First “red list” for British wild mammals

It was difficult not to notice the story that made national news recently. I literally saw it everywhere. Daily Mail, Sky News, BBC, all reporting with alarming headlines such as: ‘One in five mammals facing extinction’ or ‘Many of Britain’s favourite animals could be wiped out in a decade’.

Each article referred to a survey conducted by The Mammal Society and Natural England researchers, who examined more than 1.5 million individual biological records of 58 species of terrestrial mammals. From this information, they concluded that one in five UK mammals are at risk of extinction, and compiled a “red list” of 12 species we should be worried about. Not only is this “red list” the first of its kind for wild mammals in Britain, but the first major review of these species in over 20 years!


Since the previous estimate carried out in 1995, hedgehog and water vole numbers have declined by a massive 66%! Hedgehogs are one of my favourite species of British wildlife and I have seen with my own eyes the dramatic decline in numbers where I live. The decrease is caused by a combination of factors: road deaths, loss of habitat, the use of pesticides and animal attacks. Climate change has been blamed for disrupting natural hibernation times too.

European Hedgehog


The “red list” is split into three categories and every species on the list is currently classified as “threatened”, meaning each and every one faces the possibility of extinction in the next decade.

The highest of the categories “critically endangered” includes 3 species: The Scottish wildcat, the greater mouse-eared bat, and the black rat. Only 200 wildcats are believed to exist in the wild, and there is a possibility that the black rat may already be extinct, as few volunteers track them. A single, male greater mouse-eared bat remains in West Sussex; but sadly no females have been found since 2001.

Red squirrels, beavers, water voles and grey long-eared bats are second in the list, being classified as “endangered”.

Lastly, there is the “vulnerable category” where: Hedgehogs, hazel dormice, Orkney voles, serotine bats and barbastelle bats are placed.

Red Squirrel
Red Squirrel


The report does also highlight that some British mammal populations have increased! Five species in number and eighteen in geographical range, including otters, beavers, polecats, badgers, and wild boar. However, they do note that many of these species are non-native such as muntjac deer and grey squirrels.

Wild boar