Hedgehog Erinaceus europaeus
Widespread and common throughout the area, in rural, suburban and urban areas -woodlands, fields and gardens. A common road casualty.
Pygmy Shrew Sorex minutus
Probably common throughout most of the area though probably not as widely recorded as Common Shrew. They even can be found in suburban and urban areas of Liverpool. As with many small mammals often the only way to record this species is to find them dead in discarded bottles.
Common Shrew Sorex araneus
Widespread and common. Peaks on late summer/autumn. The constant searching for their own weight in food a day makes for a short and frantic life. Their high pitched squealing is a sound to listen out for in all sorts of habitats, though you will seldom see them.
Water Shrew Neomys fodiens
Found at scattered locations across Lancashire and North Merseyside. It is, however, an elusive species despite the contrasting dark upperparts and pale underparts. As the name suggests it is usually (though not exclusively) found around brooks, streams and pools. Common at Leighton Moss where it is often seen running across paths.
Common Mole Talpa europaea
Common and widespread, though avoiding the most urbanised. Too common for some with their molehills and trapping still takes place on a large scale in some areas. In decline due to loss of worm-rich pasture and woodland. Very rarely cream-coloured or partial albinos can be found.
Whiskered Bat Myotis mystacinus
Scattered records across the county but is perhaps more common than is generally realised. Will sometimes use cave sites as in the Silverdale area where it is quite common.
Brand'ts Bat Myotis brandtii
Rare with just a handful of records. Small numbers are found in bat boxes in the north of the county and some roosts are known there, together with one in a house near Martin Mere.
Natterer's Bat Myotis nattereri
There are reasonable numbers in the north of the county but it is very uncommon in the south with just two records in Merseyside and West Lancashire in recent years and one found in a roost at Standish.
Daubenton's Bat Myotis daubentoni
Good numbers can be found at many water bodies throughout the county, including urban parks in Liverpool, Scarisbrick, Ince Blundell, the River Ribble at Preston, the Lune valley and Leighton Moss. It often roosts under bridges in the north of the county while more than 100 were found in a tree roost in Red Scar Wood, Preston ten years ago and are probably still there. A hibernation site is known in St Helens. The alternative name of Water Bat gives an idea of where to look (or listen with a bat detector), though it is not confined to waterside habitats and can be found in open woodland and may overwinter underground.
Noctule Bat Nyctalus noctula
This is the largest of our bats and has a widespread distribution throughout the county where all known roost sites have been in trees - usually 5-20 in a tree (though 94 were found in one beech tree near Silverdale in May 1970). Usually a high-flying bat and one of the first to emerge, often before dusk. More than 20 have been seen in an evening at Martin Mere and the species is quite common at Leighton Moss.
Pipistrelle Pipistrellus pipistrellus
Since the recent split this is now known colloquially as the 45Kz (after the frequency of its call) or masked or bandit pipistrelle (after its face pattern). It is our commonest and most widespread bat and the one most likely to be found in the cities. It is believed to be more common throughout the county than its sister-species but perhaps relatively more abundant in the south than the north. It is the bat most frequently in houses with many people having this species under their roof without them realising!
Soprano Pipistrelle Pipistrellus pygmaeus
Now known amongst bat enthusiasts as 55Kz, pygmy or brown pipistrelle (and you thought bird names were confusing!), it sometime occurs alongside the previous species, as in Sefton park, Liverpool. Roost sizes tend to be larger, however, with one in north Lancashire holding more than 1000 bats. It also tends to be found more often in river valleys.
Brown Long-Eared Bat Plecotus auritus
Our commonest bat after the two pipistrelles with records spread across the area. It can be found roosting in trees, houses or rarely in underground sites in rural, suburban and urban areas. It often feeds by gleaning moths off leaves on trees.
Brown Hare Lepus europaeus
Widespread and still common across most of the lowland farmland areas, although there has been some contraction of range and some reduction in numbers. In Merseyside, at least, they can still be found in the urban fringe wherever greenspace connects to the open countryside. The south-western mossland areas from Little Crosby to Rainford are still a stronghold with the major coursing event of the Waterloo Cup held annually at Altcar. A silver variety and partial albinos have been seen on occasion.
Rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus
Virtually ubiquitous across the region having now largely recovered from the spread of myxamatosis which reached Lancashire in September 1954 - although many populations now have partial immunity there are still annual outbreaks of the disease but its effects on population numbers are now much less marked. This Norman introduction is a major influence on open habitats from dunes to fields to hillsides.
Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris
The Red Squirrel is most at home in coniferous woodlands but, in the absence of any native competitor, it used was once common in all of Britain's woods. The introduction of the American Grey Squirrel in the nineteenth century changed all that Reds are now close to extinction in England. Greys out-compete Reds in deciduous woodland and also probably carry diseases that are lethal to Reds. The spread of Greys led to the extinction of Red Squirrels in north Lancashire in the late 1980s and they are now retreating rapidly through Cumbria to the Scottish border.
However, small pockets of Red Squirrels remain, mostly in North Merseyside. A population of several hundred in the Sefton Coast pine woods appears to be relatively secure and smaller populations are still hanging on in other areas of Sefton, Liverpool, Knowsley and West Lancashire.
Grey Squirrel Sciurus carolinensis
Widespread and common, though really only colonised from the 1950s and 1960s. A pest species in some woodlands, though welcomed by many as an interesting garden animal.
Bank Vole Cletrionomys glareolus
Widespread and common throughout. This chestnut-coloured vole is to be found in many hedgerows, banks, field edges, woodlands and other well-vegetated areas.
Field Vole Microtus agrestis
The commonest of our voles, it is abundant and widespread across virtually all open grasslands of the region. It has declined, though still one of the commonest mammals. Numbers fluctuate from year to year (though not as dramatically as their relatives the lemmings). They quickly increase in habitats such as new forestry plantations. This species is of course a major prey item for kestrel and owls.
Water Vole Arvicola terrestris
Due to predation by introduced mink, loss of suitable riverside habitat and water pollution, Water Voles have declined in Britain by as much as 90% over the past 25 years. A survey of Lancashire is presently being carried out but it seems likely that the decline over much of the county is similar to the national one. The exception is the mosslands of West Lancashire and North Merseyside where numbers remain high. The Leeds-Liverpool and Sankey (St Helens) Canals also support good numbers and Water Voles are still relatively common on urban streams throughout Merseyside.
The cause of our good fortune in the south-west is probably a combination of a lack of mink and the retention of field-ditch systems in the mosslands.
Wood Mouse Apodemus sylvaticus
Abundant and widespread. Found across all habitats with some cover - woodlands, hedges, fields, gardens etc. In winter it will enter houses, when it can be distinguished from House Mouse by its larger eyes and ears and its paler body colour.
Yellow-necked Mouse Apodemus flavicollis
There is just one record of this principally woodland southern species. Larger and brighter than the Wood Mouse.
Harvest Mouse Micromys minutus
Found at scattered localities in the lowlands. The woven grass nest is the easiest way (especially in winter) to record this species, a lot easier than trying to find the animal itself. Winter nests have been found at Leighton Moss in Reed Canary-grass Phalaris.
House Mouse Mus musculus
Abundant and widespread throughout. Commonly found in greenhouses or outdoors in various habitats especially in the summer. Darker than the Wood Mouse and has the characteristic strong 'mousy' smell.
Common or Brown Rat Rattus norvegicus
Abundant and widespread throughout. This large rodent thrives along watercourses, in barns and across urban areas despite the battle waged against this number one pest.
Ship or Black Rat Rattus rattus
Probably extinct in the area, despite being present from about the 3rd century onwards. It may still be found from ship-borne introductions in to the ports and warehouses of Liverpool. The last known locations in Liverpool (in the late 1970s to early 1980s) were the sites of St John's Market in the City Centre and a warehouse on the Waterloo Dock, now converted into flats - but they were still present in at least one warehouse across the Mersey in Birkenhead as recently as the late 1980s. Identification is not straightforward as there are black forms of Brown Rat.
Common Dormouse Muscardinus avellanarius
Found in the far north of Lancashire in the Silverdale area woodlands. It probably used also to occur in the Ribble Valley.
Fox Vulpes vulpes
Common and widespread in both rural and urban areas. The blood-curdling call of the dog fox is a common sound of late winter nights. Its ability to take a wide variety of foods makes for its success and also the reason (or excuse) for it being so widely hunted. Urban foxes have not been extensively studied in Lancashire but in Wirral a population explosion in the 1970s to 1980s was followed by a crash in the 1990s with the introduction wheelie-bins.
Pine Marten Martes martes
There have been no positive recent identifications in the Silverdale area but there have been several claims; pine Martens were certainly there in the past and may still be. There is one recent record of a corpse from Euxton, near Chorley but this was probably brought in with a load of timber.
Stoat Mustela erminea
Common and widespread throughout the area. This ferocious carnivore is seen in many habitats including green spaces in urban areas. In Lancashire it very rarely gets the white winter coat of ermine.
Weasel Mustela nivalis
Common and widespread throughout, even including town and city cemeteries. This small, but fierce predator survives principally on mice, voles and other small mammals.
Ferret/Ferret Polecat Mustela furo
Escapes are occasionally found at various sites across the region but populations are rarely self-perpetuating without further releases. Some Lancashire records of Polecat are probably Polecat Ferrets.
American Mink Mustela vison
Found throughout most of the region, though it has colonised North Merseyside the least and there are some indications of a recent decline in the north. This fur-farm escape is a fierce waterside carnivore that can decimate small mammal and bird populations and is a major pest species.
Badger Meles meles
Found at scattered localities across the county, though sparser on the Fylde and North Merseyside (where only about three setts are known). Strongholds are in the Ribble and Lune Valleys and the Silverdale/Arnside area. Badger digging/baiting is still locally a major threat. Click here for a linke to the Lancashire Badger Group
Otter Lutra lutra
Found at a few localities across the county especially along the Lune and Ribble. A lone male in 2000 may indicate the first signs of re-colonisation of the Wyre. Numbers crashed throughout England in the 1960s as pesticide residues worked their way up the food chain. Otters were formerly much more widespread in Lancashire and conservation efforts should see them return to many former haunts in the near future. The chance of an otter sighting at dusk used to be a highlight of a trip to Leighton Moss but, unfortunately, they disappeared from the site in 1997, as a result of accidental deaths in eel-fishing nets along with a combination of road and railway fatalities and possibly the effects of an eye disease.
Feral Cat Felis domesticus
A major predator of small mammals and birds along with its domesticated form, some areas have large populations of these cats living wild.
Harbour Seal Phoca vitulina
Very rare in the county with just a handful of records from Morecambe Bay, St. Anne's and Formby.
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus
Frequent along the coast from the Mersey (probably originating from the haul-out site on the West Hoyle Bank in the Dee) to Morecambe Bay and the only sea mammal encountered with any regularity in our area. Occasionally, animals are found several miles up the rivers, guaranteeing attention from the local press. Watch out for the head popping up out of the water at these coastal localities.
Harp Seal Pagophilus groenlandicus
There is just one record of one in Morecambe Bay in either 1868 or 1874.
Fin Whale Balaenoptera physalis
A dead specimen was washed ashore at Seaforth, Merseyside (SJ3297) on 16 July 1985. It had possibly been killed by a ship. The length was 16.15m and a flipper and baleen were preserved in Liverpool Museum (NHM/NML/M.Largen).
An immature female was found dead at Heysham Harbour, Lancs (SD4161) on 27 November 2000. A post mortem carried out showed several factors pointing to a live stranding (R. Deaville pers. comm.). The body weight was 8 tons, according to the crane reading, and the length from tip of upper jaw to tail notch was 11.1m. It was buried on Salt Ayre Tip, Lancaster.
Minke Whale Balaenoptera acutorostrata
This is the commonest of the baleen whales in the Irish Sea. They are not numerous and only recorded sporadically, although better coverage may prove them to be annual visitors.
Three records of specimens washed ashore. A 37-foot animal at Crosby on 26 May 1948, a 32 -foot female Ainsdale on 4 July 1954 and a 16-foot immature animal on 31st July 1971. One entered the Mersey in 1999 and became stranded on mud-flats just south of Liverpool from where it was rescued and successfully encouraged back to sea.
Sei Whale Balaenoptera borealis
An immature swam into the mouth of the River Lune at Sunderland Point, Lancs on 5 September 1980. Sadly, the 7.21m long whale died but the skeleton was preserved and displayed at Lancaster University (Prof. W.T.W. Potts pers. comm.).
The second, an 8 – 10 year old female, was seen swimming up the River Lune but became stranded and died at Pilling Sands on 29 September 2001 (R Stringer, M Jones, S.J.Hayhow et al). The previous day a report of two whales off Walney Island may have involved this individual. The other continued south past Blackpool. (N. Hammond pers. comm.). The following day the carcass had been moved by the tides to 1 km. off Cockersands. No full autopsy was possible but a team from the Natural History Museum took back samples of skin, blubber and muscle tissue for DNA analysis. The thickness and consistency of the blubber suggested that the animal had not fed for some time. Following storms the animal again moved, this time 26 km north 24 hours later off Ulverston. By the 9th it had been washed further up the Leven to Greenodd Sands. The skeleton was salvaged eventually by the Royal Scottish Museum.
Rorqual sp. Balaenoptera sp.
An unidentified 7.5m rorqual was found dead at Wallasey, Wirral on 12 May 1930 (NHM).
Humpback Whale Megaptera novaeangliae
On 17 July 1863 a 9.5m long whale was observed by fishermen stranded on a sandbank at Speke, Merseyside. It later died and the “carcass was purchased by Mr. Brock of Clement Street, Vauxhall Road, who most liberally presented the skeleton to the [Liverpool] Museum, where it was carefully mounted by Mr. Henry Reynolds, the Museum Taxidermist” (Moore, 1889).
The second record was of three seen “leaping and playing” in the lower part of Heysham lake, a quarter of a mile offshore, in late August or September 1938 by Dr. F.W. Hogarth of Morecambe (Ellison, 1959).
Baleen Whale sp. Mysticete sp.
The decayed tail and head of an unknown baleen whale, at least 7m long, was found at Aldingham, Cumbria on 29 Aug 1990 (NHM).
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis
There is one old record from the Lune Estuary and Heysham Harbour in 1944 and one was found dead at Squires Gate on 2 October 1963. Despite the English name this species is infrequently recorded off North-west England but may be increasing in numbers in the southern Irish Sea (Northridge, 1990). When they are seen they may be in larger numbers than other cetaceans as they congregate in large schools. They have also increased further north in the Firth of Clyde but appear to be scarce in the central Irish Sea (Evans et al, 1986). Sheldrick (1976) suggests a northward shift in feeding areas due to changes in prey distribution. On 12 October 1957 Prof. J.D. Craggs et al watched a school of between 20 and 30 making their way up the River Dee in the Swash, the deep-water channel west of Hilbre Island. They were blowing and occasionally leaping clear of the water. About this time herring shoals reappeared in the Dee after an absence of many years (Ellison, 1959).
Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus
This is the most frequently seen dolphin off North-west England with records in most years and a peak in August and September. There is a resident population in the Irish Sea in Cardigan Bay but population trends are not well known. A decline in West Wales in the 1950s and 1960s seemed to accompany an increase off North-west England. Such local changes in numbers make overall population changes difficult to detect with confidence. Stomachs of this species, from North Wales, examined by Moore (1889) contained garfish, gadoids and conger eel. Morris et al (1989) suggest that dolphins in Cardigan Bay feed mainly on pelagic fish such as mackerel, herring, bass and mullet. Recent regular observations off southern Scotland have picked up significant northward movements in January (N. Hammond pers. comm.)
White-beaked Dolphin Lagenorhynchus albirostris
On 29 December 1862 one was discovered stranded at Little Hilbre by the Inspector of Buoys, Mr. Barnett, who had noticed others a few days previously. An attempt to move and save it was unsuccessful as it died eight hours later. It was a male and identification from the skull was confirmed by Dr. Gray at the British Museum. The length from snout to cleft of tail was 2.7m and a full description and measurements are given in Moore (1889). A 2.8m specimen was washed up dead on the shore at St. Annes-on-Sea, Lancs. (SD3129) on 23 October 1911. It was reported by Dr. H.J. Moon, whose description suggests it was “almost certainly” of this species (Coward). More recently a 2.55m. specimen in good condition was found at West Kirby, Merseyside on 28 June 1989 (NHM).
Killer Whale Orcinus orca
Hammond and Lockyer (1988) report this species as occasional in the Irish Sea, mostly in more southerly areas. The earliest record was on 22 March 1876 when a live 8m. cetacean was captured by a couple of Parkgate fishermen at West Kirby, Merseyside. “It still retained some strength, lashing its tail in an alarming manner, and with sufficient violence to break in pieces the iron anchor belonging to the boat”. It was despatched and cut up to extract the oil. A flipper of this male was procured for Liverpool Museum confirming its identification but the bones were lost during the process of maceration (Moore, 1889).
Dr. F.W. Hogarth reported that this species “is seen fairly regularly at the mouth of the Lune” (Ellison, 1959) but the only record to substantiate this statement was an undated report of a fisherman describing a 10m. cetacean with “piebald” colouration jumping 1.5m. out of the water. In 2001 a dead 5.9m. specimen was washed up on a sandbank in the River Mersey near Speke. It was emaciated and in poor condition and probably died due to old age.
Risso's Dolphin Grampus griseus
One 3.5m. long was found dead at Widnes on 10 December 1939. Dr. F.W. Hogarth watched three from the end of Morecambe Central Pier in 1946. There are three reliable records from the north end of Hilbre Island: five on 14 April 1967 (Prof. J.D. Craggs et al), three Risso’s with one Common Dolphin on 21 April 1974 (J.C. Gittens et al) attracted by a surface shoal of fish, and one with a Bottle-nosed Dolphin on 3 May 1975 (J.C. Gittens et al).
More recently this species was reported off Blackpool with five on 28 July 1985, six on 9 August 1987 and three on 23 June 1991 (M. Jones pers. comm.).
Long-finned Pilot Whale Globicephala melaena
Northridge (1990) describes this species as ‘not common in the Irish Sea’ but numbers have increased in the North East Atlantic over recent decades (Evans,1987). Both records were in 1988. One was found dead half a mile offshore at Hoylake, Merseyside on 5 June. It was a 4.5m long female and an autopsy was carried out by Dr John Baker. On 10 August, six were watched entering the Mersey on the ebbing tide. They were feeding avidly and were watched for over 30 minutes down to 200m. They reached New Brighton before heading back out to sea, although came close to stranding on Mockbeggar Wharf/East Hoyle Bank (S. White et al).
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena
The Harbour Porpoise is the smallest and most frequently seen cetacean along the coast of North-west England. There are regular records each year and in all months. They rarely exceed 2 metres in length and breed from May to August, with newly-born young being found dead along our coastline. There are no estimates of population size in the Irish Sea and no distinct peak in sightings. Northridge (1990) reports a peak in March but records suggest a later peak in the period June to October, more typical of other British coasts. Coward (1910) includes a shrimper’s account of a “great shoal extending for fully three miles off the NW lightship” and local fishermen reported “dozens” or “hundreds” just offshore to Ellison (1959). There is no doubt that current numbers must be well down on those for the early twentieth century. Occasional individuals used to stray up rivers, to Latchford Weir, Warrington and Eastham on the Mersey and Chester on the Dee.
The lack of high cliffs and high viewpoints on the Lancashire and Merseyside coasts has almost certainly led to an underestimation of numbers of what is a very inconspicuous animal in our waters. A clue to actual numbers came from the CCW Common Scoter aerial survey in winter 2000-2001, which recorded six sightings off the Fylde Coast, five of them on a single day.
Northern Bottlenose Whale Hyperoodon ampulatus
Just two Lancashire records of this deep-water specialist; a 21 foot male was washed up on Ainsdale beach on 23 October 1942 and one was stranded in the Mersey on 15 September 1953. There are no published live sightings, although December 1976 and December 2002 have seen marked southerly movements off southern Scotland. July 2003 saw another movement, well spread out and all moving north, including singles off Blackpool and just into Morecambe Bay Therefore, the lack of records may be down to lack of observer coverage but it is anticipated that there will be further records in our waters in the near future. Additional unpublished records are held by the Solway Shark Watch and Sea Mammal Survey. (N. Hammond pers. comm.).
Red Deer Cervus elaphus
A few park herds are found at scattered localities across the county, while wild animals are found relatively commonly in the Leighton Moss/Silverdale area.
Sika Deer Cervus nippon
There is a long-standing herd in the Ribblesdale area from Ribchester to Bolton-by-Bowland and adjacent parts of the Ribble Valley. There have also been sightings of a male at Lytham Hall from 1959-1962, Gresgarth Hall, Caton, Lancaster in the 1950s-1960s.
Fallow Deer Cervus dama
A few of the park deer of some of the major estates occasionally escape into the surrounding countryside. There is a long-established feral population on Yealand Moss and surrounding areas, including Leighton Moss, and often up to 50 can be seen. A buck wandering the streets of north Liverpool on the morning of 29 October 1971 - until it broke its leg on hitting a car - was an unusual city sight!
Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus
Sparsely scattered across the area from North Merseyside to Bowland but reasonably common in the Silverdale area of north Lancashire.
Muntjac Muntiacus reevesi
This dog-sized introduced deer is undoubtedly spreading in the region. It was probably established in the Ribble Valley by the 1980s and there have been several sightings at Fazakerley in north Liverpool between 1997 and 2000 and recent claims in the Silverdale area.
Muskrat Ondatra zibethicus- one killed by a dog at Freshfield, Formby in May 1931 was obviously a fur-farm escape.
Wild Cat Felis silvestris - just the one doubtful record of a pair shot near Carnforth in October 1922.