council's local nature reserve officer, Karen Fisher, and Jennie Garrod, Durham County Council countryside officer, hope schools they visit will be persuaded to breed harvest mice, which may then be released into the wild.

Ms Fisher said part of the visit was to encourage the youngsters to look after nature reserves.

She said: "It is our job to get the community involved and get people to look after their local reserves.

"Just in the area near the school we have an existing reserve, Tanfield Lea Marsh, and there is also a proposed site at Harperley Woods.

"We have got two sites already and we are in the process of creating another five, so it is a message we want to get across to children elsewhere.

"We want to work with our communities and schools to get the community looking after their local nature reserve."

Children in the neighbouring infants school were also visited by the officers.