One in five UK mammals at risk of extinction

Recent figures by The Mammal Society through the Natural England study suggests that almost one in five British mammals are at risk of extinction.

The red squirrel, long-eared bat, and the wildcat are three of the 12 species on the list. Hedgehog and water vole numbers have declined by around 70 percent in the last 20 years.

The study is the first study in 20 years which has evaluated numbers of the 58 mammals that roam the British Isles.

It’s not all bad news however – animals such as the polecat, otter, pine marten, and badger have seen their numbers grow in the past two decades. Their geographical ranges have also spread, meaning that you might be more likely to find them.

There are a few reasons given for the decline in certain speciesclimate change, loss of habitat, use of pesticides on crops, and simple disease can be blamed for the decline in some of our mammals.

Prof Fiona Mathews, chairwoman of the Mammal Society, said, “…we’re living in a country that’s changing enormously – we’re building new homes, new roads, new railways, agriculture’s changing – so it’s really important we have up to date information so we can plan how we’re going to conserve British wildlife.”

There are three layers of threat categories when defining which animals are endangered. A species that is on the “red list” means that it is threatened and faces extinction in the next decade.

The third-highest category, classified as “vulnerable”, includes the hedgehog, the hazel dormouse, the Orkney vole, the serotine bat, and the barbastelle bat.

The second-highest category, classified as “endangered”, include the red squirrel, the beaver, the water vole, and the grey long-eared bat.

And the highest threat category is classified as “critically endangered,” animals which face the serious threat of extinction. Three species were given this classification: the wildcat, the greater mouse-eared bat, and the black rat.

All in all, according to Prof Mathews, it was a “mixed picture.”

“Some species are doing well, so carnivores, for example, like polecats and pine martens, they seem to be bouncing back, probably because they’re not being persecuted in the way that they were in the past,” she said.

“On the other hand, we have species that tend to need quite specialised habitat like the grey long-eared bat or the dormouse where population numbers are really going down.

“So, what we need to do is find ways in which we can make sure that all British wildlife is prospering.”

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January 2022
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