League animal sanctuaries

Exmoor is well known for being a hunting and shooting hot spot, however amongst this, there is a haven for wildlife. The League owns several wildlife sanctuaries in and around Exmoor and the Quantock Hills, as well as owning 2,000 acres of hunting and shooting rights in this area to prevent cruel ‘sports’ from taking place.

Of the League’s wildlife sanctuaries, Baronsdown is the jewel in the crown.

The wildlife at Baronsdown sanctuary

Baronsdown is one of the few places where you are almost guaranteed to see Britain’s largest land mammal, wild Red Deer. Badgers and foxes breed there, and otters pass through as they make their way along the River Exe. You may see rabbits and squirrels, and if you are really lucky you might see stoats, weasels or maybe a polecat.

Pheasant chicks in Baronsdown wildlife sanctuary

Hazel Dormice are present and are doing rather well, despite a general decline in numbers. Fallow Deer and Roe Deer sometimes call in and even wild boar have made an appearance. You could see buzzards wheeling overhead, or a Peregrine or Sparrowhawk flitting by.

In summer, Pied Flycatchers, Redstarts, Wood Warblers, Spotted Flycatchers and a host of other birds’ nest on the sanctuary. On a sunny day, a bountiful bonanza of British butterflies is likely to be on the wing, supplemented by migrants from mainland Europe. Careful management of the land on all the League’s wildlife sanctuaries, including minimal use of chemicals, means that a wide range of animals and plants flourish. We’re proud to be practising good animal conservation.

Deer in Baronsdown wildlife sanctuary

Sanctuary under attack

Whilst the League’s wildlife sanctuaries are popular with the local wildlife, the same can’t be said of the local hunters and shooters. Perhaps it is mere coincidence that ‘Private Property’ and ‘Keep Out’ signs that once adorned the sanctuaries’ perimeters have been peppered with holes from a shotgun blast or two.

A message? It’s one we take to heart. A couple of these signs are kept in our office, along with the remnants of a sign that fell victim to an arson attack, as a reminder of the importance of our work and the necessity of these protected lands.

Small pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly

How can I help you protect the League's wildlife sanctuaries?


Doormouse sleeping in Baronsdown animal sanctuary

Become a member and visit Baronsdown sanctuary

The League’s wildlife sanctuaries are not open to the general public, so the wildlife can live largely undisturbed. However, League members can visit Baronsdown on one of the specially arranged weekends that are scheduled throughout the year.

Visits from schools, colleges or other groups can also be arranged by contacting the League on 01483 524 250 or [email protected].