© Water vole by Andy Brough.
Because mammals matter
Mammals play a vital role in maintaining a balanced ecosystem in the British Isles, as keystone predator and prey species, indicators of habitat quality and diversity, and as shapers of our environment. Small mammals sustain our rare carnivores and birds of prey, and bats control insect numbers. Rabbits and deer are important grazers in grassland and forest. The otter and water vole indicate excellent water quality in our rivers. And the harvest mouse and hedgehog will thrive only in diverse, connected landscapes.
© Brown hare by Silviu Petrovan.
The British Isles are a stronghold for nearly 50% of the world's Grey seals, 30% of all Europe's Red deer, and the rare Scottish sub-species of the European wildcat. Others, like the polecat, badger, otter and dormouse thrive in the north-westernmost limit of their range here thanks to conservation efforts. Some native species, abundant elsewhere in Europe, are vulnerable or thought to be declining here, including the brown hare, water vole, hedgehog, red squirrel, and the Scottish wildcat. Read more about our priority mammals here.
What's the problem?
The elusive and often nocturnal nature of mammals means they are not very well monitored and we only have a patchy record of distribution and abundance, with gaps in our knowledge of their ecology and conservation needs. For many species we still know so little about how well they're doing and the main challenges for conversation.
© Deer by Clare Rogowski
Mammals face several challenges to a secure future and successful conservation:
- Loss of habitat through land use change, development and agricultural intensification affects hares, harvest mice and hedgehogs;
- Introduced species bringing risk of competition, hybridisation and disease to native mammals, particularly for water voles, red deer and red squirrels;
- Conflicts with humans including road collisions, damage to forestry and agriculture and urbanisation of species such as the fox;
- Attitudes that mammals are economic pests or vermin to be eradicated or hunted, including pine martens, polecats and otters;
- Research gaps that limit our understanding and ability to help vulnerable species.
How you can help
We encourage everyone to get out there and look out for mammals and their signs. Learn how to identify and survey for mammals, and submit your records to us to help us effectively tackle the modern challenges for mammal conservation.
© Common seal by Tim Hunt.