Spring has officially sprung here at Brockswood, where we’re starting to see and hear more signs of wildlife such as garden bird songs in the early morning. Although all wildlife includes wild plants, animals, fungi and microbes, we thought we’d put together a quick factsheet of common mammals that are native to Britain. You can look out for these native species while spending time in nature, or even in your garden!
British Native Wildlife
European Badger (Meles meles)
Average Lifespan: 14 years
UK Conservation Status: Protected under the Protection of Badger Act 1992.
IUCN Red List Assessment: Least concern. European badgers have a wide distribution and a large population. Populations of badgers can be found in many protected areas.
Threats: Some populations have had habitat loss due to land being used for agriculture. Badgers have been persecuted as pests, culled or hunted due to their association with bovine tuberculosis, for this reason, they are now legally protected.
Diet: Omnivore. Insects, earthworms, small mammals, amphibians and grain. They may prey upon hedgehogs if other food sources are scarce.
Physiology: They can be identified by their small pointed head with black and white stripes along the head. The adult badger’s body size can be between 67-80cm and has short but strong limbs.
Habitat: Badgers create complex, neat burrows called setts in woodland areas, often near scrubs or hedges. These burrows usually have multiple entrances up to 20cm wide which may be identified by piles of leaves used for bedding.
Behaviour: Crepuscular, this means badgers are most active during dark hours at dawn and dusk. Badgers live in groups called a ‘clan’, however they forage for food individually during the night. They are less active during Winter when badgers might go into torpor which means their physiology changes in relation to their environment.
Fun Fact: Brockswood was named through the badgers featured on our gates, ‘Brock’ being another Old English word for badger, as well as the wooded areas towards the South of our site.
European Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus)
Average Lifespan: 3-4 years
UK Conservation Status: Classed as vulnerable to extinction in Great Britain. They are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. They are a priority species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework.
IUCN Red List Assessment: Least concern. Common and abundant throughout its geographic range globally.
Threats: They have been known to have been killed in car accidents. Pesticides and chemicals used on plants cause them harm. During November, hedgehogs may use bonfires as nest sites before they are lit and may be harmed when the bonfire is in use.
Diet: Omnivore. Invertebrates (especially earthworms), bird eggs, bird nestlings, fruits and mushrooms.
Physiology: Hedgehogs have a body size of between 20-30cm. They can be identified by their creamy brown spines up to 3cm long, which are used to protect the small mammal against any predators.
Habitat: A hedgehog's habitat covers a large area due to how much they like to travel. They can be found in lowland grassland, open woodland and most commonly in gardens or parks. During winter, they create a nest of dry grass and leaves to hibernate in.
Behaviour: Nocturnal. Hedgehogs hibernate to survive the Winter. They tend to use the same nest for a few days before travelling overnight to a different location to nest in. Hedgehogs have poor eyesight but a good sense of smell and hearing used to hunt for prey during the night.
Fun Fact: Between 1997 to 2010, ‘the hedgehog family’ were used in adverts to promote road safety to young children. This is because of the number of hedgehogs that have been harmed in car accidents, and these animations taught children to follow the Green Cross Code when crossing a road.
Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris)
Average Lifespan: Up to 6 years in the wild
UK Conservation Status: Near threatened. Red squirrels as well as their dreys are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
IUCN Red List Assessment: Least concern but the species show a decreasing population trend. Wide global distribution.
Threats: Habitat loss. The main threat to red squirrels is being outcompeted by grey squirrels which were introduced from North America. Grey squirrels are larger and also carry parapox virus, this doesn’t affect grey squirrels but is pathogenic to red squirrels.
Diet: Omnivore. Tree seeds, buds, bark and roots. Fungi, bird eggs and bird nestlings.
Physiology: Red squirrels have white underparts, with fur that ranges from red to brown and to black. Identified by its small ear tufts and its long bushy tail used for balance while climbing trees. They have an average body size of between 18-25cm.
Habitat: Coniferous and deciduous woodland. Red squirrels usually build their nest, called a drey, in the fork of a tree.
Behaviour: Diurnal. Red squirrels are active during the day and spend most of their time in trees, often coming down to forage or bury food in the ground.
Fun Fact: Red squirrels don’t hibernate, but may rest around midday during Summer to avoid the heat and at other times to avoid bad weather.
Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)
Average Lifespan: 3-4 years in the wild
UK Conservation Status: Common and widespread.
IUCN Red List Assessment: Least concern. Abundant and widespread across the northern hemisphere.
Threats: Habitat loss. However, red foxes are highly adaptable to different environments so this is likely to have little impact on populations.
Diet: Opportunistic omnivore. Rabbits, rodents, birds, bird eggs, invertebrates and fruit.
Physiology: The red fox can be identified by its narrow muzzle, triangular ears and a long bushy tail. It has red/brown fur, with a darker fur patch on its muzzle, and white or pale underparts. They have a body size of between 55-90cm.
Habitat: Red foxes can occupy a wide variety of habitats. This can include woodland, farms, mountains and city centres. The burrow systems they live in are called earths.
Behaviour: Crepuscular and nocturnal. They can be identified by their high-pitched barks during the night when they are hunting alone.
Fun fact: Highly adaptable and can successfully occupy urban areas, red foxes are known to scavenge for food in refuse tips and bins in urban areas.
Common Shrew (Sorex araneus)
Average Lifespan: 1-2 years
UK Conservation Status: Very widespread. Protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
IUCN Red List Assessment: Least concern. A widespread species across the UK, Europe and parts of Asia.
Threats: Habitat degradation which affects small populations. The common shrew can be harmed by pesticides and other chemicals.
Diet: Omnivore. Ground-dwelling invertebrates such as earthworms, woodlice, spiders and beetles. They also eat seeds.
Physiology: Common shrews are small mammals ranging between 5.5 and 9cm. They have an elongated snout with sensory bristles to search for food. Adults have dark brown fur on the back with red flanks and a cream coloured underside. Small eyes and ears.
Habitat: A variety of terrestrial environments that have a significant amount of ground cover, especially found in rough grassland.
Behaviour: Cathemeral (active during both day and night). Common shrews don’t hibernate but become more inactive during Winter.
Fun Fact: Common shrews need to eat at least every 2-3 hours to survive. Their body size decreases in Winter to conserve energy, losing around 10-20% of their body weight.
Wood Mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus)
Average Lifespan: 1 year
UK Conservation Status: Commonly found.
IUCN Red List Assessment: Least concern. A common and widespread species commonly found living in buildings near people and can be considered a pest.
Threats: Chemical pollution may harm wood mice.
Diet: Fir cones, hazelnuts, seeds, cereal crops, insects and snails.
Physiology: Large eyes, ears and feet compared to a body size of 8-11cm. Its tail can grow up to 11.5cm. Grey fur with yellow-brown flanks and a white underpart.
Habitat: Woodland, forest edges, grassland, marshes, rocky areas and cultivated land. Wood mice are commonly found in buildings.
Behaviour: Very agile when moving across open ground or climbing up trees. Wood mice gather berries and seeds in Autumn and store these in burrows over the Winter period.
Fun Fact: Female wood mice can have up to six litters per year and up to eight young per litter!
European Otter (Lutra lutra)
Average Lifespan: Up to 10 years
UK Conservation Status: Protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. European otters are a priority species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework. They are classed as a European Protected Species under the European Habitats Directive.
IUCN Red List Assessment: Near threatened. Habitat loss, water pollution and poaching. Otters are extinct in Luxembourg, endangered in Italy and are rarely found in the East.
Threats: Harmful chemicals leach into rivers and lakes polluting the water. This affects the otters as they are very sensitive to pollution. The urbanisation of aquatic habitats such as creating canals or dams has a negative impact upon otter populations. Overfishing means there is less prey for European otters. Otter populations living along the coast are susceptible to oil spills. Human threats include road accidents as well as plastic fishery netting which traps otters.
Diet: Carnivore. Fish, water birds, crustaceans, rodents and molluscs.
Physiology: Brown fur on the body and white fur around the throat. European otters have full webbed feet, small ears and a tapering tail. Body size 55-90cm, tail 35-50cm.
Habitat: Rivers, lakes, estuaries and sheltered rocky coasts.
Behaviour: Nocturnal. Otters travel long distances at night, foraging for food in the water. They are mostly an aquatic species but build their nests on land which feature underground tunnels called holts.
Fun Fact: European otters appear silver when underwater due to bubbles of air trapped in the fur. They can also close their ears and nose when underwater while slowing their heart rate to conserve oxygen.
Why not have a go at wildlife monitoring?
These British mammals are some of the few wildlife species you could spot over the next few months of Spring.
Seek is an app that can identify organisms up to a species level, through your device’s camera! These recordings can be uploaded to the iNaturalist app, to show you all the species you have found as well as where you have found them. Other users on iNaturalist can then discuss and agree upon what species has been found, which means the observation could be accurate enough to be used by scientists!
Please Note: You must be 13 or over to create an account and must otherwise have your parent's or guardian's permission.
Monitoring wildlife including what species are present, the number of organisms, where populations are located, as well as how they interact with each other and their environment, is crucial in helping the conservation of different species.