National Mammal week

Close up photo of a Dormouse in a hand

Hazel Dormouse

Isle of Wight woodlands are unique in Britain as they contain both hazel dormice and red squirrels without the influence of grey squirrels or deer. This tiny nocturnal mammal is nationally rare and is found in around 70% of Island woods in suitable habitat. They can also be found in scrub, hedgerows and even gardens. These gold-coloured rodents feed on small insects, seeds, fruit and nuts but they hibernate in the winter (November to April). Positive woodland management is essential for the survival of these species to maintain the wide range of seasonal foods that they need to fatten up for their winter sleep. Although protected by law, loss of connections between woods, neglect of coppiced woodland, predation by wild animals and pets and lack of autumn food to fatten up in the winter are the major threats to their survival. We are celebrating nationally rare, protected and declining mammals that thrive in the Isle of Wight National Landscape.


The Isle of Wight is home to a wide variety of bat (15 species) which live in woods, houses, caves and barns. Hibernating in the winter, they appear in spring feeding on airborne insects. Our woodlands are important for rare populations of Bechstein and Barbastelle bats while houses shelter grey-long eared bats. The only mammals that truly fly, bats are nocturnal, using echolocation rather than sight to ‘see’ their way and to hunt in woods, gardens and the wider countryside. Threats include loss of standing deadwood (some live in holes in dead and decaying trees), neglect of woodland management, loss of woodland connections and hedgerows and predation by wild animals and pets. Protected by law there are a number of local experts and organisations looking after bats in both urban and rural environments.

Water vole

The Isle of Wight’s rivers and watercourses are a national stronghold for this rare and protected mammal species, the Water Vole. Active all year round they live close to water, burrowing into riverbanks and grasses and sedges and small insects. Once found in all our watercourses the water vole populations have declined but, without the non-native mink, the populations are still thriving in some places such as the east Yar valley. Threats include neglect of riverbank management, predation from wild animals and pets and reduction in water quality. Positive action is being taken by local wildlife charities to enhance the habitats for water voles in our Island rivers through active management and talking to landowners and farmers.


Although seen in visiting estuaries for some time now, this rare and protected mammal has recently returned to the Island’s rivers after a long absence. Related to weasels, stoats and badgers, the otter needs larger rivers with good fish populations to thrive and following positive management in the east Yar valley they returned to the river in 2020. Mainly nocturnal and feeding on fish and small animals in the river, the otter needs a ‘holt’, shelter under tree roots or large holes in the river bank. Last known to breed at Newtown in 1957 it is hoped that the otter will breed again on the Isle of Wight soon. Threats include neglect of river management, poor water quality and lack of fish prey and the permanent return of the otter is still far from certain. Local and national organisations work with farmers and landowners to look after the otters on the Isle of Wight and are working to keep them here.


On final day of National Mammal week we celebrate the Hedgehog. This distinctive mammal living on the Isle of Wight can be found in both urban and rural areas. Feeding on insects, earthworms and slugs, hedgehog numbers have declined on the Island due to indiscriminate pesticide use as well as habitat loss and fragmentation. Threats include predation by badgers and pets, intensive farming and gardening with high pesticide use and the increase of development. Local charities and national organisations work together on the Island to raise awareness about the populations of hedgehogs and to talk to farmers, landowners and gardeners on environmentally-sensitive alternatives in management techniques.