It is often surprising to hear that there are around 100 species of mammal that can be found in the UK, when one takes into account all the sea mammals around our shores, the bat species above our heads and the rodents around our feet. Many land mammals are small and nocturnal, but there are a few larger ones we can see fairly regularly.
Foxes of course can be quite confiding and ‘urban’ individuals will utilise resources in gardens, especially after dark. But the red fox of the countryside is a little less bold and will take a little more hard work to find.
The badger is another favourite (unless your lawn or putting green has been bulldozed by an over-night worm forage) and whilst seeing the creatures themselves requires local knowledge and much patience, signs of their presence (soil middens and hairs caught in fences near their setts) are more regularly encountered.
There are also deer species we can hope to see, including the beautifully spotted fallow deer, the adult males with their spatula-like antlers and the groups of females which follow them. Roe deer too may be seen in fields, sometimes in small groups of females, but with luck a multi-pointed set of antlers will signal a fine male amongst them. Finally there is the dainty muntjac deer, introduced to the UK in the early 20th century and tiny in comparison to the other two above, only about 40cm high to the shoulder and usually seen singly. It is a little more vocal then the other too and its dog-like ‘bark’ is quite distinctive.
What’s happening to our larger mammals in Maidenhead?
All three deer species are quite regularly encountered in our area, with perhaps woodland settings best for the fallow deer, whilst roe deer will utilise farmland quite happily during the day. Muntjac deer are also more of a woodland species, but often seen at roadsides, particularly early in the morning or at dusk.
As exciting as it is to see lots of deer, they can do much damage to woodlands if numbers increase too rapidly. Muntjac deer have a reputation for damaging bluebell plantations, and all three species can modify vegetation structure to their browse height in our local woods, and can stunt the growth of new tree saplings. It has proven necessary in some private woodlands to establish a control regime for deer when populations increase dramatically.
Generally speaking, the populations of all the major larger mammals are quite healthy in the Maidenhead area.
What can I do?
Recording sightings is an effective way of monitoring population successes, and letting the Berkshire Mammal Group know which species, numbers and locations goes a long way to helping us understand how the creatures are doing (http://berksmammals.org.uk/)
Encouraging animals into the garden by putting food out can be educational, informative and enjoyable. But we need to be sure we are not enticing animals to cross roads to get to our gardens.
If you are unsure whether or not mammals do visit the garden, installing a battery-operated trail camera can open a whole new world of excitement.
If you find any of these animals injured, you need to be aware of the harm they can do to you when frightened. It is usually far better to call an expert if you are unsure how to handle a situation. (See the Wildlife Emergency section on this web site.) Also, finding a young animal does not necessarily mean it has been abandoned by parents; they are usually not far away, so it is best to leave them where you found them.