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Twenty-five percent of Britain’s native mammal species at risk of extinction

Greater mouse eared bat

A new, regional, Red List of endangered species has been drawn up by the Mammal Society. It meets the international standards and criteria used to assess threats to wildlife in general. I wonder whether this has been borne out of frustration with the IUCN Red List which appears to under-classify many species, by which I mean they appear to classify species as not threatened when they actually are perhaps due to lobbying from sport hunting clubs which are wealthy.

Scottish wild cat hybrids

Scottish wild cat hybrids. In public domain.

Hedgehogs, red squirrels and water voles and, from my perspective, importantly the wild cats of Scotland, have become endangered (the wildcat is arguably already extinct). The threats come from various sources such as historical persecution, the use of chemicals, the loss of habitat, the introduction of non-native species and in respect of the Scottish wildcat, hybridisation through mating with feral and outdoor domestic cats. Arguably, the Scottish wildcat is already extinct in the wild because the individual cats who are roaming around Scotland or parts of it are actually hybrid animals having mated with outside domestic or feral cats. They look very similar to the original article.

European hedgehog

European hedgehog. Photo in public domain.

We are told that there is only one known individual of the greater mouse-eared bat. Clearly that species is as good as extinct. Hedgehogs and hazel dormice are classified as vulnerable to extinction. Mountain hares, harvest mice and three other species have been classified as threatened.

Greater mouse eared bat

Greater mouse eared bat. Photo in public domain.

The report found that hedgehog populations have fallen by 70% in 20 years. Beavers have been reintroduced into the UK after being hunted to extinction by the 1600s. They are, however, classified as endangered which is the second most threatened category. The same classification has been conferred on water voles, grey long-eared bats and red squirrels.

Prof. Fiona Matthews, the chairwoman of the Mammal Society, said that the Red List indicated that there was a need for changes to the planning system. She wants the monitoring of habitat and funding for habitat creation. Once a species has become endangered conservationists play a rearguard action. There is pressure on time to rescue the species from extinction.

The professor said that the only hope for Scotland’s wildcat was in captive breeding and possible reintroductions. Comment: there will also be a need to manage feral cats in Scotland. In an ideal world the only way to save the Scottish wildcat would be to keep all domestic cats in Scotland inside and to eradicate all the feral cats in that country. This is impractical. Therefore, I conclude that the only way to save the Scottish wildcat from extinction is to presume that they are extinct in the wild and conserve them in captivity. That is a very poor outcome but I don’t see any other.

This appears to be a specialist regional Red List and it was prepared by the Mammal Society for UK’s government agencies: Natural England, Natural Resources Wales, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee.