Mammals around Birling Gap
Familiar creatures are fascinating to watch as they go about their daily routines.
The Ever Present Rabbit
A familiar creature, not native to the UK but was brought into the country by the Normans in the 12th century for fur and food.
In the 1950’s the virus myxomatosis was introduced, wiping out 99% of the population. Scrub grew from the relaxation of grazing pressure and the chalk grassland was vulnerable from being shaded out.
Immunity from myxomatosis has developed but the increasing population regularly suffers from fresh waves of infection.
The Hopping Hare
Related to the rabbit, the hare is also non-native but was introduced in the Iron Age period. It is an animal of open ground formerly wide spread but has become rarer due to general habitat loss.
The black tipped ears are longer and larger than the rabbit. They are fast sprinters with a great sense of awareness and very wary looking out for predators.
Normally solitary they are at their most obvious during the breeding season in spring when they chase and box each other.
Field Voles living life in the grass
Field voles are generally thought to be the most common mammal in the UK. Their nests will be found in the tussocks of un-grazed grassland and underground burrows.
Its grey brown fur can sometimes be seen as it runs through the grass ahead of you while walking. It is plump, 11-16 cm long and feeds mostly on grass roots.
It is an extremely important food item for birds of prey, stoats and foxes. The field vole population swings in a boom cycle and sustaining a rise of successful owl chicks.