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Page last updated at 16:27 GMT, Thursday, 6 January 2011
Volunteering for Devon's butterflies on Dartmoor
By Jemima Laing
BBC Devon

Volunteers clearing sites in Dartmoor
More volunteers are needed to clear sites on Dartmoor

They may be called a hit squad but their intentions are anything but violent.

The Wildlife Hit Squads in Devon are clearing parts of Dartmoor to help fritillary butterflies thrive, and more volunteers are needed to help.

They help clear small areas of the moor to boost the butterflies' habitat.

Albert Knott from East Dartmoor National Nature Reserve says the volunteers get real satisfaction from taking part.

"Many hands make light work and there is something really satisfying about seeing the results of your hard work and it's amazing what you can achieve in a day," said Albert.

"It's a really sociable thing too and we get people coming back time after time."

So what is it that Albert, who has worked on Dartmoor for 14 years, loves so much about his job?

"I think butterflies are just a lovely species and when you see the areas we've cleared full of them in April and May, they are just stunning.

"And it's gratifying because the butterflies are themselves an indicator of a good habitat.

Find out how to take part
Call Albert Knott on 01626 832330

"And of course if you take butterflies out of the system there would be consequences but the same goes for slugs - they are all part of a whole and this is about caring for everything."

Working in partnership with Dartmoor National Park Authority and Butterfly Conservation, sites have been chosen where volunteers can make a significant difference to the habitat in just one day.

And there is no danger of novice volunteers doing any damage to the caterpillars.

"They are very deep underground at the moment," said Albert.

Farmers and landowners have co-operated with the project allowing the squad to carry out practical management on their land including scrub control and bracken management.

With support from skilled staff from all the partnership organisations the group has already tackled difficult habitats including marshy grassland, where the tussocky grass and purple devil's scabious plant are vital for marsh fritillary butterflies to breed.

"I say to people come along and have a go, it's a bit of physical exercise in a lovely environment - it's sociable too."

The squad will be operating through until spring, the next sessions are Sunday 9, 10,12 and 23 January 2010.

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