Cute wild animals and where they live
‘We have hundreds of fallow deer roaming the estate as well as rabbits, squirrels, otters and lots more. The soil holds footprints really well and there are plenty of other signs to look out for. My advice is to get outdoors, open your senses and get tracking.’
-Tom Wood, senior ranger, Castle Drogo
Our places are home to a lot of animals. Some are a bit scary, some are weird and others are really cute. Here are some of our fluffier residents, with advice from our rangers on how and where you can find them. Sophia, our Kid’s Councillor, also has some tips and tricks to share. Just remember that these are wild animals so don’t get too close.
‘Track wild animals’ is one of our 50 things to do before you’re 11 ¾.
With their huge dark eyes and playful personalities it’s hard not to fall in love with seals. And whilst they might look clumsy on land you should see these creatures underwater. Around the UK you can spot grey seals and common seals. They both spend a lot of time at sea but they do come ashore to breed.
You can see seals on coastal walks, boat trips or even dive with them on the Farne Islands or at Lundy. For families, the boat trip to Blakeney Point is a must. Kids can count how many seals they see and sometimes the inquisitive creatures pop up and swim around the boat, taking a look at their human visitors.
‘The boat trip is the perfect way to see seals. The boats don’t disturb them and last winter we had over 1000 pups on Blakeney Point. Grey seal pups are born in the dunes and stay there until they lose their fluffy white fur. If you do come in autumn or winter make sure you wrap up warm as it can get pretty chilly on the boat.’
- Ajay Tegala, coastal ranger, Blakeney
Places to spot seals
Red squirrels are an endangered species and can be very difficult to find. If you want to track them down it’s all about finding the right place and keeping very quiet. They are shy creatures and will run away if they hear you coming.
Brownsea Island is an excellent spot for seeing red squirrels. John Lamming, warden at Brownsea, is quite a fan: ‘They are just cute animals. That is the best word to describe them; fluffy ears, bushy tail. They’re quite a lot more delicate than the grey squirrels.’ Watch John’s red squirrel video to find out more.
Places where red squirrels live
We love this picture, taken by Justine Davies, of fallow deer at Dyrham Park. You’ll have to walk very quietly if you want to get your own photo of this breed. If they hear you coming they normally run for cover and watch you from their hiding place.
Look out for hoof prints in soft mud and, in October, keep your eyes peeled for ‘fallow rings’. These are circles of hoof prints, made by male deer during the rutting season. They are always found around tree stumps.
We also have some Japanese sika deer at Knole and fallow deer at Charlecote Park. One of our deer, in particular, is different to the rest. He made friends with a flock of sheep. Don’t believe us? See for yourself – we have evidence.
Places where deer live
Barn owls might look cute and fluffy (especially when they are young owlets), but make no mistake about it – these are hunting machines. They hunt at night for voles, shrews and mice, so if you want to spot a barn owl you’ll need to wait for dusk. They are often seen hunting near the pyramid mausoleum in the Great Wood of Blickling Estate.
Barn owls do not hoot. Instead they make eerie screeching noises. Listen out for this sound when you’re tracking these fantastic birds.
Places where Barn owls live
If you manage to track down a water vole you’re doing well. These once common creatures are now the UK’s fastest declining mammal.
You can find water voles along river banks, ponds and streams. They live in burrows, normally near to slow moving water and are often mistaken for greedy rats, because of their brown fur and long tail. When you’re tracking water voles look out for little piles of chewed plants. You can sometimes see their small star-shaped paw prints in soft mud.
Places where water voles live
You might associate robins with Christmas, but you can spot them all year round. Learn the robin’s song and you can listen out for them.
‘Robins have a variable warbling given in short phrases with longer gaps in between. The phrases can be quite piercing or sweet and syrupy.’
- Pete Brash, ornithologist and ecologist
These bold birds are not usually afraid of people. In fact, they often hang around gardeners hoping to find a tasty worm.
Places where robins live
A lot of our wild ponies help to look after the land they live on. For example the Konik ponies of Wicken Fen help by grazing the scrub, stopping the wetlands from turning into woodland. Although ponies may appear docile you should always track these animals from a distance.
‘The Konik ponies are quite a primitive breed and there are a few unusual things about them. You can see on the back of their legs they have zebra stripes. Along their back is a thin stripe and their mane is both blonde and dark.’
- Carol Laidlaw, grazing warden
* Watch our video to learn more about the famous Konik ponies
* Many thanks to Ben Robinson for sharing his photo of a wild pony at Long Mynd, Shropshire
Places where ponies live
* Exmoor ponies, White Cliffs of Dover, Kent
* Dartmoor ponies, English Riviera, Devon
* Carneddau ponies, Alderley Edge, Cheshire
* Welsh Mountain ponies, Stackpole, Pembrokeshire
* The Long Mynd, Shropshire
* Konik ponies, Wicken Fen, Cambridge
The hazel dormouse is a honey coloured creature, with a furry tail and large black eyes. These elusive animals are nocturnal, nesting in hedgerows and tree canopies. We’ve been giving them a helping hand at Juniper Hill.
‘We’re hoping the dormice will move into the breeding boxes, give birth and raise their young over the coming summers. They hibernate on the ground over winter but often return to the same site for breeding. If this project is successful it should make survival a bit less of a struggle for the dormice.’
- Dave Williams, from Surrey Wildlife Trust, speaking at Juniper Hill
Because dormice are so rare you’re highly unlikely to see one in the wild and they must only be touched by licensed handlers. However, you can help by sponsoring a dormouse at Berrington Hall, in Herefordshire. You can also go along to learn about these little creatures, as our rangers put the boxes out in the woodland.
More about dormice
* To sponsor a dormouse call 01568 615721 or email Berrington Hall
* See adorable photos of dormice, taken by our rangers at Scotney Castle, Kent.
* Watch our video to see how we are helping to conserve them on Box Hill, Surrey.
* Find out about our conservation efforts in Stourhead, Wiltshire
You don’t need many tips to find a puffin on the Farne Islands. During the breeding season these islands are home to nearly 40,000 puffin pairs. In fact, we’ve just finished counting them. Watch our video to see how we did it. You can also see shots from our ‘burrow cams’. These are hidden underground to record the secret lives of these plucky birds.
‘You do need to make sure you come at the right time of the year if you want to see puffins. They arrive mid-April and start to leave around mid-July. But if you do come too late to see puffins there is plenty more to see. The Farne Islands are home to a lot of migratory birds such as Arctic terns up until late summer.’
- Ciaran Hatsell, ranger on the Farne Islands
* Many thanks to Amanda G for sharing her photo
Spot puffins on the Farne Islands, Northumberland
If you get a good snap of any animals don’t keep them to yourself. We’d love to see your photo on Facebook.