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The UK

The UK's marvellous mammals

Julie Smith 08 January 2022

The UK is blessed with an array of wonderful wildlife which can be spotted in woodland, forests, hedgerows or even your own back garden. There’s something extra special about catching sight of mammals such as hedgehogs, seals, otters and red squirrels in their natural environment but many of these favourite British animals need special protection to help them survive.

To find out which of these protected animals are the UK’s favourite, Gorgeous Cottages have analysed the number of search results and search volume for each along with the number of wildlife groups and Instagram hashtags for mammals with a special conservation status.

The results have been turned into beautiful stamps which show the approximate population of each animal, the conservation status of the mammal and whether their numbers are increasing, remaining stable or decreasing. You can also find out some of the best places to spot the nation’s favourite wildlife in regions throughout the UK, including Yorkshire.

The UK's ten favourite mammals

  1. Hedgehog
  2. Otter
  3. Red deer
  4. Brown hare
  5. Red squirrel
  6. Badger
  7. Grey seal
  8. Roe deer
  9. Water vole
  10. Pine marten

1. Hedgehog

  • UK population: 1,000,000
  • Conservation status: Priority Species
  • Three places to spot hedgehogsHedgehog Street Garden at RHS Harlow Carr, hedgerows, your garden.

Hedgehogs are the UK's favourite mammal with more Google searches and Instagram hashtags than any other animal. The population is declining though and they are now listed as vulnerable of the UK's red list of mammals. Creating wild corners in your garden and a safe hedgehog home are little things we can do to help.

2. Otter

  • UK population: 10,000
  • Conservation status: Protected
  • Three places to spot otters: Staveley in Yorkshire, Magor Marsh in Wales, Loch of the Lowes in Scotland.

Although otter numbers declined rapidly towards the end of the 20th century, the population has continually increased over the last 25 years thanks to a ban on organo-chloride pesticides. Otters are the second most Instagrammed and third most searched for UK mammal and still given special protection to help them thrive.  

3. Red Deer

  • UK population: 350,000
  • Conservation status: Protected
  • Three places to spot red deer: Galloway Forest Park in Scotland, Ennerdale Valley in The Lake District, Exmoor in Somerset.

Red Deer are the UK's largest wild mammal and tend to live in forests, open hillside and moorland with a number of deer parks located throughout the country. The population has remained steady over the last 10 years but this native British species is still protected under the 1991 deer act.

4. Brown Hares

  • UK Population: 800,000
  • Conservation status: Priority species
  • Three places to spot brown hares: Willow Tree Fen in Lincolnshire, Meeth Quarry in Devon, Upton Broad and Marshes in Norfolk.

Although there was once over 4 million brown hares in the UK their numbers have now dwindled to around 800,000 due to hunting activities and loss of their natural habitat. They have priority status under the 2010 biodiversity framework but as they are considered a game species they can still be hunted throughout the year. 

5. Red Squirrels

  • UK population: 140,000
  • Conservation status: Priority species
  • Three places to spot red squirrels: Scottish Highlands, Hauxley Nature Reserve in Northumberland, Snaizeholme in the Yorkshire Dales National Park

Red squirrels are one of the UK's rarest native mammals with the majority of them found in Scotland and the North of England. Red squirrels can only survive in places where there are no grey squirrels and it is important that their existing woodland habitats are protected. 

6.  Badgers

  • UK population: 300,000
  • Conversation status: Protected
  • Three places to spot badgers: Tewin Orchard in Hertfordshire, Rutland Water, Knutsford Heath in Cheshire.

Badgers with their distinctive black and white stripes are the UK's biggest land predator and are now fully protected by the law. You are most likely to see these elusive creatures at night and they are most commonly found in woodland and open countryside.

7. Grey Seals

  • UK population: 120,000
  • Conservation status: Protected
  • Three places to spot grey seals: Blakeney in Norfolk, Ravenscar in Yorkshire, Farne Islands in Northumberland

The larger of two UK seal species, the grey seal has a long sloping head and can be found lounging on beaches and rocks with their adorable fluffy pups. The numbers of grey seals in the UK has grown from just 500 in 1900 to around 120,000 today. 

8. Roe Deer

  • UK population: 500,000
  • Conservation status: Protected
  • Three places to spot doe deer: Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire, The New Forest, Lyme Park in Cheshire

Over hunting almost let to the extinction of the roe deer in the 19th century but they are now protected by the Deer Act 1991 and are the UK's most common native deer species. They are slender with short antlers and tend to live in areas of mixed countryside throughout Scotland and England.

9. Water Voles

  • UK population: 132,000
  • Conservation status: Priority species
  • Three places to spot water voles: Norfolk Broads, Brecon Beacons, UK rivers

The water vole can still be found along waterways throughout the UK but they are under serious threat from habitat loss and their numbers have declined significantly in recent years. They are chestnut brown with small ears and a furry tail and tend to live in colonies burrowing into the grassy banks and marshlands next to slow moving rivers and streams.

10. Pine Martens

  • UK population: 4000
  • Conservation status: Priority species
  • Three places to spot pine martens: Glenloy Lodge in Fort William, Galloway Forest Park in Dumfries and Galloway, County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland

Although once common throughout the UK, pine martens are now one of the UK's rarest mammals and are mainly now found in woodland in northern and central Scotland. Increasing their numbers would also to help the population of red squirrels to rise as pine martens are a natural predator of grey squirrels. 

About Gorgeous Cottages

Gorgeous Cottages are obsessed with all things Yorkshire and are the booking agents for some of the finest holiday cottages available in God’s Own County. Our luxury Yorkshire holiday cottages are all hand-picked by the team and range from romantic coastal retreats to family-friendly cottages in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, with lots of dog-friendly Yorkshire cottages available too.  



Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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