at Quabbs Cabin
For large mammals you need to look only a little further afield. There are deer in Kinsley Wood, otters have been seen on the River Teme and badgers can be seen after dark on almost any of the local country lanes as well as an abundance of foxes, badgers hares and rabbits.
I have tried to include the more unusual and lesser seen wildlife gems here.
Common name: European Otter
Scientific name: Lutra lutra
We are very lucky both in the River Lugg to have spotted signs of otters and in the River Teme to have spotted otters on occasions – this takes patience, but mostly luck! They are so wonderful to see.
Average lifespan: 5-10 years
Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. Priority Species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework. European Protected Species under Annex IV of the European Habitats Directive. Listed as Near Threatened on the global IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
The elusive otter is one of our top predators, feeding mainly on fish (particularly eels and salmonids), waterbirds, amphibians and crustaceans. Otters have their cubs in underground burrows, known as ‘holts’. Excellent and lithe swimmers, the young are in the water by 10 weeks of age. Otters are well suited to a life on the water as they have webbed feet, dense fur to keep them warm, and can close their ears and nose when underwater. They require clean rivers, with an abundant source of food and plenty of vegetation to hide their secluded holts.
The otter is a large, powerful mammal, with grey-brown fur, a broad snout, and a pale chest and throat.
We are very lucky both in the River Lugg to have spotted signs of otters and in the River Teme to have spotted otters on occasions – this takes patience, but mostly luck! They are so wonderful to see. They are an extremely rare but widespread species, now found throughout the country but absent from parts of central and southern England, the Isle of Man, the Isles of Scilly and the Channel Islands.
Seeing the signs of otters is far easier than seeing the animals themselves. Along riverbanks and waterways, look for five-toed footprints (about 6-7cm long) and droppings or ‘spraints’. Otters leave spraints in prominent places, such as fallen trees, weirs and bridges, as ‘scented messages’, helping them to find mates and defend territories. They contain visible fish bones and have a distinctive, pleasant smell, reminiscent of jasmine tea!
Common name: Polecat
Scientific name: Mustela putorius
We are so lucky to have several breeding pairs of polecats at Quabbs – 3 at last year’s sightings (a group of polecats is known as a chine). At least two of these pairs had kits (the name for their young) with us regularly seeing four kits out playing near the wooden gate late last summer. If you are very lucky, and very quiet you may be able to spot them.
Average lifespan: 5 years
Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981. Priority Species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework.
Polecats are a member of the mustelid family, which includes the stoat and badger, the polecat is roughly the size of a ferret – its domesticated cousin. Brought to the brink of extinction through persecution, the polecat has been undergoing a recovery recently and can be found in rural Wales and limited parts of England.
Polecats set up home in lowland wooded habitats, marshes, along riverbanks, or even in farm buildings or dry-stone walls. They particularly prey on rabbits and may be found in rabbit burrows. They have one litter of five to ten young a year in early summer.
The polecat has a two-tone coat: dark brown guard hairs cover a buff-coloured underfur. It has a distinct bandit-like appearance, with white stripes across its dark face. It has a short, dark tail and rounded ears. Polecats do sometimes produce young with escaped ferrets; these hybrids tend to have lighter, creamier fur on their back and more white on their faces, extending past their ears.
Found in parts of Wales and parts of Scotland
Common name: Roe Deer
Scientific name: Capreolus capreolus
Roe deer are native to Wales. When fully grown weigh between 10 and 25kg.
Male roe deer are called bucks – they have small antlers, the females are called does.
The colour of their coat varies. In the summer they are rusty red and in winter their coats are grey. Both male and female have a white rump without a tail.
They are small and dainty creatures leaving a small print of about 4cm long in soft ground.
You may see roe deer during walks, mostly commonly in fields and wooded areas. They are very shy creatures and will run when they see you.
Common name: Fallow Deer
Scientific name: Dama dama
Less commonly seen, but another deer species native to Wales is the fallow deer. Although introduced to the UK by the Normans ion 1100, they are now considered naturalised.
They are much larger than the roe and weigh between 43-96kg at adulthood. They are the largest of all British deer. They leave print of around 6cm in length.
They come in a variety of colours from nearly black to creamy white. Their young fawns are born in the spring
They can mostly be spotted in around woodland; but their excellent camouflage makes then tricky to spot.