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Woodland Animals

Pembrokeshire has an abundance of wildlife among its breath-taking landscapes and wonderful wooded areas.

Badgers, foxes and deer are common sights away from our shores, while you might even be lucky enough to spot a short-eared owl or a Skomer vole during your stay at Bluestone. Here are some species you should look out for.

 

Badgers

It may surprise some people to know that badgers are first cousins to otters, polecats, weasels, ferrets and mink. The species we know in this country is the European Badger. They have short, fat bodies about the same size as a collie dog, and short, powerful legs adapted for digging. They like to root around in the earth with their noses like pigs and this has given rise to their Welsh name, mochyn daear – meaning earth pig.

Half a century ago badger hunting was legal and, if a farmer felt the population on his farm was getting out of hand, he called in the badger teams. Nowadays badger hunting is outlawed and badgers are protected.

 

Red Fox

Of the 37 species of mammal known worldwide as foxes only 12 actually belong to the true fox family of vulpes which includes wolves, jackals and some wild dogs. And by far the most widespread and common species is the red fox, which inhabits large areas of Europe, including the UK, and is a cunning and controversial creature.

Unlike its cousins the wolves and jackals, the red fox is not a pack animal, preferring to live in small family groups. The fox is an opportunistic feeder hunting live prey like rodents such as rats, mice and rabbits, and also varying its diet with fruit, berries, reptiles, birds’ eggs, young birds, beetles and other insects like grasshoppers.

 

Roe Deer

The roe deer has spread in recent years after almost becoming extinct in Wales and has been seen as far south west as the Pembrokeshire border with Ceredigion. There are six types of deer living in the UK - roe, red, sika, fallow, Reeve’s muntjac and Chinese water deer - but only the roe and red are native, fallow having been introduced twice and the others escaped or released alien species. There are also reindeer on private estates, mostly in Scotland, and at some zoological theme parks such as Manor Park, near Tenby.

Unlike the red deer, fallow and sika deer, the stags of which breeds have magnificent antlers, the roe deer males have short, straight antlers and are quite small, with a body length of 3.1 to 4.4 ft, a shoulder height of about 2.5 ft and a weight of between 33 and 37lb. Roe deer actually became extinct in England and Wales during the 18th century but survived in remote wooded parts of the central and north west highlands of Scotland.

They have been reintroduced in the south of the UK and the estimated population is now around 500,000 in this country.

 

Short-Eared Owls

Skomer Island is a favourite haunt of the short-eared owl, which should come as no surprise as this particular species of owl loves voles, and the unique ‘skomer vole’ is bigger than its mainland cousins. Summer visitors to the island may be lucky enough to spot an owl quartering low over the central plain, its moth-like or bat-like erratic flight distinctive.

This floppy flight action is due to its irregular wingbeats and it flies only a foot or two above the ground. from which height its sudden appearance takes its prey by surprise. It prefers voles but will also take young rabbits, long-tailed field mice, young birds, beetles and grasshoppers. Although it is mainly nocturnal the short-eared owl hunts in broad daylight during periods of high activity among voles and young rabbits.

During his time on Skomer Island the naturalist and author Ronald Lockley wrote of many sightings of long-eared owls and noted their behavioural idiosyncrasies, such as their strange and striking ‘song-flight’ recorded in April, in both morning and evening.

 

Voles

Islands have a habit of coming up with distinctive species due to their isolation from mainland creatures of the same kind. The Skomer Vole was first identified on Skomer Island in 1897 and trapping exercises over the years show the population of voles on Skomer is between 17,000 and 27,000, with around 140 per acre in the more densely populated areas - so the Skomer Vole seems to be thriving!

 

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