Mammals of Britain

Articles in ‘Mammals of Britain’

Seal pup in garden

December 24th, 2009

After last week’s fox in the London Underground, here’s another wacky one. A baby seal has turned up in a garden in  Benenden, Kent, 18 miles from the coast. The pup probably made its way up the River Rother which leads out to the English Channel, and then into a stream at the bottom of the garden. Then, according to the owner of the garden, “the seal made its way across the lawn into the pond, where it sat happily staring out of the pond in an enchanting way with its eyes just above the water.” The seal was named Rudolph by the little girl who first spotted it, who noted that “it ate some of my parents’ goldfish”.

BBC

Seal pup in garden

December 24th, 2009

After last week’s fox in the London Underground, here’s another wacky one. A baby seal has turned up in a garden in  Benenden, Kent, 18 miles from the coast. The pup probably made its way up the River Rother which leads out to the English Channel, and then into a stream at the bottom of the garden. Then, according to the owner of the garden, “the seal made its way across the lawn into the pond, where it sat happily staring out of the pond in an enchanting way with its eyes just above the water.” The seal was named Rudolph by the little girl who first spotted it, who noted that “it ate some of my parents’ goldfish”.

BBC

Eagle owls and boars, not wanted in the UK

December 21st, 2009

Controversially, DEFRA have blacklisted eagle owls and boars as non-native species, leaving them unprotected and classed as unwelcome invaders.  Arguments have been put forward for both species to be accepted: boars were part of the Britain’s fauna until their extinction in the middle ages, and there are suggestions that Eagle owls also lived here in the past, although this involves going much further back in time, when Britain was still part of the European land mass.

Fox in the London Underground

December 9th, 2009

This fox was photographed in Walthamstow Central underground station late on a Saturday night.  After running down the escalators, it was shooed back up again by workers and apparently left the station quite calmly in front of surprised onlookers.  The image captures what an urban animal the fox has become.  Full story in Daily Telegraph

Boar put to work as ecological engineers

November 27th, 2009

The charity Trees for Life have undertaken a project to restore native woodland on their Scottish Dundreggan Estate in Inverness-shire.  The birch/juniper wood is being smothered by impenetrable, towering bracken, severely reducing biodiversity and very difficult to control as its fronds are toxic for most animals.  Here’s where the wild boar step in: by digging up and eating the roots they can halt the bracken’s relentless spread. They will also be creating seed-beds for a variety of species by ploughing up the soil. Although boar were originally part of Britain’s ecosystem, before being hunted to extinction in the 13th century, this is not a reintroduction programme and they will be controlled within a 30-acre site enclosed by a special boar-proof fence.  BBC

Boar put to work as ecological engineers

November 27th, 2009

The charity Trees for Life have undertaken a project to restore native woodland on their Scottish Dundreggan Estate in Inverness-shire.  The birch/juniper wood is being smothered by impenetrable, towering bracken, severely reducing biodiversity and very difficult to control as its fronds are toxic for most animals.  Here’s where the wild boar step in: by digging up and eating the roots they can halt the bracken’s relentless spread. They will also be creating seed-beds for a variety of species by ploughing up the soil. Although boar were originally part of Britain’s ecosystem, before being hunted to extinction in the 13th century, this is not a reintroduction programme and they will be controlled within a 30-acre site enclosed by a special boar-proof fence.  BBC

Water voles doing well

November 9th, 2009

A British Waterways wildlife survey has shown a big increase in sightings of the elusive water vole.  89 voles were spotted on inland waterways this year, twice as many as last year. There were also numerous sightings of kingfishers – an indicator of good water quality and a healthy ecosystem, and more bizarrely a single porpoise. See also Lucy’s post Canals: corridors of wildlife and the slow-life

Some results

• Although rare, 89 water voles were spotted (twice the number than in 2008), with the most being seen on the Kennet & Avon Canal
• 127 different species of bird were sighted, including woodpeckers, reed warblers, little owls and almost 200 kingfishers
• 27 different species of butterflies were seen, including brimstones, small blues and speckled woods
• The number of frogs seen leapt three times from 2008, with three-quarters of them seen in Scotland
• The most unusual of the 42,500 sightings was a porpoise, a close relation of the dolphin, seen in the River Ouse near Selby and a large alligator snapping turtle, a non-native species from north America, at Earlswood Reservoir, Solihull
• The most water-loving bugs and beasties were sighted along the Kennet & Avon Canal, which stretches between Reading and Bristol; the Forth & Clyde Canal in Scotland, and the canals in and around Birmingham

Foxes as pets?

November 2nd, 2009

Cute they may be, but this article in The Guardian thinks that it is not a good idea to keep a fox  as a pet. Others agree. the US foxes.org list these reasons

  • They smell as strong as a skunk in close quarters, and although it is theoretically possible to have their scent glands removed, this is not very healthy and will not eliminate the smell of their urine, which is very powerful.
  • Foxes need a huge amount of space in which to run.
  • Foxes love to dig, and can easily dig out of a yard or through a sofa.
  • Foxes are at high risk to carry rabies. In many areas, there is no approved rabies vaccine for foxes; even if you have papers proving your fox has been vaccinated, some states will still have it destroyed and tested if it bites someone.
  • Because foxes are at high risk, you MUST get it vaccinated. This can prove very difficult. Veterinarians need a special license to treat wildlife, which many don’t have, because it’s a high-risk, low-reward proposition.
  • Lastly, it is very likely that a fox you own as a pet will be very unhappy. Many wild animals become depressed when removed from their natural habitat, and foxes are subject to depression as much as any other animal.

Foxes as pets?

November 2nd, 2009

Cute they may be, but this article in The Guardian thinks that it is not a good idea to keep a fox  as a pet. Others agree. the US foxes.org list these reasons

  • They smell as strong as a skunk in close quarters, and although it is theoretically possible to have their scent glands removed, this is not very healthy and will not eliminate the smell of their urine, which is very powerful.
  • Foxes need a huge amount of space in which to run.
  • Foxes love to dig, and can easily dig out of a yard or through a sofa.
  • Foxes are at high risk to carry rabies. In many areas, there is no approved rabies vaccine for foxes; even if you have papers proving your fox has been vaccinated, some states will still have it destroyed and tested if it bites someone.
  • Because foxes are at high risk, you MUST get it vaccinated. This can prove very difficult. Veterinarians need a special license to treat wildlife, which many don’t have, because it’s a high-risk, low-reward proposition.
  • Lastly, it is very likely that a fox you own as a pet will be very unhappy. Many wild animals become depressed when removed from their natural habitat, and foxes are subject to depression as much as any other animal.

Winners of Veolia Environment photography competition

October 22nd, 2009

Among the winning entries of the Veolia Environment wildlife photography competition is this image of a rutting stag in London’s Richmond Park.  The stag was rubbing his antlers free of velvet and had picked up a crown of bracken, silhouetted here against the dawn sky. Photographer Sam Rowley was able to approach quite close to his subject since the deer in Richmond Park are quite tolerant of people.  Visit the Guardian to see more photographs and BBC article

Dolphins playing football with jellyfish

October 16th, 2009

A remarkable photo of bottlenose dolphins off the Welsh coastline playing what could be described as football with jellyfish. Click here to Daily Telegraph to see bigger image and story.

The largest mammal in Britain

October 12th, 2009

The largest mammal in Britain is, according to the Daily Telegraph, the Exmoor Emperor, a 300lb, 9ft red deer stag,  a “truly magnificent” example of the species. The deer on Exmoor are among the biggest in the country.

The largest mammal in Britain

October 12th, 2009

The largest mammal in Britain is, according to the Daily Telegraph, the Exmoor Emperor, a 300lb, 9ft red deer stag,  a “truly magnificent” example of the species. The deer on Exmoor are among the biggest in the country.

Dormice campaign

October 11th, 2009

A hazel dormouse

The People’s Trust for Endangered Species is urging the public to look in woodlands for half-eaten hazelnuts to help track down and record the whereabouts of the elusive, endangered dormouse. The hazel dormouse is difficult to find at the best of times, as Lewis Carroll reminds us – mainly because it spends most of its time asleep. According to Dr Pat Morris, an internationally-regarded expert on the dormouse, “They chew a little hole in the side of the nut and then suck out the contents. It’s very distinctive. It looks like a hole’s been drilled in the side”

The Trust notes “Hazel nuts, where available, are a favourite food of the dormouse. And luckily for us dormice leave distinctive tooth marks when they gnaw into the green hazel nuts, before eating the kernel and discarding the shell to fall to the forest floor. Thousands of volunteers took part in the first two nut hunts of 1993 and 2001, sending in hazel nuts from over 2,000 sites and helping to identify almost 500 woodlands that had dormice present across England and Wales. Now we would like you to get out into the woods again and help us find more nibbled nuts this autumn and winter.”

Here is a photo of a hazelnut eaten by a dormouse taken from the Offwell Woodland & Wildlife Trust website, which notes “a smooth circular cut with tiny radiating teeth marks is the sign of the Dormouse”. I am a little confused as this seems to contradict the above “they chew a little hole in the side of the nut and then suck out the contents.”
Haznut.jpg (31264 bytes)


The pygmy shrew: the smallest mammal in Britain

October 10th, 2009

Pygmy Shrews can’t stop eating. Their metabolism is so fast that two hours after a meal they’re starving again. Hibernation is out of the question as they’re too small to store fat reserves, so they have to remain active during the winter, eating ceaselessly to keep warm. They are, in turn, an important part of the diet of Tawny and Barn owls, among other predators. They can live up to 15 months. Read the rest of this entry