Mammals

Mammals - UK and Ireland : Mammals are familiar to everyone. Apart from ourselves, our domestic pets and farm animals, there are about 60 species of wild terrestrial mammal in Britain as well. Some of these make themselves fairly obvious (e.g. squirrels or rabbits), others are m

Mammals are familiar to everyone. Apart from ourselves, our domestic pets and farm animals, there are about 60 species of wild terrestrial mammal in Britain as well. Some of these make themselves fairly obvious (e.g. squirrels or rabbits), others are much more elusive.

Mammals live in various habitats on land, and there are also marine mammals: seals, whales, dolphins and porpoises. Some mammals are confined to more-or-less natural habitats, but others do well in urban areas, and can be found in the middle of towns.

Identification

Many mammals can be recognised on sight by their characteristic shape, colours and behaviour. However, for the more elusive groups, for example mice, shrews, or otters, you are more likely to see their signs than the creatures themselves. Many mammals can be recognised from their footprints, their droppings, or their feeding signs.

Bats pose another challenge by being active at night, and are often identified from their ultrasound calls, with the help of 'bat detector' equipment that allows the calls to be recorded and analysed.

To see some of the rarer mammals you may like to join an organised survey project, e.g. for Water Voles, Otters, or Dormice. See links below for some organisations that carry out surveys, or contact your local Wildlife Trust or Environmental Records Centre to find out what is happening in your area.

Photography for identification

Most mammals are wary of humans, so it can be difficult to get near to them for photography. Using binoculars and making notes can be a good way of recording your observations and asking for identification help.

Where mammal signs are involved then photography becomes much easier of course. Try to get one or two close-ups, plus a wider shot of the feeding damage, droppings etc, showing the surrounding habitat. Give some indication of size, either in the photo itself or by measuring the item and recording that information.

Useful links

26 Sep 2008
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