There is a wide diversity of animals on the Commons. In recent years birds, and now insects, have been recorded systematically. Aside from Bats, mammal records derive from the ad hoc observations from visitors and staff; fish similarly.
If you have any historical for these groups on the Commons, or spot unusual mammal of fish visitors, do let us know. Contact the wildlife and Conservation Officer, Peter Haldane at the Ranger’s Office.
To the best of our knowledge, there are some 17 badger setts on the Commons. Badgers (Meles meles) are members of the weasel family (the Mustelidae), a group of small to medium-sized mammals with longish bodies carried on short legs. They include weasels, stoats, polecats, pinemartens and otters. None of the others are to be found on the Commons unfortunately.
Badgers are known for their digging skills, their strong claws providing the perfect digging tool. In the wild, they will usually live up to 5 to 7 years. Social with each other, they live in large groups usually led by a dominant male. Badgers are rarely seen during the day and spend most of their lives below ground.
Badgers are omnivores, meaning they will eat a wide range of plants and animals. Their diet varies depending on the time of year and what food they can find as they forage. They are not hunters so will take advantage of whatever food they come across.
Persecuted for hundreds of years, badgers and their setts are now protected by law and it is illegal to kill or injure a badger, or to damage or disturb their setts. This is particularly important for dog-walkers as it is also illegal to allow a dog to enter a sett.
The small mammal populations of the Commons have not been extensively studied in recent years. Among those known to be present are:
Mole Talpa europaea
Common Shrew Sorex araneus
Pygmy Shrew Sorex minutus
Rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus
Grey Squirrel Sciurus carolinensis
Bank Vole Clethrionomys glareolus
Field Vole Microtus agrestis
Wood Mouse Apodemus sylvaticus
House Mouse Mus musculus
Common Rat Rattus norvegicus
These small mammals are a vital component of the food chains supporting birds of prey and larger predatory mammals, most obviously foxes. Rabbit population numbers on the Commons fluctuate considerably from year to year, influenced by recurrent outbreaks of myxomatosis, as well as predation. Rabbits can easily be spotted grazing in grassy areas, especially at dawn and dusk. Their activities help to keep the sward short and prevent the spread of woody saplings into open areas.
Hedgehogs have not been seen living on the Commons for many years, though they are known to be present in gardens nearby. Hedgehog populations in the UK have declined nationally and their conservation is now actively promoted.
Stoats too have not been seen for many years,
A community of predatory and scavenging mammals is also present, testifying to abundant food sources and suitable habitats, These include
Fox Vulpes vulpes
Weasel Mustela nivalis
Ferret (feral) Mustela furo
Cat (feral) Felis catus
Womble Womblus commonus subsp.litterpickerus
Perhaps surprisingly, deer are rarely seen on the Commons, with the occasional sightings of Muntjac Muntiacus reevisi the only recent records. Grazing livestock, which were historically important on the Commons, are no longer present.
The Bat Conservation Trust carried out a comprehensive survey of bats on the Commons in 2013. Basing themselves at the Beverley Brook at the Richardson Evans memorial Playing Fields, they were amazed to find that the bats were using the Beverley Brook tunnel under the A3 to move between the Commons and Richmond Park.
Over 6 evenings of trapping, the following species were recorded:
- Common Pipistrelle Pipistrellus pipistrellus
- Soprano Pipistrelle Pipistrellus pygmaeus
- Nathusius Pipistrelle Pipistrellus nathusii
- Daubenton’s bat Myotis daubentonii
- Brown long-eared bat Plecotus auritus
- Noctule Bat Nyctalus noctula
- Natterer’s Bat Myotis natteri
- Leisler’s bat – (Nyctalus leisleri)
In 2007 the following bats were also recorded, but not caught, as part of the 2013 trapping surveys.
- Whiskered Bat Myotis mystacinus
- Serotine Bat Eptesicus serotinus
Horses, dogs and people - recreational mammals
The Commons are extensively used by recreational animals and these too have an impact, as do humans. Obvious impacts include soiling and nutrient enrichment, litter, and soil compaction leading to puddling on some heavily used rides. Puddling in turn leads to path widening and erosion as walkers try to avoid muddy , waterlogged areas.
Amphibians, reptiles and fish
In 2015 we started more systematic monitoring of reptile and amphibian populations, so we should soon have new data to share. Known to be present are:
Common Toad Bufo bufo
Common Frog Rana temporaria
Smooth Newt Triturus vulgaris
Terrapin - Red-eared slider Trachenys scripta elegans
Grass Snake Natrix natrix
Common Lizard Lacerta vivipara
There are no records for adders
Common Carp Cyprinus carpio
Mirror Carp Cyprinus var
Grass Carp Ctenopharyngodan idella
Golden Rudd Scardinus erythrophthalmus
Bream Abramis brama
Perch Perca fluviatilis
Pike Esox lucius
Eel Anguila anguila
Goldfish Carassius sp
Tench Tinca tinca
5-Spine Stickleback Gasterosteus aculeatus