As lock down continues, I am reflecting on some of our most amazing and iconic species.

With less traffic and fewer people, many of our mammals are able to stage a bit of a come back into areas where they once lived but not dared to return to….

One of Hampshire’s most familiar species, but still a challenge to see unless you are night owl is the hedgehog.

Read: 'Fun facts about birds' >>> 

Covered in up to 7,000 spines (which are replaced every year) this prickly mammal is unfortunately popular food for badger, opportunistic foxes and even determined domestic cats and dogs.

A victim of road kills and struggling with climate change; building hedgehog houses and providing suitable food for them in winter can help them to get through the worst times of the year.

A small hole cut in the neighbour’s fence (with their permission!!) can also help them to travel…which is a key part of their search for a mate, somewhere to hibernate and for food.

Romsey Advertiser: A    hedgehog

Once common across the county it is rapid decline and needs our help.

Across the north of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and islands like Brownsea in Dorset; red squirrel are a familiar sight in peoples gardens and in more remote woodland areas.

Closer to home there are thought to be 3,500 on the Isle of white!

Unlike its grey cousin, whose origin in North America, its red counterpart is a native species; often out competed for space by the invasive grey.

Reds need a lot of space, typically one pair on territory will live in an area the size of 34 football pitches.

If you examine a pine-cone that has had its seeds eaten by reds, you will be able to discover whether the squirrel is right or left handed!

Whilst they do come to gardens, they rely on large expanses of native mixed forests and are getting rarer-especially in Ireland and England, where you will be lucky if you have one coming to your bird feeder.

Romsey Advertiser: ADOPT: The native red squirrel – one can be ‘adopted’ in a scheme which is being supported by the John Lewis Partnership

Far more common in the county, but really hard to see is the little harvest mouse.

Weighing no more than a 2 pence coin, the harvest mouse uses its tail as a fifth limb when climbing about in its grassland or reedbed habitat.

They are the only mammal with a prehensile tail-that means a tail that can be used to grasp and hold things.

Harvest mice shred grasses by pulling them through their teeth and weaving them into elaborate nests to raise their young.

Like many mammal species they are threatened by human activity and premature mowing or cutting of wildflower meadows, wheat fields and reed beds can sadly lead to their demise.

Often the only evidence of their presence is when a farmer or land owner stumbles on a disused nest.

Romsey Advertiser: Numbers in decline: The harvest mouse

And what about one mammal you will never see in the wild in Hampshire?

Folk-law in Scotland talks of the Cat Sith; a forest fairy that stalked the mountainsides dressed as a large cat.

Now as far as we know tales of cat fairies are as legendary as the Loch Ness Monster- but you are unlikely to venture on the wild cat-a relative of the domestic cat and confined to the Highlands of Scotland in the UK.

Its Latin name Felix Sylvestris literally translates as “cat of the woods” and refers to its love of ancient forests in remote locations.

But one or two lucky people have even recorded them in their gardens-and with active conservation programmes, the Wild Cat is beginning a slow recovery from the brink of extinction.

Romsey Advertiser: Thirty-six sightings of a wild cat have been made in Kent

So our UK mammals are a mixture of the familiar and unfamiliar and all connected by an ongoing fight for survival from cars, climate, cats, invasive predators and many other factors.

If you want to find out more, why not search the data base of UK mammals at:

https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-explorer/mammals

Here you can find out more about all our Hampshire mammals; from red fox to badger and fallow deer through to the ubiquitous house mouse.

Why not contact me if you find an interesting mammal species near your home, in your garden or local park?