Mammals of the Faroes

Adapted from Wikipedia

The land mammals of Faroe have all been introduced, accidentally or deliberately by man. Although 9 Species of wild land mammals have been reported on the Faroe Islands, only 3 have survived and are thriving on the islands today: Mountain Hare (Lepus timidus), Brown Rat (Rattus norvegicus) and the House Mouse (Mus domesticus).

The Mountain Hares were introduced from Kragerø in Norway in 1854. The first years, some of the Hares developed a white coat in winter, like their ancestors from Norway, but after a few decades, due to the oceanic climate with its lack of snow cover, the Faroese Hares had adopted common traits with the Irish Hares (Lepus timidus hibernicus) staying brown all year.

The faroese House Mouse was probably introduced accidentally from Britain by the irish monks as early as in the 6th century. It is the Western European House Mouse (Mus domesticus) but has earlier been wrongfully labelled as Mus musculus. This naming has also been used to name the sub-species which have evolved in the isolated island populations. The Nólsoy House Mouse is a sub-species called (Mus musculus faroeensis) and the Mykines House Mouse is also a sub-species called (Mus musculus mykinessiensis). Its closest relative was the now extinct St Kilda House Mouse (Mus musculus muralis). Wood Mouse or Field Mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus) was recorded on the Faroe Islands in the 17th century, but has not been recorded since. These recordings might have been of House mice mistaken for Wood mice.

The Brown Rat (Rattus norvegicus) is common in and around human habitations as well as in the outfield, namely doing big damage in bird colonies. It reached the Faroe Islands on a shipwreck which drifted from Shetland to Faroe in the 18´th century. The Brown Rat replaced the former Black Rat (Rattus rattus) which was common in human habitation in Faroe prior to the arrival of the Brown Rat.

Rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) were introduced to Suðuroy in the beginning of the 20th century. They soon spread throughout the island, but after a few years, they were exterminated. Rabbits also established colonies in the extreme south of Eysturoy (Eystnes) in the 60’s and 70’s, but they were also exterminated. In 2006 reports were of Rabbits establishing colonies on Streymoy.

American Mink (Mustela vison) have escaped from farms on several occasions, but were caught or shot most of the time, and never managed to establish a stock in the wild. Arctic Foxes (Alopex lagopus) also escaped from farms now and then in the first half of the 20´th century. These were individuals, who survived for months in the wild until they were found and shot. Without mates though, they were unable to multiply.

In the beginning of the 20´th century, a few Hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) were introduced to Tórshavn, but too few in numbers, to establish a population.

Bats are infrequent guests to Faroe, and usually die soon after arrival.