The UK is home to a surprising variety of native mammals. Although nature documentaries are often dominated by impressive large animals, like elephants, bears and tigers, we too have some elusive and very special mammals.

Thousands of years ago, the British Isles were home to many impressive large animals. Predators like the European bear, lynx and wolves prowled the landscape, whilst large beavers, boars and bison grazed on the land. These impressive animals were slowly lost over time as increasing human populations brought rapid deforestation of British woodland and the animals were persecuted for meat and sport.

Today, many of our remaining mammals continue to be some of the most threatened animals in the UK. Scottish Wildcats, red squirrels and water voles have all suffered due to competition from non-native species and are now extremely rare. On the other hand, foxes and mice are abundant and a familiar sight in both cities and the countryside.

Badger

Whilst wildlife gardening is unlikely to benefit whole mammal populations, there are a few things we can do to assist those individual animals which choose to visit our gardens. 

  1. Create structured vegetation. Mammals (particularly small species) like to remain hidden whilst they travel through dense undergrowth. By planting low-lying shrubs, smaller plants and tall grasses you can provide ‘corridors’ for mammals to safely move around the garden.
  2. Create shelter for animals to rest by leaving unkempt areas of your garden, including log piles, leaf litter and tall grasses.
  3. Provide water for small animals, simply by leaving out a shallow bowl of water. Alternatively if you have more space in your garden you can create a pond. This will benefit a number of different animals - just make sure it has shallow sides so that swimming mammals can easily climb out.
  4. We do not recommend feeding wild animals human food, especially milk as this can upset their stomachs. Instead, you can plant fruit-bearing plants to increase natural foraging. Blackberries, raspberries and apple trees would all be suitable.
  5. Many mammals, like shrews and hedgehogs, mainly eat insects. Encourage insects to your garden by planting a variety of flowering plants and keeping healthy soil.
  6. Avoid use of harsh chemicals. Slug pellets and other ‘killer’ chemicals can be toxic to mammals in even small doses and can stay in the soil for a long time.
  7. Make your garden boundaries more accessible. If you have a fence you can cut a small hole in it, like a cat flap. If you have hedges, try to plant a variety of different species.
  8. Do not feed mammals human food or encourage them to eat from your hand. It might seem like fun ‘bonding’, but many human foods are a poor diet for wild animals, and those that become used to humans are at greater risk of being harmed.
  9. Always check your garden before strimming, mowing or using tools on your garden - mammals will often nest in compost heaps, sheds, tall grasses. Rabbits will even leave their young in shallow nests in the lawn.
  10. Badgers, bats and dormice are all mammals that might visit your garden and have full legal protection. That means that capturing, disturbing or killing them without a licence is illegal.