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Scotland is famous for its postcard-worthy sceneries. It is also a renowned wildlife destination because of the diverse animal species it has. From terrestrial animals to sea creatures and birds, this region has a lot to offer not just to nature lovers but also to wildlife enthusiasts. A testament to this is the abundance of wildlife tours and activities in Scotland.
Of the countless animals found here, some have been inhabiting the country for many years. So, which animals are native to Scotland? Read on to learn about native Scottish animals and where you can see them.
Pine Martens are part of the same family, mustelid, as otters and badgers. Many of them have chestnut-brown coats. Pine martens also have a distinct pale yellow to creamy white bib-like pattern under their chin and on their chest. These tree-climbing mammals feed on birds, rodents, squirrels and insect eggs. These cat-sized animals have a body that measures around 45 centimetres. They also have bushy tails with an average length of 25 centimetres.
They typically live in native woodlands, often found in tree holes, dreys and birds’ nests. They used to be found all over the UK. However, in the 19th century, their population declined due to persecution. Nowadays, they are primarily concentrated in Scotland, in areas like Dumfries and Galloway, with their numbers reported to be around 3,700. A small population of pine martens is also found in Wales and northern England.
The only remaining native cat species in the UK, the Scottish wildcats are larger and heavier compared to domestic tabby cats. They have an average length of 56 centimetres and weigh around three to seven kilograms. Highland tigers, other term for Scottish wildcats, have blunt-tipped and fluffy tails with distinct black bands. They also have a dorsal strip which ends at the base of the tail and thick, black stripes on their body.
Due to persecution, habitat destruction and breeding with domestic cats, Scottish wildcats’ population has been on a decline. The exact number of this protected species is not known, but experts think that there are less than 300 of them left. Currently, they can only be seen in Scotland, specifically in the Central and Northern Highlands. Scottish wildcats are nocturnal and solitary creatures. Given their numbers and habits, these felines can be difficult to spot. So, if you want to see them, it’s best to join tours headed by experts.
The red deer are the largest terrestrial mammals in the UK. Their height, when standing, may reach 137 centimetres. Their summer coats range from russet brown to brown, while their winter coats are greyish brown. The large antlers, growing up to a metre long, are the most distinct features of the stags. These antlers are also highly branched. As they age, the branches increase in number. According to experts, they have been inhabiting Britain for almost 11, 000 years.
Scotland has a large number of red deer. They can be spotted in moorlands and upland forests. Occasionally, red deer may also be seen in Knapdale Forest, a famous place for spotting Scotland’s Big Five. If you wish to see these majestic creatures, join deer encounter tours or deer walks.
Orkney voles are members of the rodent family. Endemic to Orkney, they have arrived in the country 5,000 years ago. They measure an average of 10 to 13 centimetres and can weigh up to 90 grams. They are twice as big as field voles; they are also larger compared to common voles. Orkney voles have a pale brown fur, stocky body and rounded snout.
Very agile creatures, Orkney voles can be found in ditches and grassy areas. However, unlike common voles, they do not require tall grasses for cover since they usually burrow.
Slow worms have a deceiving name because they are not worms or snakes and they are not slow. They are legless lizards which is why they are often mistaken as snakes. Along with the common lizard and adder, the slow worm is one of the three native reptiles in Scotland. Their colour ranges from grey to brown, with females having a black back stripe and dark sides. Males also don a black stripe, but it disappears once they reach sexual maturity.
They are found all over Scotland as well as in other parts of the UK. Slow worms prefer moist grassy areas; however, they are rarely seen out in the open. They spend most of their time underground or under stones or woods.
Scotland’s native hares, these mammals are best known for their coats which change in colour during summer and winter. They don greyish-brown coats during summer. By winter, these coats turn into white, providing the hares the perfect camouflage. Compared to brown hares, they have shorter, black-tipped ears. They are also smaller with an estimated length of 60 centimetres.
Mountain hares are nocturnal animals. They spend most of their day resting in burrows or forms. They can be seen in the Scottish Highlands, Peak District and the Southern Uplands. The best time to see them is in early spring. During this time, they have not shed their white coats yet, making them more visible. Meanwhile, the possibility of spotting mountain hares in groups is high during winter because they tend to gather in areas where snow is thinner.
Pine marten photo by Walmart Corporate
Red deer photo by chapmankj75
Slow worm photo by Peter O’Connor aka anemoneprojectors