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Mammals

Wild mammals can be tricky to spot and often requires patience and sensitivity but the rewards can be breath-taking. A quiet walk through the forest might just result in a magical encounter with one of the many deer that thrive across the National Park.

The National Park is also a battleground for some of our native mammals like the red squirrel that is now starting to win the war against the invading greys. Read on to find out how to give your customers the best chance of seeing our native mammals in their natural habitat.

Badger

Badger

Why is it special?

Although a very sociable character, badgers are very difficult to spot in the wild, preferring to spend a great deal of time underground in their networks of tunnels or setts. A protected species, it’s important to keep a safe distance for any badgers  and take care not to disturb them.

When to see

All year round.

Where to see

Widespread across woodland and farmland in the National Park.

Best conditions and time of day

Dawn and dusk.

How to recognise

Distinctive black and white faces.

Difficulty rating

Difficult.

How to support visitors to see it

Visitors are more likely to see signs of badgers in the area as opposed to the badgers themselves. Familiarise yourself with badger tracks and scout out your local area for signs of activity.

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Bat

Common pipistrelle bat

Why is it special?

The only mammal to achieve true flight, bats are very common throughout the National Park, particularly the pipistrelle varieties. These charismatic creatures are hard working from dusk onwards, leaving en masse to devour up to 3,000 midges each per night!

When to see

All year round.

Where to see

Woodland edges, around buildings and streams.

Best conditions and time of day

Easy, particularly in summer months.

How to recognise

It’s very difficult to distinguish between different species of bat while they swoop and dive from their roosts around the Park. But there’s no mistaking the distinctive movements and high pitched squeaks of a bat.

Difficulty rating

Easy, particularly in summer months.

How to support visitors to see it

It should be relatively straight forward to identify nearby locations of bat roosts for you to direct visitors to. Find a nice spot (perhaps near a pub with a beer garden) and encourage them to seek out this nightly spectacle.

Further information & advice

For information about bat counts and locations visit: https://www.bats.org.uk/.

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Beaver

Beaver © SNH

Why is it special?

The Beaver had been extinct in Scotland for 400 years until they were recenlty re-established in the wild. Because of their potential impacts on the landscape (building dams and flooding areas) they are not loved by all but there is no denying their appeal to visitors. They are also considered “ecosystem engineers” meaning that they can have a very positive impact on multiple species around them.

When to see

All year round.

Where to see

Along water courses and lochs in the north and east of the National Park and in scrubby woodland particularly around the rivers Tay and Forth.

Best conditions and time of day

Before sunrise and after sunset.

How to recognise

Although large and distinctive, beavers are notoriously difficult to spot.  They do tend to leave lots of evidence around though. Look out for the typical gnaw marks on tree stumps and dams in rivers and streams in your area.

Difficulty rating

Very difficult.

How to support visitors to see it

Beaver have been spotted in the north east corner of the National Park, but it’s best to be realistic with visitors and let them know they probably won’t see them out and about. Instead, find out from https://www.scottishbeavers.org.uk/ if there is any activity in your area and encourage visitors to look out for the distinctive signs beaver leave behind.

Further information & advice

Find out more about beavers – https://www.scottishbeavers.org.uk/.

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Deer

Roe deer © SNH

The National Park is home to three species of deer:

  • Red: The largest of our deer species, red deer can be found in woodland, moorlands and all over our mountains. The males have very large, branched antlers and in summer their coats turn a deep red colour.
  • Fallow: A less well spread species of deer, roe are thriving around east Loch Lomond and its islands. Smaller than the red and larger than the roe, male fallow deer are easily recognised by their distinctive moose-like antlers that are filled in, rather than the typical branched shape and the distinctive white spots on their rumps. Fallow deer swim between the islands of Loch Lomond and are often seen by visitors on loch cruises.
  • Roe: The smallest of the native deer in the Park, roe deer have short antlers and keen browsers, picking out fresh green shoots, shrubs and herbs rather than grazing on grass like the red and fallow deer.  Roe will often be seen in in low lying areas in farmland and forest.

Why is it special?

A seemingly magical encounter with a deer on a quiet woodland walk can leave a lasting experience on a visitor while the shotgun crack of the males butting heads during the rut is one our most dramatic natural spectacles. Deer are not difficult to find in the Park, and it’s important to be extra vigilant at dawn and dusk when deer can often cause problems on our roads.

When to see

All year round but rut in late September – early November.

Where to see

Woodland is a good bet for spotting deer in the Park, but roe deer can often be seen browsing on open farmland and red deer can be clearly visible on mountainsides. Look out for fallow deer swimming between islands on Loch Lomond.

Best conditions and time of day

Dawn and dusk.

How to recognise

The males of each species are sometimes easier to tell apart due to their different antler types – Red have large branched antlers, fallow have flat, moose like antlers and roe have small, horn-like antlers. Red deer are quite noticeably large, while roe deer can be as small as a large dog.

Difficulty rating

Easy.

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Pine marten

Pine marten © SNH

Why is it special?

This charismatic cat sized member of the weasel family plays a very important role in the National Park. In addition to its own appeal, the pine marten is helping our native red squirrels to take back their habitats from the invading grey squirrel. The pine marten finds it very difficult to catch the smaller, lighter red squirrel, but is able to keep up with the heavier, less nimble grey.

When to see

All year round.

Where to see

Widespread in woodlands around the National Park.

Best conditions and time of day

Pine marten are most active at night time and so can be difficult to spot.  It is worth checking for signs of pine marten if you have a peanut bird feeder in your garden. If you suspect you are being visited by a pine marten it may be worth investing in a camera trap to help engage your visitors.

How to recognise

Distinctive creamy bib.

Difficulty rating

Difficult.

How to support visitors to see it

May turn up at garden peanut feeders.

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Red squirrel

Red squirrel © SNH

Why is it special?

Our native red squirrel is perhaps the most charismatic of our woodland residents, and they are fighting back after losing ground to the invading grey squirrel. Grey squirrels carry a nasty disease that is fatal for red squirrels but doesn’t affect the greys. Since greys arrived from America in the 1870’s they have dominated large swathes of the country. But in Scotland the reds are pushing back to the extent that most of the National Park is now home to more reds than greys.

Their tufty ears and striking colour make them easily recognisable from their larger grey cousins, and will delight visitors with their acrobatics near bird feeders and sources of food.

When to see

All year round.

Where to see

Woodlands and gardens.

Best conditions and time of day

Any time of the day.

How to recognise

Smaller than grey squirrels, tufty ears and a striking red colour.

Difficulty rating

Medium.

How to support visitors to see it

As part of conservation efforts, red squirrel sightings are mapped out across Scotland so you can easily see where they are active.  You can encourage visitors to report any sightings through this website too. https://scottishsquirrels.org.uk/squirrel-sightings/.

Further information & advice

Woodland bird hides with feeders are excellent locations to spot red squirrels.  If you have access to a garden near woodland, consider creating a squirrel friendly feed station.

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Seal

Seals © SNH

Why is it special?

The sea lochs around the Cowal peninsula attracts both common seals and the larger grey seal. The coasts of Scotland are the main habitat for seals in the UK. Exposed rocks are a favourite resting spot for seals to bask in the sun.

When to see

All year round.

Where to see

Ardgartan and Holy Loch.

Best conditions and time of day

Any time of the day.

How to recognise

When out of the water, seals are easy to recognise for most visitors. The male common seal can grow to 1.45 metres in length while the grey seal can be as large as 2 metres and weigh up to 300kg.

Difficulty rating

Difficult.

How to support visitors to see it

Seal spotting can be rewarding. Get to know your local sea lochs and areas where seals have been spotted.  Holy Loch and Loch Long are popular areas for visiting seals.

Further information & advice

Seals are a protected species, visitors should be encouraged to keep their distance and avoid disturbing them.

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Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises

Dolphins © SNH

Why is it special?

The West coast is home to the largest density of porpoises in Scotland and they frequently travel to inland sea lochs to fish. On occasion minke whales and bottlenose dolphins will also make an appearance.

When to see

All year round.

Where to see

Holy Loch and Ardgarten.

Best conditions and time of day

Calm days with still waters make spotting fins much easier.

How to recognise

Look out for dorsal fins and plumes of water from blowholes.

Difficulty rating

Difficult (depends on feeding habits on any given day).

How to support visitors to see it

Binoculars are a must.  Consider following social media feeds that report whale and dolphin sightings in your area.

Further information & advice

If you are referring customers to a sealife watching tour, it is recommended you work with those accredited with the Wise Scheme that helps prevent disturbance to marine wildlife: https://www.wisescheme.org/.

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