SURVEYS are to be carried out of an area's more secretive residents.

The findings of a wildlife study could surprise people living on Teesside.

"It improves our own quality of life when you see other types of wildlife out and about," said Bill Ashton-Wicke, of the Tees Valley Wildlife Trust.

"It will tell a lot of people the Tees Valley is not lots of chimneys and smoke.''

The trust has won a £17,500 grant from the Local Heritage Initiative to carry out mammal counts.

The project, to start in January, will involve local people and schools looking particularly at the numbers and distribution of otters, bats and badgers.

A group of trained volunteers will, over the next two years, record data for information leaflets, panels and a wildlife map.

The trust says the information will identify sensitive areas.

The trust's Jonathan Pounder said: "We are in the process of recruiting volunteers who will be trained to undertake up to 20 small-scale habitat improvement schemes. We also hope to develop a series of workshops, guided walks and events.

"The overall aim of the project is to help residents in the area to appreciate the mamals in their everyday environment.

"Hopefully, the information produced following the survey will encourage people to protect mammals so, for instance, if a badger is spotted in distress, I hope our work will educate people to inform the Wildlife Trust so we can help the mammal."