BRITAIN'S UNEXPECTED WILD ANIMALS

When you GetOutside in the UK, it would be unsurprising if you were to see native birds, squirrels and rabbits, as well as the odd roe deer or badger if you keep your eyes peeled. But you can also expect to see the unexpected, it just depends on where you look.

Across the UK there is a fantastic diversity of animals living on our doorstep that many people do not even know they can see.

If you happen to find yourself in any of these locations, see if you can find the unexpected.

 
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Wallabies: Inchconnachan Island, Loch Lomond, Scotland (and others)

Wallabies look like kangaroos, but are smaller – generally around knee height. They are marsupials, carrying their young in pouches, and originate on the eastern coast of Australia.

You can find red-necked wallabies living wild on a small island in the middle of Loch Lomond. They were deliberately introduced by a previous owner, Lady Arran Colquhoun, in the 1920s and have successfully lived there since.

Wallabies are living elsewhere as well: there is a small colony on the Isle of Man (descended from a pair that escaped a local wildlife park), and there have been occasional sightings in Ashdown Forest, Norfolk, Buckinghamshire and the Peak District.

www.loch-lomond.net

www.roaches.org.uk/wallabies

 
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Wild Boar: Exmoor, New Forest and East Sussex

Wild Boar were hunted to extinction in the UK several centuries ago – but escapees from farms are recolonising some of the areas they vanished from. Not everyone is happy – a sounder of boars can make a mess if they get into a garden, and they can be aggressive to walkers straying onto their territory.

With males weighing more than the average human and sporting some nasty tusks, it’s best to keep a reasonable distance.

However, you can’t deny that the striped piglets, born in spring, rate very highly on the cute scale.

www.britishwildboar.org.uk

 
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Striped Skunk: Forest of Dean

Thought to be escaped or released pets, the Striped Skunk is best known for being able to squirt really nasty smelling liquid at anything it considers a threat.

Aside from the smell, they apparently make good pets, as they are easy to train and care for, but removal of their scent glands was banned in the UK in 2007, leaving only those willing to deal with a smell that’s a cross between garlic, burning sulphur and sewer gas as potential owners.

If you do spot a skunk, we’d suggest you do not startle them, and keep any dogs well away unless you want to go home with all the windows open.

www.telegraph.co.uk/skunk-pack

 
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Snapping Turtle: freshwater lakes         and ponds

There’s actually two quite different species competing for the title. The Common Snapping Turtle can grow up to 50cm long and averages 6kg, while the monster Alligator Snapping Turtle can grow up to 80cm, and weigh more than an adult human.

Both species are known for aggression and a powerful bite. Luckily those found so far in the UK are fairly small escaped or released pets, but as they continue to grow throughout their lives they can get very large indeed.

If you do happen to come across one keep your fingers well away!

BBC: Angler pulls in four-stone turtle at Solihull reservoir

Independent: Look out! Abandoned terrapins about

 
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Chinese mitten          crab: River Thames

The freshwater Chinese Mitten crab most likely hitched a lift in trading ships bilge tanks, and first appeared in the Thames in 1935. It has now spread to other rivers including Humber, Medway, Tyne, Wharfe and Ouse – their ability to cover large distances on land has helped them spread effectively.

They are named after their distinctive hairy pincers (they have hairy legs too), are a dark olive green and can grow up to 8cm wide.

They can cause considerable damage as they burrow into soft river banks and disrupt local ecosystems, so if you spot one you are asked to report it at mittencrabs.org.uk.

One possible solution: in China they are seen as a delicacy, and they apparently make a decent soup.

Get the recipe here

 
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Asian longhorn           beetle: Kent

This beetle has long, striped antenna that can be up to twice as long as the 2cm to 4cm body. They are black or very dark brown with white spots, and are native to China and south-east Asia.

While harmless to humans, they do have a taste for deciduous trees. The adult beetles lay eggs on the bark which hatch into larvae, who then will chew their way into the tree, often killing it. The larva leave large exit holes, around 1cm across, considerably bigger than most native species.

Due to the damage they can cause to forestry, anyone spotting a beetle or the distinctive holes is asked to report it to the Forestry commission

BBC: Environmental teams tackle outbreak of tree-killing beetle