In Brief

Which UK mammals are at risk of extinction?

New research finds at least 20% of native species under threat as disease and habitat destruction take their toll

At least one in five mammals native to the UK are at “high risk of extinction” in the face of threats such as disease and habitat destruction, according to a new study.

Scottish wildcats appear to be most at risk,  and only one grey long-eared bat remains in the wild, according to The Mammal Society, which produced the report at the Government’s request.

The populations of a total of at least nine species “including hedgehogs, water voles, hazel dormice and even rabbits” have declined considerably in the last two decades, the report showed.

“The main cause is the destruction of wild places by roads, buildings and intensive farming, which combine to reduce and fragment habitat,” The Guardian reports. “The impact of invasive species and disease are also important.”

On a positive note, there have been population in some species, including otters, following the banning of pesticides that poisoned their river homes, and deer, which lack a natural predator.

“We have almost been sleepwalking,” said Professor Fiona Mathews, who co-authored the paper. “This is happening on our own doorstep, so it falls upon all of us to try and do what we can to ensure that our threatened species do not go the way of the lynx, wolf and elk and disappear from our shores forever.”

The mammals whose populations have decreased in the past 20 years are:

  • Red squirrel
  • Black rat
  • Wildcat
  • Grey long-eared bat
  • Hedgehog
  • Rabbit
  • Hazel dormouse
  • Orkney vole
  • Water vole

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