3 ISSUES FOR JUST £3 Subscribe to Dorset Magazine today click here

The resident mammals of Dorset

PUBLISHED: 11:23 24 October 2017 | UPDATED: 11:28 24 October 2017

Otters can be found on quite a few Dorset rivers (Photo by Paul Williams)

Otters can be found on quite a few Dorset rivers (Photo by Paul Williams)

Archant

From inquisitive seals to boxing hares, Sally Welbourn introduces us to some of Dorset’s resident mammals

When dinosaurs roamed the earth 65 million years ago, the very first mammals scurried around beneath their feet. Many suffered the same fate as the dinosaurs, but a few survived. Humans are living proof of their success, but we also share our planet with many other mammals: they range in size from tiny bats to the mighty blue whale.

All mammals are warm blooded, they are able to feed their young with milk from mammary glands, and have hair or fur. In the UK, the biggest native mammal is the red deer, easily spotted by its silky red coat and the massive antlers sported by the males. There are five species of deer in Dorset: sika, roe and fallow are our main residents in the county, but there are also growing numbers of muntjac and red deer.

One mammal that is on most people’s wish list is the otter. Many of Dorset’s rivers such as the Stour now have families of otters that are regularly spotted, even in broad daylight. Smaller mammals you might see whilst out in the countryside, if you are sharp-eyed, are the weasel and stoat; to tell them apart, look for the black top on the end of the stoat’s tail.

If your garden is wildlife friendly, you’ll be even more likely to see native mammals such as the badger, fox or hedgehog, whether they are regular visitors, resident or simply passing through. 


In the garden… Hedgehog

Hedgehogs are popular wild resident with gardeners (Photo by Stewart Canham)Hedgehogs are popular wild resident with gardeners (Photo by Stewart Canham)

Despite their numbers declining due to loss of habitat, hedgehogs are most commonly seen in parks and gardens where bushes and hedges are in abundance. Hedgehogs like to eat all kinds of invertebrates, as well as amphibians and bird’s eggs, but they’re particularly partial to beetles, earthworms and slugs, making them a gardener’s best friend. At this time of year hedgehogs will be preparing to hibernate for the winter, stocking up on food and putting on weight before their big sleep. Why not give them a helping hand and install a cosy hedgehog home in a quite spot in your garden? Piles of dry leaves are popular snoozing spots, so do check bonfires before lighting them in case a hedgehog has taken up residence. 


On the coast… Seal

Harbour seal (Photo by Sarah Hodgson)Harbour seal (Photo by Sarah Hodgson)

The seal is the UK’s largest carnivorous mammal. Both the common (or harbour) and grey seal can be seen in Dorset, and they are known for being sociable creatures. Encountering a seal is an amazing privilege, but their welfare must be your number one priority. Don’t attempt to feed it, or touch it, simply admire from a distance, despite their inquisitive nature! Common seals are found around sheltered shores and estuaries, where they haul themselves out to bask on sandbanks and beaches. When out of the water, they sometimes hold their body in a curved ‘banana’ position, with their heads and tail both in the air at the same time.


In the countryside… Hare

Brown hare - often seen along Chesil Beach and in Cranborne Chase (Photo by John Palmer)Brown hare - often seen along Chesil Beach and in Cranborne Chase (Photo by John Palmer)

Cranborne Chase in east Dorset, and along Chesil Beach in west Dorset are good places to spot brown hares, grazing on vegetation or nibbling bark from young trees and bushes. Hares shelter in a ‘form’ - a shallow depression in the ground or grasses, but when disturbed, they can be seen bounding across fields often in a zig-zag pattern, using their powerful hind legs to propel them forwards. In early spring, hares are at their most visible as the breeding season encourages fighting, or ‘boxing’ out in the open fields.


More…

Dorset walk around Southbourne Beach and Aerodrome - Edward Griffiths traces the boundaries of an airfield which hosted some magnificent men in their flying machines at the 1910 International Aviation Meeting

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Dorset visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Dorset staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Dorset account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & About

Friday, September 14, 2018

Follow in the footsteps of the Romans on this lovely walk that takes in rare habitat, ancient woodland and glorious views

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

This challenging coastal walk rewards your efforts with spectacular views along the Jurassic Coast

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Marine photographer Steve Belasco shares some very special wildlife moments

Read more
Wednesday, September 5, 2018

TravelSupermarket has uncovered the top 25 most popular UK beaches on Instagram after analysing hashtags used for over 1,100 beaches and Bournemouth comes out on top

Read more
Monday, September 3, 2018

From a harvest festival to a guided tour of a botanical collection used for making perfume, there is plenty happening in Dorset’s gardens this month

Read more
Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Ride + Stride, Dorset Historic Churches Trust’s annual fundraising event, is a great way to explore and support some of the county’s more unusual places of worship

Read more
Monday, August 6, 2018

This easy level walks takes in an ancient village described as The Mother of Bournemouth and Throop Mill of the River Stour

Read more
Monday, August 6, 2018

Dorset villages are some of the most beautiful in England – think winding lanes, thatched cottages and a cosy pub or welcoming tea room. We suggest ten of the prettiest villages to visit in the county

Read more
Friday, July 27, 2018

Martin Clunes and his family have called West Dorset home for over two decades. Here he shares some of their favourite local places

Read more

From paddling on the Frome to admiring one of the best vistas in Dorset, Adam Lee-Potter’s beloved home town just keeps getting better and better

Read more
Monday, July 16, 2018

Butterflies, buzzards and beautiful views sum up this lovely summer walk around Piddletrenthide and Plush Hill

Read more
Sunday, July 8, 2018

Visit Dorset reveal their favourite lesser-known local beaches to explore if you want to get off the beaten track this summer

Read more
Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Anne Brunner-Ellis takes her horse on holiday to a B&B in Ashmore where they both enjoy three glorious days of exploring the local countryside as well as a spot of pampering

Read more

From supper on the beach to a vibrant live music scene, Kate Shaw reveals why her family love living in this award-winning coastal town

Read more
 
A+ South & South West

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Subscribe or buy a mag today


subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search