We have a varied wildlife here in the Britain. Our largest mammal is the red deer. In the wild, foxes and rabbits are often seen, and if you're lucky, you may even see a badger, weasel or a hedgehog. Our only poisonous snake, the adder, It’s rare and protected. Our smallest mammal is the pygmy shrew.
In this blog we will take a look at some of these animals and their habitat and diet.
The red deer is the largest deer species to be found in Britain, but can also be found in most of Europe, the Caucasus mountains region, and also in Asia. Its scientific name is Cervus elaphus.
A male deer (stag) can reach up to 137cm tall and can weigh up to 90-190kg. Adult females (hinds) can reach a height of 122cm and can weigh up to 120kg. Deer found in the Scottish hills are smaller than those in the lowland English woodlands. In the summer their coats are a reddish brown and in the winter their coats turn to a greyish brown. The stags have large antlers which increase in size with age
Habitat and diet
Red deer are a native species that migrated from Europe 11.000 years ago. They were used by early man as a source of food, they used their fur for clothing and also used their bones to make tools. Today these deer are protected in our national parks, due to this they are expanding in numbers and are more evenly distributed. While they prefer woodlands and forests they have adapted to more open moors and hills. Red deer graze on grass and shrubs such as heather and bilberry. When food is limited in the winter they eat tree shoots. However, grazing on tree shoots and agricultural crops puts them in danger with farmers and foresters due to the economic damage this causes
The fox is a remarkably adaptable and successful animal. This is because a fox is willing to eat almost anything and has become adept at living alongside man in farmland and urban areas. Its scientific name is Vulpes vulpes.
This animal is unmistakable with its large pointy ears and narrow muzzle and its bushy tail. Their coat colour can be extremely variable, usually reddish brown, but much darker or even silvery are not uncommon. The male fox (dog) can reach the length of 72cm plus its tail 41cm. Female foxes (vixens) are slightly smaller than the males. Male foxes can weigh up to 6.7 kg and the females 5.4kg.
Habitat and diet
Foxes inhabit almost every habitat from sea cliffs and sand dunes to salt marshes, peat bogs, high mountains, woodland and even urban areas such as towns and cities. Their diet consists of field voles, Birds, Rabbits, insects, blackberries, plums and even the waste food we through away in our rubbish bins. There are estimated to be around 258.000 foxes in Britain.
There are approximately 288,000 badgers in the United Kingdom. This may seem like a large number, but an estimated 45,000 are killed in road accidents every year. Combined with the persecution of badgers by people who believe that killing them is a sport and the reduction of suitable habitat by developers, you may see why the badger is an endangered species in many parts of the UK. Its scientific name is Meles meles
Badgers have a thick set with a rounded back. Their fur is coarse and grey and they have a black and white striped face. These animals are very powerful and can cause serious injuries with their extremely sharp claws, used for digging out their setts. A badger can reach up to 85 - 90cm including their tail. They weigh up to 9kg in spring and in autumn they can weigh up to 12kg.
Habitat and diet
Badgers prefer woodlands close to farmland with well-drained soil so they can dig their setts under tree roots which provide stability to the soil. Their nest chambers in the tunnels are lined with dry grass, bracken and straw. Earthworms make up to 50% of their diet. Badgers also eat small insects, bulbs, small mammals and blackberries.
The adder is the only venomous snake native to Britain. Adders have the most highly developed
venom injecting mechanism of all snakes, but they are not aggressive animals. Adders will only use their venom as a last means of defence, usually if caught or trodden on. No one has died from adder bite in Britain for over 20 years. With proper treatment, the worst effects are nausea and drowsiness, followed by severe swelling and bruising in the area of the bite. Most people who are bitten were handling the snake. Treat adders with respect and leave them alone. Their scientific name is Vipera berus.
Most adders are distinctively marked with a dark zigzag running down the length of the spine and an inverted 'V' shape on the neck. Males are generally white or pale grey with a black zigzag. Females are a pale brown colour, with a darker brown zigzag. But some adders are entirely black and can be mistaken for some other species.
Habitat and diet
Adders are relatively common in areas of rough, open countryside and are often associated with woodland edge habitats. They are less inclined to disappear into the surrounding undergrowth when disturbed and so are probably the most frequently seen of the three British snakes. The best time to see them is in early spring when they emerge from their hibernation dens. By mid April, the males have shed their dull winter skin and are ready to mate. There is a lot of frenzied activity on warm days, with males looking for females and occasionally wrestling with other males for supremacy. The 'dance of the adders' was thought to be a mating display, but it is a larger male attempting to drive off a smaller one. The snakes writhe around each other in an impressive way, often covering the ground at great speed. Adders usually eat small rodents, such as the short-tailed vole. They will also eat lizards, frogs and newts, and have been seen taking young from the nests of ground nesting birds. When hunting, adders strike swiftly at the prey, injecting a lethal dose of venom. They then wait until the prey dies before starting the often lengthy swallowing process. Like all snakes, adders eat their prey whole, their teeth are designed to grip the prey as it is swallowed. Their jaws are linked by extensible connective tissue so each of the four main bones can move independently. This means they are able to swallow items much larger than the width of their head. The lower ends of the ribs are not joined as in most animals and can also open out considerably. The adder's digestive fluid is amazingly powerful and will digest the flesh and bones of their prey almost completely. Only the hair and teeth of rodents pass through intact.
Matthew & Becky
Native British Teachers
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