A Fifth Of Britain’s Adorable Mammals Could Be Extinct Within A Decade

If seeing a Scottish wildcat is on your bucket list then you might want to put it a bit higher up. Felis silvestris is one of the 12 mammal species red-listed in a new review conducted by the Mammal Society and Natural England. 

Joining the ranks of mammals facing “severe threats to their survival” are the British red squirrel and the long-eared bat. The review also found that other mammal populations, like the hedgehog and water vole, have dropped as much as 66 percent over the last two decades.

The review is the first comprehensive analysis to look at the statuses, population trends, threats, and future prospects of Britain’s 58 terrestrial mammal populations over 20 years. Researchers say climate change, habitat loss, pesticide use, and road deaths have all contributed to the historical decline of these species and threaten their future.

There has been a marked decline in the distribution of red squirrels since 1995 in part due to squirrel pox spread by invasive grey squirrels. Piotr Krzeslak/Shutterstock

“This is happening on our own doorstep so it falls upon all of us to try and do what we can to ensure that our threatened species do not go the way of the lynx, wolf and elk and disappear from our shores forever,” said Professor Fiona Mathews, Mammal Society Chair, in a statement.  

On the other hand, the report shows that five British mammal species are actually increasing in numbers and 18 species – such as the otter, polecat, beaver, and wild boar – have increased their geographical range probably due to the fact that they were recently reintroduced to Great Britain.

The Scottish wildcat is one of 12 species facing a “severe risk” of extinction, according to the new report. Edwin Godinho/Shutterstock

There is very little information available on more common animals, such as rabbits and moles or the 7 million brown rats and 5 million house mice that inhabit Great Britain. The organization hopes to carry out more research in order to better understand some of Britain’s more mysterious animals. In doing so, last month the Society launched a “Mammal Mapper” app, allowing civilians to record sightings of local mammals with their smartphones.   

“This project has significantly improved our understanding of the current status of terrestrial mammals known to breed in Great Britain, which is essential to underpin our efforts to protect them and their habitats,” said Katherine Walsh, Natural England Senior Specialist for Mammals.

Water vole numbers are now estimated to be just a tenth of the 1995 population of more than 1 million because of current land management practices. Ian Schofield/Shutterstock


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