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While the UK may not boast the sprawling savannas or dense rainforests found in other parts of the world, it harbors a hidden world of biodiversity. Surprisingly, this island nation is home to approximately 107 mammal species, with 47 of them being native to the UK. And it doesn’t stop there; the British Isles also host a captivating array of bird species, aquatic life, and even a handful of reptiles!
From the bustling cities to the tranquil woodlands, mammals have adapted and thrived, becoming an integral and cherished part of the nation’s natural heritage.
Plight Facing UK Mammals
While there are a healthy number of native mammals in the UK, populations have faced a serious decline in recent years. It’s reported that in the United Kingdom, around a quarter of all mammalian species are currently at risk of extinction.
While species like the hedgehog, water vole, and red squirrel are all affected, it appears that the weasel and the harvest mouse are most at risk. According to reports, their territory could be shrinking by as much as 4.2% every year.
The aforementioned two species are now listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List. But other mammals, such as the beaver and gray long-eared bat, are currently listed as endangered. Some species, like the European wolf, have already gone extinct here. More worrying is that in the last 200 years, more than 400 animals have gone extinct in the UK.
You may be wondering what’s killing all of these mammals, and the truth is that humans are largely to blame. Things like pollution, habitat loss due to urbanization, and the effects of climate change have all had a devastating impact.
Native Mammals found in the UK
As someone who has lived in the UK for her entire life, I’m keen to learn more about the animals I share my home with. With that in mind, I’d like to introduce you to some of the most interesting native mammals found in the UK.
1. Red Deer (Cervus elaphus)
While there are six native species of deer in the UK, only two are indigenous, and the red deer is one of them. This species is the largest land mammal in the United Kingdom and can weigh up to 441 lbs (200 kg). Males have majestic antlers that get larger as they age, and adults typically live to around 16 years of age.
The red deer is found all over the United Kingdom, but populations are scattered. Most members of this species are limited to Scotland. While there are deer parks where you can spot the red deer, you may also be able to see them in open habitats in the wild.
Red deer are herbivores and feed on a diet of grasses, plants, and tree shoots. For many years, the species was under threat from hunting, but numbers appear to be growing, and they’re now listed as being of Least Concern.
2. Roe Deer (Capreolus capreolus)
The roe deer is the second species of truly indigenous deer in the UK and can be found in England and Scotland but not in Wales or Northern Ireland. Moreover, populations are absent from some parts of England, including the Midlands.
Roe Deer have brown fur with a buff patch at the rump and have much shorter antlers than the red deer. Their fur usually changes color according to the season.
These deer enjoy a diet of shoots, leaves, and buds, and although their numbers are growing, they are often considered to be vermin as they do serious damage to woodlands. What’s more, during the breeding season, the males can become very aggressive, and fights may often lead to death.
3. Otter (Lutra lutra)
The otter is a carnivorous aquatic mammal whose numbers are growing once again in the UK. While they typically like riparian environments with lots of vegetation, they’re now being spotted in urban environments in some of the UKs biggest cities. Regardless of this, the species is still protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
Otters have a slender body with short, rounded ears, and their fur tends to be brown with a paler underside. They can grow quite large, with some adults reaching 31 inches (80 cm) in length!
The main of the otter’s diet is made up of fish, although they may sometimes prey on small aquatic birds like the moorhen.
4. European Badger (Meles meles)
The European badger is a very distinct looking mammal with black and white stripes along the face. They’re similar in coloration and appearance to the skunk and just like this species, badgers also have scent glands that omit a stinky odor when they feel threatened!
Badgers mainly prey on earthworms and they can eat hundreds in a single night. They’re the largest land predator in the UK but they sometimes also feed on fruits. You’ll find them in woodlands, grasslands, and maybe even in your garden!
The badger is listed as being of Least Concern, although they are often the victims of road traffic accidents. While farmers have long been known to kill badgers because they may carry diseases that affect livestock, they’re now protected in the UK.
5. Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)
The red fox is perhaps one of the most iconic nocturnal mammals in the UK and they’re found all over the country in a wealth of different habitats thanks to their adaptability. There are even many populations of urban foxes.
Red foxes, commonly referred to as just ‘foxes’, are members of the canine family, but they do share some traits with cats, such as vertical pupils, which allow them to see better when hunting at night for voles, rabbits, and other small mammals.
While there has been some noted competition between the red fox and the badger, there have been reports of them co-existing in badger setts! You might see foxes in your garden all year round but in winter, during mating season, they can get very vocal, and you may hear them screaming!
6. Harbor Seal (Phoca vitulina)
With a fine spottern pattern with gray fur and a rounded head, the harbor seal is pretty easy to identify. These semi aquatic mammals can be found in marshlands and coastal areas in the east of England and in Scotland.
The species will swim out to sea to hunt for fish but spend a lot of time on rocky land, especially when raising their young. You might see them holding their head and tail up at the same time in a banana position.
The harbor seal is thought to have numbers around 55,000 in the United Kingdom, and the species is protected by The Protection of Seals Act 1970 during breeding season.
7. Grey Seal (Halichoerus grypus)
The gray seal is, as its name suggests, gray in color, but individuals have varying dark markings, which are often used to identify them. They’re much bigger than the common seal and can often be spotted both bobbing in the water and lying on the shore.
They’re found all over the United Kingdom and at one point, numbers dropped to an alarming 500. However, conservation efforts have helped massively, and it’s now thought that there are around 120,000 individuals in the UK.
The main prey of the gray seal is sand eels and cod, and individuals can live for as long as 25. Females may live longer, up to 35 years, but this is uncommon.
8. Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris)
While red squirrels are less of a common sight than the gray squirrel, they’re actually the only squirrel species native to the UK. Although which you see will largely depend on your location. They are usually spotted in woodlands, but sightings are becoming rarer, and it’s thought that there are only around 287,000 left, whereas there are more than 2 million non-native gray squirrels.
Red squirrels are well known for their rich red fur, although this can vary in color from red to brown. They’re smaller than the gray squirrel and have a long bushy tail, making them very easy to identify.
This species likes to feed on hazelnuts and pine cones, and your best chance of spotting one is during the fall when they gather these items for winter.
9. Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus)
The hedgehog was once a common sight in UK gardens, but its numbers have declined significantly since the 1990s. In fact, it’s estimated that the population of hedgehogs in the UK could have halved since the year 2000. However, a lot of awareness is being raised about this iconic British species.
Hedgehogs live in parks, woodlands, farmlands, and even in gardens. It’s recommended to leave out hedgehog-friendly food, and you’ll stand a good chance of seeing one. Although they are known to be timid animals. In the wild, they feed on worms and invertebrates, but it is possible to leave out wet cat food for them.
The great thing about this native UK mammal is that it’s very easy to identify with its pointed snout and spiny body. Generally they grow to around 12 inches (30 cm) as adults.
10. Water Vole (Arvicola amphibius)
The water vole is much more rotund and stocky than the field vole and has much darker fur. It can be found around rivers, wetlands, and woodlands, where it’ll forage for as many as 227 plant species. While the species is listed as endangered, it can still be found in lowland areas all over the United Kingdom.
Water voles grow to around inches 5.5-8.7 inches (14-22 cm) and generally live between a few months and one and a half years. They’re protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and are active all year round.
11. Brown Hare (Lepus europaeus)
Growing up to 27.6 inches (70 cm) and living for around 4 years, the brown hare is a naturalized species to the UK, which is thought to have been introduced during the Roman period. Although we can’t be certain. While they may be similar in appearance to rabbits, brown hares are more slender, taller and have lighter fur.
This species can be found all over the United Kingdom and is currently listed as being of Least Concern. Their diet is typically made of grasses and cereal crops, although they’re only seen as a minor pest to farmers.
While the brown hare is typically shy, it becomes much more confident in the spring during breeding season. These mammals can be seen chasing each other around fields, and the females may even box the males to show that they don’t want to mate.
12. Mountain Hare (Lepus timidus)
Only found in the northern parts of England and the Scottish highlands, the mountain hare is a rare sight in the UK. So much so that they’re currently protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
Mountain hares have brown fur, but this changes to white in the winter, which serves as a form of hibernation in their snowy surroundings. Slightly smaller than the brown hare, this species grows to around 22 inches (56 cm) and can be found foraging for vegetation on heathlands.
The mountain hare does not burrow like a rabbit but instead breeds and raises its young on the ground. While most adults live to around 5 or 6 years old, some may live as long as 9 years!
13. European Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus)
European rabbits are very common throughout the UK and can often be spotted in woodlands and grasslands. Although, they’re very timid. But the number of these mammals is of no concern since females are known to produce a litter of up to 7 young every month!
While this species is now considered to be native to the UK, it wasn’t always here. In fact, it wasn’t until the 12th century that Normans first introduced it; before that, it was native to Spain.
The fur is brown to gray, and there is a white patch on the underside of the tail. Rabbits are generally small animals, with adults growing to around 15.7 inches (40 cm) at most. They can live up to 9 years and enjoy a diet of plants, fruits, and vegetables which is why they’re often seen as a crop pest.
14. Common Shrew (Sorex araneus)
The common shrew is a small rodent with a long pointed snout, tiny eyes, and a body that doesn’t grow to more than 3 inches (8 cm). They’re found all over mainland UK and enjoy a variety of habitats, including grasslands, woodlands, and even gardens.
Common shrews are abundant in the United Kingdom and are therefore listed as being of Least Concern on the IUCN Red List. Despite this, they are still protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
Shrews are known to hunt by snuffling through the vegetation in search of worms and insect larvae and will do this both during the day and at night. While they’re small, they’re incredibly feisty and are known to fiercely defend their territory.
15. Pine Marten (Martes martes)
The pine marten is a member of the weasel family and grows to be around the same size as a cat. They prefer a woodland habitat where they’ll hunt for small mammals, including mice. However, they’re not commonly spotted as they are known for their shy nature.
Pine martens almost became extinct in the United Kingdom, but their numbers are on the rise. They were once heavily hunted, but conservation efforts have brought them back from the brink, and it’s thought that the Scottish population may now be around 4000. Of course, there’s still a long way to go, especially considering that they’re listed as Critically Endangered in England.
16. Stoat (Mustela erminea)
The stoat is another member of the mustelid (weasel) family and has sandy colored fur on its long body with a black tipped tail. Adults can grow up to inches 11.8-15.7 inches (30-40 cm), which is one way to tell them apart from the weasel which is typically smaller.
Stoats are known to be very confident and feisty and as such, often take down prey five times larger than they are! While they may prey on voles and small mammals, they’re known to feed on large rabbits as well.
The stoat can be found all over the UK in a wide range of habitats. However, they’re not commonly spotted because they prefer to remain in areas where there is a lot of over. That said, you might be lucky enough to see one making a run for it across open habitat.
17. Weasel (Mustela nivalis)
The weasel, as I mentioned earlier, is smaller than a stoat, and adults usually grow to around 9.8 inches (25 cm) in length. This species has chestnut brown fur with a paler underside but, like stoats and pine martens, has a long slender body.
Weasels are found in various habitats, including farmland, grasslands, and woodlands and are common all over the United Kingdom. However, while there are any current serious threats, habitat loss, if it continues, may threaten their numbers.
Weasels typically feed on a diet of small mammals, including voles and mice. Because they are so small themselves, they’re easily able to intercept underground burrows so are very successful hunters.
18. European Polecat (Mustela putorius)
The European polecat is yet another member of the weasel family that’s native to the UK and it has a similar coloration to the pine marten. Although they’re smaller and have much darker fur, usually around the size of a ferret.
Polecats are common in many areas of the UK, including Wales, some parts of Scotland, and central and southern regions of England. They prefer several habitat types including grasslands, woodlands, wetlands, and farmlands.
The polecat is listed as being of Least Concern in the UK and can often be seen in gardens. Their main prey source is rabbits and, like the weasel, the polecat has the benefit of being slender enough to get into rabbit burrows for more successful hunting.
19. Beaver (Castor fiber)
Around 300 years ago, the beaver was hunted to extinction in the United Kingdom. However, the species has now been reintroduced and allowed to flourish, therefore earning it the status of a native mammal.
Beavers are members of the rodent family and are the largest rodents in the UK. They have large orange teeth, a flat tail, and dark brown fur; they’re unmistakable. What’s more, beavers are often seen as beneficial as they create dams, which in turn create new wetland habitat for other species. You’ll find them living in small groups with pairs that mate for life!
The beaver inhabits waterways like rivers and streams, typically that run alongside woodland areas. While many people believe that they feed on a diet of fish, they’re actually herbivores.
20. Field Vole (Microtus agrestis)
The field vole is considered to be the most abundant mammal in the UK. While this small rodent species isn’t considered to be under any threat, it is suspected that bad agricultural habits could impact them in the future. However, it’s worth keeping in mind that individual populations tend to fluctuate every three to four years.
Field voles are small, growing to around 4.3 inches (11 cm) and have a short tail and a stocky body. Often confused with the bank vole, they can be told apart by the sandy color of the field vole’s fur.
This species does not hibernate and can be seen in undisturbed grasslands throughout the year and all over the United Kingdom, where it forages for stems and grass shoots.
21. Hazel Dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius)
The hazel dormouse is one of my personal favorite UK mammals; they’re incredibly cute! With golden-brown fur, round black eyes, and a long tail, they’re easy to identify. However, since they only grow to between 2.4-3.5 inches (6-9 cm), they’re often hard to spot.
Hazel dormice are found in woodlands and hedgerows but they are under significant threat because of habitat loss. It’s reported that populations may have declined by as much as 52% since the mid 90s, so it’s not surprising that the species is now protected in the UK.
While the species does have some scattered populations in the midlands and the north, it’s mainly confined to the southern areas of England. The hazel dormouse enjoys a diet that consists of berries, nuts, insects, and even pollen!
22. Scottish Wildcat (Felis silvestris)
The Scottish wildcat is a highly territorial species that is found in wooded areas of Scotland. These are small felines with a mottled brown coloration that isn’t all that dissimilar to that of a tabby. Although they’re easy to tell apart from domestic cats owing to their more muscular physique.
Scottish wildcats are incredibly rare and are not seen in England or Wales because of habitat loss. Even in Scotland, they’re one of the rarest mammals, and because of breeding with domestic cats, hybridization could wipe them out entirely.
These felines are excellent hunters and mainly prey on small rodents and rabbits. But amazingly, they weren’t always native to the UK and originally came from an African subspecies around 10,000 years ago!
23. Wood Mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus)
The wood mouse is a small mammal listed as being of Least Concern in all of the United Kingdom. While they’re most commonly found in woodlands, they may also be spotted in other areas, including gardens.
Wood mice have sandy colored fur that gets a little darker near the spine and grows to between inches 3.1-3.9 inches (8-10 cm) in length, excluding the tail. This species is very short lived, and adults don’t typically survive more than one year.
During this time, they’ll forage for fruits, seeds, and a variety of invertebrates, including earthworms. This is more common in autumn when plant food sources are scarce. The wood mouse does not hibernate and can therefore be spotted all year round.
24. Harvest Mouse (Micromys minutus)
The harvest mouse is a small species that doesn’t typically grow to more than 2.8 inches (7 cm) in length. Even so, adults may weigh as little as a 2 pence coin! They have ginger fur with a white underside, and while their tails are hairless, the ears are covered in fur, which helps when identifying them among other similar species.
Harvest mice feed on a diet of seeds, fruits, and insects and may also nibble on crops, but they do no damage, so are not seen as a pest. You might spot them in grassy habitats as well as alongside roads and in dense vegetation. While they are considered to be Critically Endangered in Scotlands, populations in England, south of Yorkshire are healthy.
25. Common Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus)
The common pipistrelle is one of the most commonly spotted bats in the United Kingdom, and its distribution is widespread. They have light brown fur, which contrasts with the deep black wings. Amazingly, these litter critters don’t weigh any more than a one pound coin!
Common pipistrelle bats are usually found in woodlands and grasslands but they’re a common sight in urban areas too, where they’ll forage for a range of flies, which they find using their echolocation skills.
The great news is that this species is listed as being of Least Concern, and according to research, there is no evidence that numbers are declining.
26. Greater Horseshoe Bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum)
The greater horseshoe bat is found along the south east coasts of England and Wales and is considered to be one of the rarest bat species in the UK. It’s faced threats because of a loss of habitat and fewer insect foraging opportunities as well as pesticide use. As a result of this, it’s thought that there are only around 13,000 of these bats left in the country.
Greater horseshoe bats have fur that ranges between buff and reddish brown depending on their age and sex. Females are generally more chestnut in color, but all members of this species have a fleshy horseshoe shaped nose, which is where they take their name.
Adults can grow up to 2.8 inches (7 cm), and the species is considered to be the longest lived bat in the UK, with some individuals making it to 30 years in the wild! You might be lucky enough to spot them hunting along woodland edges at night, but they generally hide out in caves during the day.
27. Serotine Bat (Eptesicus serotinus)
The serotine bat is one of the biggest bat species in the UK, growing up to 3.1 inches (8 cm) in length. It feeds on a diet of insects, particularly beetles and can be found in woodlands or hibernating in old buildings during the winter.
Serotine bats have pale fur on the underside and much darker fur on the back and face. Currently, this species is limited to the southern parts of the UK, although reports of it spreading further north have been made.
While there are no immediate threats to the population, the serotine bat struggles in much the same way as other bat species due to habitat loss. But current numbers of the species in the UK are not known.
28. Barbastelle Bat (Barbastella barbastellus)
Barbastelle bats are found in the central and southern parts of England and often live in woodlands. However, seeing one is not common as they are one of the rarest types of bat in the UK. A loss of woodland habitat has caused the number of Barbastelle bats in the UK to drop to an estimated 5000 and they are therefore listed as Near Threatened and protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
The barbastelle bat has something of a unique appearance, with a flat face and long ears. They’re quite a small species, with adults only growing to around 2 inches (5 cm). Like many other bat species, the barbastelle bats primarily feed on insects, including moths and beetles.
29. Natterer’s Bat (Myotis nattereri)
The natterer’s bat can be distinguished by its long ears that curve slightly at the tip and its pink forearms. This is a medium-sized bat species that live in caves and can be spotted in farmland and woodlands. Interestingly, they’re well-known for their ability to squeeze into super tight spaces.
Natterer’s bats feed on a diet of insects, including spiders, flies, and beetles. After breeding in fall or winter, females give birth to a single live young in around June.
While the species has suffered at the hands of a loss of nesting spots, it’s one of the more common bats in the United Kingdom.
30. Grey Long-Eared Bat (Plecotus austriacus)
The gray long eared bat is incredibly rare in the UK, but if you’re going to spot it, it’ll likely be found flying over grasslands where it forages for moths and small insects like beetles.
These bats are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 because of their rarity and are generally limited to some southern areas of England.
As the name would suggest, this species has incredibly long ears that are almost the same length as the body, which can grow to around 2.3 inches (5.8 cm). They’re often mistaken for the brown long-eared bat owing to their similar appearance, but this species tends to have a darker muzzle which is one of its identifying features.
31. Lesser Horseshoe Bat (Rhinolophus hipposideros)
The lesser horseshoe bat is often spotted at dusk in the western parts of the United Kingdom, apart from in winter when they hibernate in caves. They’re one of the smaller bat species in the UK, with adults measuring around the size of a plum.
While their range is limited, it’s believed that the number of lesser horseshoe bats is growing. Although their current conservation status is unknown.
They have light fur and rotund bodies with a fleshy leaf-shaped nose and a pink face. This species is usually found around woodlands and wetlands and feeds on a diet of insects. Interestingly, the lesser horseshoe bat is the only bat in the UK that not only uses echolocation but can also rotate its ears to better locate prey.
32. Leisler’s Bat (Nyctalus leisleri)
Found in the southern and central parts of the United Kingdom, Leisler’s bat is a protected species which used to be dubbed the hairy-armed bat because of the dense fur on the forearms. They love areas with plenty of tree cover so are often seen in parks and woodlands.
Leisler’s bats grow to between inches 2-2.8 inches (5-7 cm) and are said to have a lionish appearance thanks to the golden-brown colored fur around the head. They feed on a diet of moths, beetles, and flies and can be seen at sunset during summer, but hibernate throughout winter.
This species faces significant threats in the form of habitat loss. However, while they’re scarce in the United Kingdom, populations are healthy in neighboring Ireland.
33. Daubenton’s Bat (Myotis daubentonii)
Daubenton’s bat is a common sight in the UK, apart from the mountainous regions of Scotland and can usually be spotted around woodlands and water. The good news is that their numbers are so good that they’re listed as being of Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.
This species has dark fur with a lighter underside and a pink nose. Typically adults grow to between 0.21 and 0.35 ounces (6 and 10 grams) and enjoy an insect based diet. Unlike many other bat species, they love an aquatic environment and can often be seen swooping down to the surface of the water to catch a meal.
What’s more, these bats are determined feeders and the males are known to travel as far as 17 miles (27 km) to find a swarming site with good food sources.
34. Bechstein’s Bat (Myotis bechsteinii)
The Bechstein’s bat is a woodland species whose numbers have dwindled to a worrying 21,000 in the UK due to a loss of habitat. Moreover, the species is now only known to roost in the southern parts of the United Kingdom, including southern parts of Wales. They are known as one of the rarest bats as they’re hardly ever seen outside woodlands.
Bechstein’s bat is a medium-sized species that grows to around 2.1 inches (5.3 cm). They have reddish-brown fur on the back with a paler underside and a pink face and long ears.
The female bats gather in large colonies of up to 30 members for breeding season, although it has been reported that colonies as big as 100 strong have been seen.
35. Brown Long-Eared Bat (Plecotus auritus)
The brown long-eared bat can grow up to 2 inches (5 cm), and its ears may be just as long; it’s not hard to see where it gets its name. This species is similar in appearance to the gray long-eared bat, but you might be able to distinguish them by looking at the slow, fluttery flight.
Brown long-eared bats are found all over the UK, although they’re slightly rarer in Scotland. In any case, they’re listed as being of Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.
The species feeds on a diet of insects, including beetles and moths, and they’re one of the most commonly spotted in bat boxes. So, if you’ve made a bat-friendly garden, there’s a good chance you’ll meet one!