Field guide to the most commonly encountered mammals and birds

Here, we provide some basic information regarding commonly observed species (plus some others about which we have had queries).  

Feel free to contact us by email if you have any questions regarding species you have encountered on the site.

For more information about mammals, we recommend the Mammal Society's species hub, here, and MammalNet here. For birds, excellent resources are available from the RSPB (here) and the BTO (here).


Common UK Mammals All UK Mammals Common UK Birds All Species All Deer

American mink

Scientific name: Neovison vison 

Family: Mustelidae

Appearance: Mink are similar in shape to stoats and polecats but are dark brown all over. They are much smaller than otters.

Body length: 60 cm Tail length: up to half of body length.

Weight: 0.5-1.5 kg

Natural history: Mink hunt on riverbanks and in the water, eating mammals, birds, fish and crustaceans. They live in dens near water. Males are highly territorial.

Mink were introduced to the UK for fur farming. Since then, they have become widely invasive. Mink are a major threat to British water voles, because unlike native predators, they are both small enough and good enough swimmers to enter water voles’ waterside burrows. In mainland Europe, they also threaten the critically-endangered European mink.


 (C) tsaiproject (shared under a CC BY 2.0 license)


Scientific name: Meles meles

Family: Mustelidae

Appearance: Distinctive black and white stripes run along badgers’ faces. Their stocky bodies are grey on top with darker undersides.

Height: 25-30 cm Body length: 60-90 cm Tail length: 12-24 cm

Weight: 7-17 kg, heaviest in autumm

Natural history: Common in farmland, woodland and some urban areas, badgers are found throughout Europe and into the Middle East. They are nocturnal, hunting primarily by a strong sense of smell. Badgers have a broad omnivorous diet, including: invertebrates, especially earthworms; fruits, nuts and other plant material; carrion; amphibians; reptiles; and small mammals. Tough hides protect badgers from bee and wasp stings, enabling them to feed from hives.

Badgers live in family groups in underground setts, containing multiple exits, passageways and nesting chambers. Grass, bracken and other plant matter provide bedding for sleeping chambers. Badgers regularly change this lining or “air” it outside the sett for a day, especially while they have young cubs, to reduce parasite abundance. There are rare reports of badgers sharing setts with foxes.

Badgers mate for life, which can last fifteen years. Only the dominant sow in a sett will have cubs; subordinate females help care for the cubs and maintain the nest. Litters typically contain one to five cubs.

At the northernmost parts of their ranges, badgers usually spend winter in hibernation, while in milder climates such as that of southern Britain, they may emerge often from their winter sleep. To prepare, their body mass increases noticeably up to a peak in late autumn. 

 (C) Mark Robinson (shared under a CC BY-NC 2.0 license)

Bank Vole

Scientific name: Myodes (Clethrionomys) glareolus

Family: Cricetidae

Appearance: The Bank Vole is generally mouse-like in appearance but is stouter with a rounder head and small eyes and ears. Its tail is also much shorter than a mouse being around two thirds the length of its body. Its fur is a warm red-brown colour with greyish underparts.

Size: Head and body 8-12 cm; tail 3.3-4.8 cm

Natural History: The Bank Vole lives in woodland and hedgerows in an underground chamber that is lined with moss and feathers where it will store food for the winter. Its diet consists mainly of buds, seeds, leaves and fruit but will occasionally take small insects. Bank Voles are active at any time of day or night and throughout the year, they are solitary and males and females have their own home ranges. Breeding begins in March and continues through to October - or later in mild winters. Females will mate with the dominant males in the local population and may produce 8 or 9 litters of up to 4 young per year. The pups are born blind and helpless but develop rapidly and are weaned at between 20-25 days. They are sexually mature by the age of 8 weeks. Bank voles are an important dietary item for many species such as stoats, weasels, kestrels and owls.

Image: CC BY-SA 3.0



Black rat (ship rat)

Scientific name: Rattus rattus

Family: Muridae

Appearance: The Black or Ship Rat is smaller than the Brown Rat and has sleek black or grey-brown fur, large eyes, almost hairless ears and a thin tail.

Size:  Head and body 15-24cm; Tail 11.5-26cm

Natural History: The Black Rat is now exceedingly rare in Great Britain, after centuries of targeted control and competition from the Brown Rat. It is largely nocturnal and lives in groups with a dominant male and several females. 

 (C) Susannah Anderson (shared under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license)

Brown hare

Scientific name: Lepus europaeus 

Family: Leporidae

Appearance: Hares are larger and leaner than rabbits. They have longer legs and longer, black-tipped ears. Their fur is golden-brown. 

Height: 70 cm Weight: 4 kg

Natural history: Brown hares are found in grasslands and woodland edges, where they graze and eat bark. They are very fast runners, reaching top speeds of 70km/h. rather than burrowing, hares typically shelter in depression in the ground called “forms”.

Hares communicate warnings, challenges and interest in each other with thumps of their feet or twitches of their ears. In spring, males are often seen fighting by “boxing” over females.

Changing agricultural practices and shooting have caused hare declines in the UK. As a result, they are a priority species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.

 (C) Corine Bliek (shared under a CC BY-NC 2.0 license)

Brown Rat

Scientific name: Rattus norvegicus

Family: Muridae

Appearance: The Brown (Common) Rat is much larger than all mice but is of a similar size to the Water Vole. It has greyish-brown fur and, unlike the Water Vole, a very pointed snout and large ears. Its tail is long, broad and scaly, in comparison the Water Vole has a relatively short tail.

Size: Head and body 21-29 cm; tail 17-23 cm

Natural history: The commonly quoted ‘fact’ that you are never more than six feet from a rat is untrue as it is estimated that less than 1% of buildings contain rats. However, they are extremely adaptable omnivores and can survive in environments not suited to other mammals. Their diet is very wide and they can and will eat anything from grain and seeds to fish, molluscs and birds. Brown rats are active throughout the year and are mainly nocturnal but can be seen during the day where food is abundant. They live in loose colonies and dig their own burrows; home ranges vary considerably depending on food availability.

Females are sexually mature from the age of 3-4 months when they will start to breed producing up to six litters a year. Litter size increases with age with older, larger females giving birth to 11 or more young. The offspring are born blind and hairless but mature quickly and are weaned at around 6 weeks. Young rats are an important food source for a range of predators including owls, polecats, stoats and foxes.

 (C) Sarah Gould (shared under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license)

Chinese Water Deer

Scientific name: Hydropotos inermis

Family: Cervidae

Appearance: Chinese Water Deer are small and compact deer, the males (bucks) have no antlers but have large canine teeth which look like tusks and protrude over the lower jaw. They are slightly larger than muntjac but are much lighter in colour.

Size: Height at shoulder 50-55cm; Head and body length 1m; Weight 11-20kg (males), 9-12kg (females)

Natural history: Chinese Water Deer were introduced into various zoos and deer parks in southern England in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Escapes, releases and translocations have resulted in a wild population that inhabits mainly Norfolk, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire but is still spreading. As their name suggests they prefer wetland habitats such as reedbeds, riparian woodland and wet fenland. They feed on weeds and herbs and occasionally grasses. They are active throughout the day and night but there is a peak of activity around dawn and dusk. 

They are largely a solitary species except during the mating season when they may form pairs or small groups. The rut occurs during November and December when bucks will fight for access to does and injuries are a common occurrence. The females give birth between May and July and can produce up to 5 kids, but between one and three is more common. The kids remain with their mother through the winter.


(C) Don Sutherland (shared under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license)


Common (Harbour) Seal

 (C) Tony Morris (shared under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license)

 Scientific name:  Phoca vitulina

Family: Phocidae

Appearance:  The Common or Harbour seal displays a variety of different colour patterns ranging from brown through grey to silvery white and is covered with numerous, small spots. They have distinctive ‘V’-shaped nostrils and long whiskers and a rounded, short head. They are smaller than grey seals which are the only other species of seal to breed in the seas around Great Britain.

Size: Length 1.2 – 1.6m; weight 60 -150 kg (adults)

Natural history: Despite their name Common seals are actually less numerous and widespread than Grey seals but are often seen hauled-out with Greys on sand banks and mud flats at low tide where they can be surprisingly difficult to tell apart. Common seals are active all year round and throughout the day, they forage on their own but group together when resting at a haul-out site. They feed on fish of whatever species is abundant locally and will also take crustaceans. Mating occurs in July and females give birth to a single pup the following June. The pup is suckled for between 3 and 6 weeks after which the female will mate again. Pups are able to enter the water with their mothers only a few hours after birth.

Common shrew

 (C) Tony Sutton (shared under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license)

Scientific name: Sorex araneus

Family: Soricidae

Appearance: The Common shrew typically has a dark brown back and is greyish white underneath with a transition band of brownish fur in between. It has a long, pointed snout, small eyes and a relatively short tail which is about half as long as its body.

Size: Head and body 5.4–8.7 cm; tail 3.2–5.6 cm 

Natural history: The Common shrew inhabits thick vegetation in woodland and grassland and is also often found in gardens and along road verges. Shrews are active throughout the day and night with peaks at dawn and dusk and foraging activity is interspersed with bouts of resting. Shrews are carnivores and insectivores eating a range of invertebrates including earthworms, beetles, woodlice, slugs and snails. They need to eat almost their entire body weight to sustain their daily activities. Breeding occurs between April and September which is the only time that there is any social interaction between normally territorial individuals. Females give birth to 3 or 4 litters of 4-8 young during this time. Shrews are an important part of the diet of Barn and Tawny owls but are not palatable to all predators as they produce a foul tasting liquid from glands in the skin. 


Common vole

Scientific name: Microtus arvalis

Appearance: Dark brown or yellow-brown back with white-grey underbelly, blunt snout, small ears, and a relatively short tail covered with sparse short hair.

(C) J.L. Rodriguez

Edible Dormouse

 (C) Martin Grimm (shared under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license)

Scientific name: Glis glis

Family: Gliridae

Appearance: The Edible or Fat Dormouse looks similar to a grey squirrel with the same grey fur and a bushy tail but is considerably smaller and more rotund. It has very large eyes and small rounded ears. 

Size: Head and body 3-19 cm; tail 12-15 cm

Natural history: The Edible Dormouse (so called because the Romans considered it a delicacy) is a non-native species in Great Britain. It was brought into the UK for a private collection in Hertfordshire at the beginning of the 20th century from where an unknown number escaped. There are now thought to be about 10,000 mainly in the Chilterns. They are nocturnal and hibernate during the winter. They feed on nuts and fruit but also eat bark and occasionally insects and eggs.  They can cause considerable damage to native trees by stripping the bark.


Eurasian Beaver

 (C) Patricia van Casteren (shared under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license)

Scientific name: Castor fiber

Family: Castoridae

Appearance: The Eurasian Beaver is one of the largest species of rodent and is most likely to be seen in water. The colour of the fur can vary from a light-chestnut brown to dark blackish-brown across its geographical range but in Great Britain they are most commonly a mid-brown. They are thickset with large heads with a flattened top and small eyes and ears. The tail is flattened and scaly and distinguishes the beaver from any species with which it is likely to be confused such as an otter, water vole or mink.

Size:  Head and body 75-90 cm; Tail 28-38cm; Weight 12-38 kg

Natural history: The Eurasian Beaver was once a widespread and common animal in Britain but was hunted to extinction by the 16th century for its fur and for ‘castoreum’ a musk-scented secretion widely used in the making of perfume. Escapes of captive animals and small-scale reintroductions mean that the beaver is once again present in several locations across Great Britain.

Beavers are largely nocturnal but are occasionally seen during the day. They are active throughout the year feeding on a variety of aquatic and herbaceous plants in spring and summer and bark in winter. Eurasian Beavers form monogamous pairings and litters of (usually) 2-3 kits are born in late spring or early summer. The kits are born fully furred and with their eyes open, they can swim within hours of birth and are weaned at around 2-3 months.


Eurasian Elk

Scientific name: Alces alces

Family: Cervidae

Appearance: The Eurasian Elk resembles the moose (Alces americanus) to which it is closely related. It has humped shoulders, long legs and a relatively short tail. Elk have elongated, bony heads with a broad, overhanging muzzle and large ears. They also have a pendulous flap of skin and hair that hangs beneath the throat which is known as a ‘bell’. Males are larger than females and have broad, flattened antlers which are shed in winter and regrow in spring and summer.

Size: Height at shoulder 140-235 cm; Head and body length 240 - 310 cm; Tail 5-12 cm; Weight 380-700 kg (males), 200-360 kg (females)

Natural history: Elk are most active at dawn and dusk. Their diet consists mainly of trees, shrubs and herbs but in the winter they will also eat twigs and bark. Elk also eat aquatic vegetation and, being strong swimmers, will enter lakes and rivers to get to food. Generally solitary, they may form small groups during the winter. The Elk rut (mating season) takes place in September and October when the males put on elaborate displays and sometimes fight to gain access to females. The young are born between May and June, usually a single calf although occasionally twins. The juveniles stay with their mother until she next gives birth when they are driven away. 

It is thought that the Elk may have survived in Scotland until around 900 CE but habitat loss and hunting eventually drove it to extinction in Great Britain. It survives in parts of northern and eastern Europe, Scandinavia, northern China and possibly Mongolia.


 (C) Tim Ellis (shared under a CC BY-NC 2.0 license)

European Mole

Scientific name:  Talpa europaea

Family: Talpidae

Appearance:  The European Mole is distinctive in appearance with dense black (usually) fur, a long, pink snout, small eyes and without visible, external ears. Its legs and feet are ideally adapted for digging and burrowing with forelimbs that resemble spades and end in long claws. 

Size: Head and body 12-17 cm; Tail 2-4 cm; Weight 70-130 g. 

Natural history: Although the animals themselves are rarely seen above ground they leave evidence of their presence everywhere. Molehills dot the landscape in most habitats where burrowing is possible. The conical mounds of earth are made up of the spoil from burrowing near the surface of the soil. The tunnels they excavate act as traps for the soil invertebrates which make up their diet. These are mainly earthworms, but they also eat insects, centipedes and millipedes. Moles are known to collect and store earthworms in a special chamber or ‘larder’ for later consumption.

Mole breeding season starts in April and the young are born in May and June. A single litter of 3 to 4 young are born blind and naked. They start to grow fur at around 14 days and their eyes open after about 3 weeks. They disperse at 5 to 6 weeks of age and it is at this time that moles are most likely to be seen above ground as the juveniles look for a territory of their own.


 (C) Joachim S. Müller (shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license)

Fallow deer

Scientific name: Dama dama

Family: Cervidae

Size: Adults males are generally 84 – 94 cm at the shoulder and weigh 46 - 94kg. Adult females are 73 - 91cm at the shoulder and weigh 35 - 56kg. 

Appearance: There are four main variations in coat but many minor variations also exist, including a long-haired version found in Mortimer Forest on the Shropshire / Herefordshire border. The common variety is the familiar tan/fawn colouring with white spotting (becoming long and grey with indistinct spots in winter) on the flanks and white rump patch outlined with a characteristic black horseshoe. The Menil variety is paler, lacks the black-bordered rump and keeps its white spots all year. The Melanistic (black) variety is almost entirely black with no white colouration anywhere. Finally, the white variety can be white to sandy coloured and becomes more white at adulthood. The fallow is the only British deer with palmate antlers. These increase in size with age reaching up to 70cm long when the adult is 3 - 4 years old.

Natural history: Non-native but widely-naturalised. Mostly woodland and open agricultural habitats. 

Behaviour depends upon the environment and population density. In most populations bucks maintain a traditional, defended rutting stand. In others, a temporary rutting stand is maintained to attract sufficient does to herd them into a harem. In areas with very high buck densities a lek (a gathering of males engaging in competitive display to attract potential mates) may be formed. In lower density areas bucks may simply seek out receptive females. In common with other large species of deer, during conflict the bucks’ behaviour escalates from groaning and parallel walks to fighting. During the rut bucks groan tremendously and does with fawns give a short bark when alarmed.

After mating, adult does give birth to a single fawn in June or July after a gestation of 229 days. Bucks generally live for 8 – 10 years although they can live as long as 16 years. 

Fallow deer are active throughout the 24-hour period but make use of open spaces during the hours of darkness in populations experiencing frequent disturbance. Peak activity is at dawn and dusk with most daytime hours spent ‘lying up’, where they lie down to ruminate between feeding bouts. (Source:

 (C) Caroline Johnston (shared under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license)

Field Vole

Scientific name: Microtus agrestis

Family: Cricetidae

Appearance: The Field Vole is similar in appearance to the Bank Vole (Myodes (Clethrionomys) glareolus) but is much greyer in colour without the warm, russet tones of the Bank Vole. The Field Vole also has a shorter tail, about half the length of its body, and shortish ears which are hairy on the inside and hidden in its long, shaggy fur.

Size: Head and body 9-11cm; tail 2-5 cm

Natural history: The Field Vole can be difficult to see in the wild as it inhabits areas of long grass and the damp margins of marshland. It is active all year round and throughout the day although activity may peak at dawn and dusk. Its diet is mainly made up of grass roots and shoots. The breeding season starts in March or April and runs through to September/October. A female may produce up to seven litters a year which range in size from 1 to 8 young. The juveniles are weaned after 2 to 3 three weeks. Like Bank Voles, Field Voles are a major food source for a wide range of predators, so although populations grow rapidly in spring and summer turnover is high.

Image by Fer boei, CC BY-SA 3.0


Greater White-toothed Shrew (House shrew)

Scientific name: Crocidura russula

Family: Soricidae

Appearance:  The Greater White-toothed Shrew has the pointed snout characteristic of all shrews. It is very difficult to distinguish from the Lesser White-toothed Shrew - although it is slightly larger. It has a flatter forehead and more prominent ears than the Pygmy Shrew and can also be distinguished from the Pygmy Shrew by the sparse, erect hairs on its tail.

Size: Head and body 4.4-8.6 cm; Tail 2.4-4.7 cm; Weight 5-16 g. 

Natural history: The Greater White-toothed Shrew is an introduced species and is present only in Ireland where it is rare. It has been found in farmland that provides grassland, hedgerows and woodland and also around rural settlements. Like all shrews it is carnivorous and feeds on a wide variety of invertebrates and will also take small vertebrates. It is active throughout the year and at all hours of the day.  Breeding takes place from February through to October, with females producing several litters each containing between 2 and 10 young.


 (C) Bárbol (shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license)

Grey Seal

Scientific name: Halichoerus grypus

Family: Phocidae

Appearance: The Grey Seal is larger than the Common (or Harbour) Seal but also displays a variety of coat patterns with different degrees of blotching. However, it is generally dark grey above and pale cream underneath. Grey Seals have a long head with almost parallel nostrils (unlike the ‘V-shaped’ nostrils of the Common Seal) and the muzzle of the males is much longer than that of the females. Differentiating between Grey and Common Seals is most reliably done by gauging the position of the eyes. In the Grey Seal the eyes are situated half-way between the end of the muzzle and the back of the head (one-third in the Common Seal).

Size: Head and body 1.8-2.1 m; Weight 105-310 kg.

Natural history: Grey Seals are very large mammals and spend much of their time out at sea where they feed on sand eels, cod and any other fish that may be locally abundant. Between tides however, they haul out on rocky outcrops and secluded beaches where they may gather in large numbers. Little aggression is seen at haul outs except at breeding colonies where females try to maintain a distance of around 3 metres from other individuals. Breeding varies depending on location around the coast with mating taking place between September and December. A single pup is then born the following season on land where it is fed on milk for about 3 weeks before being abandoned. The pups are born covered in a creamy white fur which is moulted after about a month.


 (C) Potbic (shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license)

Grey Squirrel


Scientific Name: Sciurus carolinensis

Family: Sciuridae

Appearance: Larger than the red squirrel, greys are coloured as their name suggests. White individuals are occasionally reported.

Body length: 42-55 cm Tail length: 19-25 cm

Weight: 400-600 g

Natural history: Grey squirrels are invasive in the UK, having been introduced from north America by the Victorians. Populations have spread from southern England and Edinburgh/Glasgow. Grey squirrels carry a parapox virus which they are resistant to, but which is lethal for native red squirrels. Consequently, greys have displaced reds from much of Britain. Grey eradication programs are essential to protect red squirrels at the edges of their ranges.


(C) Jimmy Edmonds (shared under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license)

Harvest Mouse

 (C) Helen Haden (shared under a CC BY-NC 2.0 license)

Scientific name: Micromys minutus

Family: Muridae

Appearance: The smallest British rodent, the Harvest Mouse is definitely tiny. It has orangey-brown fur on its upper side and is white underneath, with hairy ears, a blunt nose and beady eyes. The Harvest Mouse also has a long, prehensile tail which it uses to aid climbing stalks of long vegetation. 

Size: Head and body 5-8 cm; Tail 5-8 cm; Weight 5-11 g.

Natural history: The Harvest Mouse was thought to occur only from central Yorkshire southwards, but sightings and recent surveys have found its characteristic round, woven nests further north in County Durham and Northumberland suggesting either an historical lack of records or an expansion in range. The diet of the Harvest Mouse includes seeds, fruit, berries and invertebrates. They feed in the stalk zone of tall vegetation and are most active around dawn and dusk. They have extremely acute hearing which is needed to avoid predation from a wide variety of predators including weasels, stoats, owls, hawks and cats. Breeding occurs throughout the summer with a peak around August. Females give birth to a litter of around six young which are born blind and naked. They grow extremely quickly however and are exploring outside the nest after 11 days. A new nest is constructed for each litter.

Hazel Dormouse

Scientific name: Muscardinus avellanarius

Family: Gliridae

Appearance: The Hazel Dormouse has golden-brown fur and is the only British small mammal that has a furry tail. It has large black eyes and long whiskers. It also has long toes which are an adaptation for climbing.

Size: Head and body 6-9 cm; Tail 5.7 – 6.8 cm; Weight 15-35 g.

Natural history: Once widespread and relatively common the Hazel Dormouse has been in long-term decline and is now only patchily distributed - mainly in southern England in in Wales. Even before its decline the Hazel Dormouse was difficult to see as it spends over half the year in hibernation (October to May) and when active is strictly nocturnal. It typically occupies deciduous woodland with a diverse understorey but, may also be found in overgrown hedgerows or scrub. Its diet is mainly vegetarian and is extremely varied utilising a wide range of flowers, pollen, fruits, berries and nuts throughout the season. The females give birth to (usually) one litter of around four young a year in late July or August. Males play no part in raising the young which start to leave the nest after about 30 days.


 (C) Ettore Balocchi (shared under a CC BY 2.0 license)

House Mouse

Scientific name: Mus (musculus) domesticus

Family: Muridae

Appearance: The House Mouse is greyer than both the Wood Mouse and the Yellow-necked Mouse and has smaller eyes, ears and hind feet. Its tail is naked and it has a more pointed nose than other mouse species.

Size: Head and body 6-10 cm; Tail 6-10 cm; Weight 12-22 g.

Natural history: The House Mouse is nocturnal and is active throughout the year. It lives either in burrows in the ground or - if in buildings - in drains, roof spaces or behind walls. It can breed at any time of year with each female capable of giving birth to between 5 and 10 litters a year each containing 5-8 young. The juveniles reach sexual maturity at just 5 or 6 weeks old.  Will feed on almost anything if indoors, outdoor populations eat mainly grain.


 (C) Andrew Reding (shared under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license)

Lesser White-toothed (Scilly) Shrew

Scientific name: Crocidura suaveolens

Family: Soricidae

Appearance: As its name suggests the Lesser White-toothed Shrew has white teeth rather than the reddish colour that is characteristic of other shrews. Its coat is a relatively pale reddish-brown, it has quite prominent ears and its tail is covered with long pale hairs that stick out at right angles.

Size: Head and body 5.0-7.5 cm; Tail 2.4-4.4 cm; Weight 3-7 g.

Natural history: The Lesser White-toothed Shrew is found only on the Isles of Scilly and on the Channel Islands of Jersey and Sark. It is mainly nocturnal but is sometimes active around dusk as well. It likes thick cover and lives in heathland and along the shoreline. Its diet consists of a wide range of invertebrates including beetles, centipedes and millipedes as well as worms and crustaceans when feeding on beaches. Breeding takes place from March through to September and a female can produce 2-4 litters of 1-5 young a season. The behaviour known as ‘caravanning’ when a mother will lead its young away from the nest in a line with each individual holding onto the tail of the one in front with its teeth is more common in this species than other British shrews.

 (C) Wildlife Wanderer (shared under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license)

Mountain hare


Scientific Name: Lepus timidus 

Family: Leporidae

Appearance: Hares are larger and leaner than rabbits, with longer legs and longer, black-tipped ears. Mountain hares have greyer fur than brown hares, and their fur turns white in winter for camouflage against snow.

Height: 45-65 cm Length: 60 cm
Weight: 4 kg

Natural history: Being better adapted to colder, snowier conditions than brown hares, mountain hares are found in Scotland’s highlands and the Peak District. Meanwhile, the brown hare is a better competitor in lowlands. Outside the UK, mountain hares inhabit northern mountains and tundra across Europe and Asia. They are the favourite prey of golden eagles.

 (C) David Newland (shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license)

 (C) Mark Hope (shared under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license)


Scientific name: Muntiacus reevesi

Family: Cervidae

Appearance: Adults males grow to 44 - 52cm at the shoulder and weigh 10 - 18kg. Adult females are 43 - 52cm at the shoulder and weigh 9 - 16kg. Small, stocky and russet brown in colour in summer and grey/brown in winter. Bucks have short (10 cm) antlers growing from long pedicles. Antlers are usually unbranched but a very short brow tine is occasionally found in old bucks. They also have visible upper canines (tusks) suggesting that they are a primitive species. Muntjac have two pairs of large glands on the face. The upper pair are the frontal glands, whilst the lower glands, below the eyes, are called sub-orbitals. Both glands are used to mark territories and boundaries. They have a ginger forehead with pronounced black lines running up the pedicles in bucks, and a dark diamond shape on does. The haunches are higher than the withers giving a hunched appearance. They have a fairly wide tail, which is held erect when disturbed.

Natural history: Non-native but expanding. Mostly forests with a diverse understorey. Breed all year round and the does can conceive again within days of giving birth. Bucks may fight for access to does but remain unusually tolerant of subordinate males within their vicinity. Does are capable of breeding at seven months old. After a gestation period of seven months they give birth to a single kid and are ready to mate again within a few days. Bucks can live up to 16 years and does up to 19 years, but these are exceptional. Muntjac are generally solitary or found in pairs (doe with kid or buck with doe) although pair-bonding does not occur. Bucks defend small exclusive territories against other bucks whereas does' territories overlap with each other and with several bucks. They are known as ‘barking deer’ from the repeated loud bark given under a number of circumstances. An alarmed muntjac may scream whereas maternal does and kids squeak. Muntjac are active throughout the 24-hour period but make more use of open spaces during the hours of darkness in populations subject to frequent disturbance. Peak activity is at dawn and dusk. Long periods are spent ‘lying up’, where the deer lies down to ruminate after feeding. (Source:

 (C) nick ford (shared under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license)

 (C) Airwolfhound (shared under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license)


Scientific Name: Lutra lutra

Family: Mustelidae

Appearance: Otters are one of the largest mustelids, with thick brown fur and webbed feet. Length: 135cm. Weight: 10kg.

Natural history: As they feed on fish, amphibians, waterbirds and crustaceans, otters live close by rivers and lakes in underground burrows called holts. They are very territorial, and mark out their large territories using faeces called spraints. Some otters feed mostly on the coasts, but these individuals need a regular supply of fresh water to clean their fur.

The otter species found in Britain is the Eurasian otter. Many other otter species exist around the world, including specialist sea otters, giant otters reaching nearly two metres long, and clawless species.

Otters declined severely throughout Europe due to pollution of waterways. The most serious impacts of pollution are generally seen in top predators such as otters: the pollution from each contaminated animal they eat builds up in predators’ bodies, accumulating to huge levels. As environmental policies improve, otters are returning to waterways across the UK.

 (C) Peter Trimming (shared under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license)

Pine marten

Scientific name: Martes martes 

Family: Mustelidae

Appearance: Similar in size to a domestic cat, martens are sleek and brown with a cream bib.

Body length: 70 cm Tail length: ~25 cm  Weight: ~1.7 kg

Natural history: Pine martens are highly solitary. They live high in trees, in holes, abandoned squirrel dreys or occasionally in owl boxes. They are omnivores, eating birds, small mammals, invertebrates and fruit.

Martens are rare and elusive in Britain, having been eradicated from most of the UK by habitat degradation and persecution. Recent reports suggest they are beginning to become more abundant in Northumberland and Cumbria. A reintroduction programme is underway in Wales.

 (C) David Little (shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license)

Polecat or Polecat/Ferret Hybrid

Scientific name: Mustela putorius

Family: Mustelidae

Appearance:  The Polecat is a long-bodied, slim mustelid with dark guard hairs over yellowish under fur. The legs are dark and the tail short. It has a pale muzzle and ear tips and a wide, dark band across its face making it look like a ‘bandit’. The domesticated form of the Polecat is the Ferret which occur in a range of colours, but often look very similar to wild Polecats. Additionally, there are many Polecat/Ferret hybrids now at large making identification difficult.

Size: Head and body 29-46 cm; tail 12-19 cm

Natural history: The Polecat was once extremely common and widespread but, hunting for fur and persecution to protect poultry and game reduced the population almost to extinction at the beginning of the 20th century. They are now returning to their former range.

Polecats are nocturnal and crepuscular and active throughout the year, they eat a wide variety of food stuffs including rodents, rabbits, birds and invertebrates. They also feed on carrion. Polecats, like most mustelids, can kill prey much larger than themselves including geese. They sometimes excavate a den but more often use a pre-existing feature such as a crevice in rocks or a rabbit burrow. Each den is occupied by one animal (or a female and kits) but they may have several dens throughout their home range which they will use when in the vicinity. Their territories vary in size depending on habitat and availability of food, territories of radio tracked animals have been measured and ranged from 16 to 500 hectares.

Breeding is seasonal with females giving birth to 3-7 kits between May and June. The kits are born blind and hairless, they are weaned at around 4 weeks and stay with their mother for 2-3 months. Male polecats play no part in rearing of the young. 

 (C) Dale Pickles (shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license)

Pygmy Shrew

(C) minipixel (shared under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license)

Scientific name: Sorex minutus

Family: Soricidae

Appearance: The Pygmy Shrew is Britain’s smallest terrestrial mammal and is considerably smaller than the Common Shrew. Its coat is pale brown above and a greyish-white below. It has the typical pointed snout of a shrew although it is more conical than other shrews. Its tail is relatively long and may have a tuft at its tip.

Size: Head and body 4.0-6.4 cm; Tail 3.0-4.6 cm; Weight 2.5-7.5 g.

Natural history: The Pygmy Shrew is active throughout the day and all year round, although most adults die before the winter. It eats a wide range of invertebrates including beetles, spiders and woodlice but not earthworms.  Pygmy Shrews will often nest under logs or rocks, the breeding season runs from April to October and females may have two or more litters of 4 to 6 young a year. Pygmy Shrews like other small mammals are predated by owls and other raptors.

Further information



Scientific Name: Oryctolagus cuniculus

Family: Leporidae

Appearance: Smaller than hares, rabbits have grey-brown fur, long ears and pale tails.

Body length: 34-50 cm Tail length: 4-8 cm

Weight: 1.1-2.5 kg

Natural history: Rabbits were probably introduced to the UK for food by the Romans. They live in large groups in underground warrens.

Rabbits reproduce very rapidly. The invasive population in Australia increased from 24 introduced individuals in 1859, perhaps to as many as 10 billion by 1920. The disease myxomatosis was introduced to help control them, but has been unable to eradicate these widespread pests there.

 (C) Philip Stephens (shared under a CC BY NC 2.0 license)


Scientific name: Procyon lotor

Family: Procyonidae

Appearance: Raccoons are cat-sized animals with an unmistakable ‘bandit’-style mask across the face. The coat is grey and densely furred and the tail is bushy and marked with black and white rings. Raccoons have extremely dexterous front paws which they use for foraging and climbing.

Size: Head and body 60-95 cm; Tail 19-40 cm; Weight 4.0-15.8 kg

Natural history: Raccoons are nocturnal animals and are extremely adaptable. In their native North America, they have spread from their original forested habitats to mountainous areas, coastal marshes and urban areas. They may live in loose gender specific groups or solitarily. They are omnivorous and eat invertebrates, plants and small vertebrates.

Raccoons have been brought into the UK as exotic pets and for zoos and collections. Escaped individuals are recorded in the wild fairly frequently and on one occasion breeding was recorded. There are currently no known established populations here, but they are an established invasive in mainland Europe.

 (C) Patrick Randall (shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license)

Raccoon dog

Scientific name: Nyctereutes procyonoides

Appearance: Dirty, earth-brown, or brown-grey fur with black guard hairs in winter, and brighter and reddish-straw fur in summer; yellowish-brown abdomen, dark brown or blackish chest, with long, whisker-like hairs on the cheeks..

(C) (shared under a CC0 license)

Red deer

Scientific name: Cervus elaphus

Family: Cervidae

Appearance: Adults males are 107-137cm at the shoulder and weigh 90-190kg. Adult females reach 107-122cm at the shoulder and weigh 63-120kg. The summer coat is reddish brown to brown and the winter coat is brown to grey. There are no spots on the adult coat. Stags have large, highly branched antlers and the number of branches increases with age. Antlers can have up to 16 points in wild animals. The angle between the brow tine and the main beam is near to 90o degrees.

Natural history: Well distributed in Scotland and patchily so in England. Mostly woodland and forest habitats but also open moor and hill further north. The breeding season, on rut, occurs from the end of September to November. Stags return to the hind's home range and compete for them by engaging in elaborate displays of dominance including roaring, parallel walks and fighting.  Serious injury and death can result from fighting but this only occurs between stags of similar size that cannot assess dominance by any of the other means.  The dominant stag then ensures exclusive mating with the hinds. Despite being sexually mature before their second birthday in productive woodland populations, only stags over five years old tend to mate.  In woodland populations hinds over one year old give birth to a single calf after an eight-month gestation, between mid-May to mid-July. Puberty may be delayed until three years old in hill hinds, which may give birth only once every two or three years. Some Scottish hill populations suffer heavy infant mortality at and shortly after birth and during their first winter. Lifespan can be, exceptionally, up to 18 years. In woodland red deer are largely solitary or occur as mother and calf groups. On open ground, larger single sex groups assemble, only mixing during the rut and in the Highlands of Scotland large groups may persist for most of the year. Red deer are active throughout the 24 hour period but make more use of open spaces during the hours of darkness in populations experiencing frequent disturbance. Peak times of activity are at dawn and dusk. In the Highlands of Scotland red deer use the open hills during the day and descend to lower ground during the night. (Source:

 (C) Philip Stephens (shared under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license)

Red fox

 (C) Philip Stephens (shared under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license)

Scientific Name: Vulpes vulpes

Family: Canidae

Appearance: Red foxes are slender dogs with reddish or russet fur and bushy tails. Their bellies are white.

Height: 35-50 cm Body length: 45-90 cm Tail length: 32-53 cm

Weight: 2.2-14 kg

Natural history: Red foxes are omnivorous, eating plants as well as small animals. They dig underground dens to raise their cubs in, but otherwise often sleep in dense vegetation. Red foxes prefer to hunt at dawn and dusk.

They are widespread throughout Europe, Asia and north America, barring some polar and tropical regions. Red foxes are renowned in folklore for their cunning or trickery. They are highly adaptable creatures, becoming a growing feature of urban areas and surviving in deserts and in high mountains.

Like other dogs, red foxes use their tails, ears and many body gestures to communicate. They use up to twelve different sounds in communication, including greeting and alarm calls.

Trivia:Domesticated red foxes have been bred in Russia. Results from this breeding experiment helped inform a recent theory that a number of genetic changes are common to all domesticated species, and these changes are also seen in all humans.


Red squirrel


Scientific name: Sciurus vulgaris 

Family: Sciuridae

Appearance: These squirrels are reddish-brown, with the red fading somewhat in winter, and white underparts. They have tufted ears and bushy tails.

Size: Body length: 32-44 cm Tail length: 15-20 cm Weight: 250-350 g

Natural history: Red squirrels are forest-dwellers, spending more time in the treetops than greys. Their nests, called dreys, are high-up, in holes in trees or woven from twigs. Red squirrels do not hibernate, but may shelter in a drey for many days in bad weather. They eat nuts, seeds, berries, bark and fungi. Through the autumn, they stockpile nuts to feed on through the winter when other food sources become scarce.

Red squirrels have two litters per year, normally of three or four young called kittens. During bad years for the pine cone crop, squirrels can delay gestation until the following year.

Red squirrels can be right-handed or left-handed, seen in the way they eat pinecones.

A virus carried by invasive grey squirrels has caused serious declines in Britain’s red squirrel population. Red squirrels survive in a continually-shrinking area of northern England, parts of Scotland, and scattered populations protected by the eradication of greys. Many conservation groups are developing programmes to help them reoccupy their natural range, which they readily do when greys are controlled.

 (C) Bob Hall (shared under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license)

Red-necked Wallaby

Scientific name: Macropus rufogriseus

Family: Macropodidae

Appearance: The Red-necked Wallaby is a small kangaroo with a characteristic upright stance and long counterbalancing tail. It is a brownish-grey colour with a chestnut patch on the neck and upper arm and has a black nose and paws.

Size: Head and body 65-92 cm; Tail 62-86 cm; Weight 11-27 kg.

Natural history: The Red-necked Wallaby is an introduced species and has been kept in captivity in Britain and Ireland for many decades. Some of these individuals have escaped and have established small, localised colonies in the wild. The current wild population is estimated to be around 150 individuals mostly on the Isle of Man. Sightings have also been reported from several English counties. Red-necked Wallabies are active throughout the year and are mainly nocturnal. During the day they will hide in dense undergrowth. They feed on grasses, heather and bracken. Females give birth to a single youngster between June and December which then grows in its mother’s pouch until it emerges between May and June.


 (C) Simon Willison (shared under a CC BY-NC 2.0 license)


Scientific name: Rangifer tarandus

Family: Cervidae

Appearance: Reindeer are large, heavily built members of the deer family. They have a soft coat of a creamy-brown colour with darker legs and rear. Both sexes have antlers which are long and branched at the ends. Males shed their antlers in December/January and females in May.

Size: Head and body 1.05-1.6 m; Tail 10-15 cm; Height at shoulder 1.07-1.22m; Weight 40-55 kg (males), 28-40 kg (females).

Natural history: Reindeer were native to Britain until towards the end of the last glaciation but became extinct as the climate warmed. There are currently two small free-ranging herds in the Cairngorms in Scotland. Reindeer are active all year round and throughout the day, they are herd animals and in some native populations are migratory and capable of moving at considerable speed. The Reindeer rut occurs between mid-September and early October and females give birth to a single calf in May. The young calves can walk within an hour of birth.


 (C) Stravaiger (shared under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license)

Ring-tailed Coati

 (C) Gustavo Fernando Durán (shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license)


Scientific name: Nasua nasua

Family: Procyonidae

Appearance: The South American Coati is a member of the Raccoon family. It has a red-brown coat above and is paler underneath, its tail is long and has yellow rings. The head is long and elongated with a flexible snout which enables it to poke around under rocks and into crevices when searching for food.

Size: Head and body 41-67 cm; Tail 32-69 cm; Weight 3.5-6 kg

Natural history: The South American Coati is an introduced species to the UK but there is currently no evidence to suggest that there are any breeding populations in the wild. They are active during the day, are both arboreal and terrestrial and usually inhabit forest. Males are solitary while females and young travel in groups. Their diet consists of fruit, invertebrates and small mammals. Breeding takes place when the main fruit in the diet is in season. Females mate with multiple males and give birth to a litter of between 2 and 4 young.


Roe Deer

Scientific name: Capreolus capreolus

Family: Cervidae

Appearance: Adults are 60 - 75cm at the shoulder and weigh 10 - 25kg. Males are slightly larger than females. A summer coat of reddish brown turning to grey, pale brown or (occasionally) black in winter. They have a black nose, white chin and white rump patch, and exhibit a bounding gait when alarmed. Males grow short antlers (less than 30cm) which have up to three tines (points) on each. These antlers are shed each Autumn and new ones will begin to grow from November.

Natural history: Widespread in the UK, roe deer are browsers found mainly in woodland and agricultural areas. The rut, or breeding season, occurs between mid-July to mid-August. Bucks become aggressive and maintain exclusive territories around one or more does prior to the rut. Fights between bucks can result in serious injury or death with the winner taking over the loser’s territory or attendant doe. Courtship involves chasing between the buck and doe for some time until the doe is ready to mate. Although mating occurs in this period the fertilised egg does not implant and grow until January. This is thought to be an adaptation to avoid giving birth during harsh northern winters. The gestation period is nine months (four months of no embryonic growth followed by five months of foetal growth) with kids (usually two or three) being born May – June. Initially, young will be left hidden in dense vegetation while the mother goes off to forage, but as they develop they will start to follow their mother around more. Heavy mortality may occur shortly after birth and during the first winter. Roe do not maintain exclusive territories but live within overlapping home ranges. Males mate with several females and females mating with several males has also been observed. Roe deer are solitary, forming small groups in winter. They are active throughout the 24-hour period but make more use of open spaces during the hours of darkness in populations experiencing frequent disturbance. Peak times of activity are at dawn and dusk. Long periods are spent ‘lying up’ where the deer lies down to ruminate between feeding bouts. (Source:

 (C) Philip Stephens (shared under a CC BY-NC 2.0 license)

Shrew (any sp.)

(left) (C) volesandfriends (shared under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license)

(right) (C) minipixel (shared under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license)

Scientific family: Soricidae

Appearance: Any representative of the family Soricidae. These are very small mammals, typically with elongated snouts, sharp teeth, tails shorter than their bodies and very small ears. Use this "any species" classification only if you cannot attribute this to one of the listed shrew species.

Sika Deer

Scientific name: Cervus nippon

Family: Cervidae

Appearance: The Sika Deer was introduced to Britain from Japan in the 19th century for deer parks and collections but escapes and deliberate releases have resulted in naturalised populations establishing themselves in several locations around the UK and Ireland. Closely related to the Red Deer they are similar in appearance but more slender and slightly built. Hybridisation with Red Deer has taken place and many, if not most, animals are probably hybrids. When in their summer coat, which is dappled with white spots, Sika Deer may appear more like fallow deer. The distinguishing features of the Sika Deer are a white gland on the lower back leg and the white rump patch which is encircled in black (no black in Red Deer). Antlers are carried by males only and while similar in structure to Red Deer antlers are smaller with a maximum of four points.

Size: Head and body 1.2-1.9 m (males), 1.1-1.6 m (females); Height at shoulder 1.07-1.22 m; Tail 10-15 cm; Weight 40-55 kg (males), 28-40 kg (females)

Natural history: Sika Deer are active throughout the year and the day with activity peaking at dawn and dusk. Largely solitary outside the breeding season although females sometimes form loose groups. They browse and graze mainly on grasses and heather, shoots and leaves of coniferous and deciduous trees, holly, gorse and bark. The rut takes place during October and November and stags have been recorded displaying a variety of mating strategies such as harems, rutting territories and general wandering in search of opportunistic mating opportunities. Females give birth to a single calf in May or June which suckles for about six months but is also taking solid food after about 10 days.


 (C) Michael Day (shared under a CC BY-NC 2.0 license)


Scientific name: Mustela erminea

Family: Mustelidae

Appearance: Stoats have a long, thin physique. They are brown with white underparts and a black tip to the tail, which distinguishes them from their smaller relative, the weasel. 

Size: Body length: 17-32 cm Tail length: 6.5-12 cm Weight: 180-250 g

Natural history: Stoats occupy small territories, around 200m by 200m, in farmland, woods and heaths. They are largely carnivorous, and hunt by day or night. Stoats can take prey much larger than themselves, such as rabbits. Being small, they are often prey for hawks, owls and larger mammalian predators.

Especially in the north, stoats’ fur turns white in winter to camouflage them against the snow. This white pelt, known as ermine, was prized in medieval times and worn often by royalty.

Stoats have one litter of six to twelve young each year. Their lifespan is up to ten years, but typically under two.

Stoats have been widely introduced elsewhere in an attempt to control other invasive species such as rabbits. These introduction programmes have typically been disastrous failures: many target regions have never seen mammalian predators before, so naïve native species make easy prey for stoats and native populations have collapsed as a result.

 (C) Rhona Anderson Wildlife & Nature Photography (shared under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license)

Vole (any sp.)

(left) (C) anemoneprojectors (shared under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license)

(right) (C) Jason Shallcross (shared under a CC BY-NC 2.0 license)

Scientific family: Cricetidae

Appearance: Voles are small rodents that may be confused with mice. However, they typically have smaller ears, more rounded heads, smaller eyes and shorter tails than mice. Use this "any species" classification only if you cannot attribute this to one of the listed vole species.

Water Shrew

Scientific nameNeomys fodiens

Family: Soricidae

Appearance: The Water Shrew is the largest shrew in Great Britain and is similar in appearance to the Common Shrew except it is larger and darker above. The pale underparts look very white in comparison (although there are some individuals that are completely black). The dense fur helps to insulate them from the cold and wet. Most Water Shrews also have a small tuft of white hair on the ears and white hairs around the eyes. The underside of the tail is also white. 

Size: Head and body 6.3-9.6 cm; Tail 4.7-8.2 cm; Weight 8.23 g.

Natural history: Water Shrews can be found amongst dense vegetation on the banks of both fast-flowing freshwater streams and rivers and still waters such as ponds, canals and marshes. In Scotland they are also found on rocky beaches. They live in burrows which they either dig themselves or utilise abandoned rodent burrows. Generally solitary, they maintain territories - but not aggressively - and individuals may live quite close together. They feed both on land and underwater on crustaceans, insect larvae, snails, frogs, newts, beetles, worms and millipedes (other British shrews do not forage underwater and rarely swim). They are also unusual in having venomous saliva which helps to stun their prey. They are active throughout the year. Breeding takes place between April and September, but most births occur in May and June. The females have one or two litters a year containing an average of six young. The young are born blind and helpless and may remain with their mother for up to 40 days. 

 (C) Wildlife in a Dorset garden (shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license)

Water vole

Scientific name: Arvicola terrestris

Appearance: Relatively large with chestnut-brown fur, a blunt, rounded nose, small furry ears, and a furry tail.


 (C) Mike Prince (shared under a CC BY 2.0 license)

Scientific name: Mustela nivalis

Family: Mustelidae

Appearance: Weasels have a very small elongated body with russet-brown fur everywhere except their white breasts. Unlike stoats, the tail has no black tip and the fur does not turn white in winter. 

Size: Body length: 114-260 mm Tail length: 12-87 mm Weight: 29-250 g

Natural history: Weasels mainly eat small rodents. However, they have been known to take prey as large as a brown hare. Their long thin body lets them squeeze into rodents’ burrow to hunt, but also gives them a very high surface area to body ratio. This means they lose heat rapidly, so they have to eat very often.

Weasels nest in their prey’s former burrows, lined with hay or moss. In the nest, females raise one litter of three to six kittens each year.

Weasels are excellent climbers. In Inuit mythology, weasels are considered wise and courageous.



Western Hedgehog


Scientific name: Erinaceus europaeus 

Family: Erinaceidae

Appearance: Hedgehogs are brown with spines covering their backs.

Body length: 25 cm Tail length: 2-3 cm

Weight: up to 2 kg

Natural history: Hedgehogs mainly eat invertebrates but have a varied diet that also includes birds’ eggs and amphibians. They are regularly found in gardens, where they eat pests such as slugs. Nonetheless, urban development and habitat loss contribute to their current decline. Hedgehogs are known for curling into balls with their spines facing outwards to protect themselves from predators. However, so many are being killed on roads that they are now losing this trait to better escape cars. Hedgehogs hibernate through the winter. They may wake from hibernation occasionally to find additional food or move nests.

 (C) Giles Watson (shared under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license)

Wild Boar

Scientific name: Sus scrofa

Family: Suidae

Appearance: Wild Boar are dark-coloured with an abundance of bristly hair that can vary in colour from black to light brown. The piglets are born with brown and white/yellow stripes leading to them being called ‘humbugs’. They lose their stripes after about 3-4 months when they develop a reddish-brown coat.

Size: Body length 0.9-1.8 m; Height at shoulder 55-110 cm; Weight 100-175 kg (male), 80-120 kg (female).

Natural history: Wild Boar although native to Britain were hunted to extinction in the Middle Ages. The current extant population is made up of a mixture of animals that either escaped, or were deliberately released, from Wild Boar farms in the past 40 years. Still confined to discrete areas of the country such as the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire and the Sussex Weald, they inhabit woodland that provides plenty of cover. They are active throughout the year and are mainly nocturnal and crepuscular. They can cover large areas during a night’s foraging (depending on the availability of food) but will return to the same resting place during the day. Wild Boar are predominantly herbivorous eating a wide variety of nuts, seeds, fruits and crops. However, they will also take invertebrates, carrion and the eggs and chicks of birds.

Males are solitary except during the rut which begins in winter. Females (sows) and young offspring form informal groups known as ‘sounders’ which may consist of between 6 and 30 animals. The peak time for giving birth is April. A sow will leave the group at this time to construct a ‘farrowing’ nest where she will give birth to 4-6 piglets and will remain in the nest with her new offspring for between 4 and 6 days. She will then rejoin the group and the piglets will cross-suckle between other lactating sows.

Wild Boar will breed with domestic and feral pigs resulting in hybrids. Some populations may be made up of a mixture of all three. 

Image by Valentin Panzirsch - File:Wildschein, Nähe Pulverstampftor.jpg, CC BY-SA 3.0 at,


Scientific name: Felis silvestris

Family: Felidae

Appearance: A tabby marked cat that is similar in appearance to a domestic cat, though slightly larger. Characteristics that distinguish wildcats from domestic cats are 1) A thick blunt-tipped tail with distinctive rings, 2) a dorsal line that extends down the back only as far the base of the tail, 3) four thick stripes down the nape, 4) two thick stripes on the shoulder, and 5) flank markings that consist mostly of stripes and not broken stripes or spots. The boldness of the markings can vary between individuals and season. Colour is brown with black markings. The fur on the back of the ears and nose may be ochre and the fur around the mouth can be pale though usually not pure white.

Size: Head and body 49-54 cm (female), 49-63 cm (male); tail 24-34 cm

Natural history: The current known range of the Scottish wildcat covers an area north of the Highland Boundary fault excluding islands. Within this range, wildcats are usually found in mixed habitats containing woodland or scrub and grassland habitats in which activity is concentrated around habitat edges. They are less commonly found on moorland. Providing there are suitable patches of forest or scrub cover, wildcats can be found in agricultural landscapes. In continental Europe, the wildcat in large parts of Central Europe, the Iberian peninsula and south-eastern Europe. Favoured prey are rabbit but rodents such as field vole, bank vole and wood mouse will be an important component of their diet, especially in the absence of rabbits. Hare may also be important in some areas. Their diet is varied and can also include birds, reptiles and even insects. While considered crepuscular (active at dawn and dusk) wildcats can be active both day and night, though they are likely to be more nocturnal in areas with greater human disturbance.

Wildcats are territorial, with females maintaining exclusive territories from other females and male territories covering those of several females. Male territories show more overlap with each other. Peak breeding season is winter, especially Dec-Mar. Gestation is 68 days and so litters are typically born Mar-Jun. Litters are usually 3-4 kittens which are weaned around 6-7 weeks. Kittens reach independence after 4-5 months, males are sexually mature after 9-10 months and females after one year. Usually only one litter is born each year, though if a litter fails the mother may have another. Males play no part in rearing the young.

 (C) Peter Cairns

Wood Mouse

Scientific name: Apodemus sylvaticus

Family: Muridae

Appearance: The Wood Mouse is one of Britain’s most abundant mammals. In appearance it is typically mouse-shaped with a long tail, pointed muzzle and large ears. It has dark brown fur with whitish underparts and its eyes are prominent and black. Some animals have a small, isolated, yellowish chest patch. Where present this is always smaller than the yellow neck and chest markings on the Yellow-necked Mouse.

Size:  Head and body 6.1-10.3 cm; tail 7.1-9.5 cm

Natural history: Despite its name the Wood Mouse is not restricted to woodland habitats and may be found in gardens, road verges, hedgerows and arable fields as well as on moorland and heathland. Wood Mice are largely nocturnal and live in burrows underground which have round entrances.  They do not hibernate but may be less active in cold winters when burrows may be shared with others. During the breeding season they are more territorial. Breeding begins in March and runs through until at least October. Females may have four litters a year – or more in favourable conditions. A litter is made up of 4-7 young which are weaned at around 18 days. They feed on a variety of items including seeds, nuts, berries, snails, insects, centipedes and worms.

Image by © Hans Hillewaert /, CC BY-SA 3.0,


Yellow-necked Mouse

Scientific name: Apodemus flavicollis

Family: Muridae

Appearance: The Yellow-necked Mouse is larger than the Wood Mouse with an orangey-brown coat above and white underparts. It has a band of yellowish fur which runs across its chest which gives it its name and is its distinguishing feature. It also has larger ears, more bulging eyes and a longer thicker tail than the Wood Mouse.

Size: Head and body 9.5-12 cm; Tail 8-11 cm; Weight 14-45 g.

Natural history: The Yellow-necked Mouse is largely nocturnal and generally inhabits mature, deciduous woodland. It is confined to the southern half of Britain from Dorset to Kent and Suffolk and the Severn Basin from Gloucestershire to Staffordshire. It is an excellent climber and forages both on the ground and in the canopy. The diet of the Yellow-necked Mouse consists mainly of tree seeds, but it will also take fruit, buds and some insects. The breeding season runs from February to October and females will have up to three litters a year each containing an average of five young. The juveniles are born blind and naked the eyes opening after around 13-16 days.

 (C) Donald Hobern (shared under a CC BY 2.0 license)