Searches for wildlife trails in the UK have increased by 3,600% recently, according to outdoor experts Millets.
The experts said: “While we tend to associate the UK with its beautiful landscapes and historic landmarks, there is another extraordinary biodiversity that thrives within its borders – it’s its rare and elusive animal inhabitants!
“From majestic birds to secretive mammals, the UK is a place where incredible animals live.
“In the past, many of these species were commonly found in Britain, but due to environmental and other factors, their populations have sadly declined.”
With this in mind, Millets has put together a list of the UK’s eight rarest wildlife species, along with where to find them and how they became so rare.
The 8 rarest animals in the UK and where to find them
From the Scottish wildcat to the turtle pigeon, these are the eight rarest wildlife species in the UK, according to the experts at Millets.
Where to find them: Dumfries, Galloway, Northumberland, Lake District, Isle of Wight
Red squirrels are one of the UK’s best-known creatures, but also one of the UK’s rarest animals, according to the experts at Millets.
The outdoor brand said: “Around 75% of red squirrels can be found in Scotland, especially in the forests of Dumfries and Galloway.
“Previously extremely common, there are only around 120,000 red squirrels in the UK, compared to the staggering 2.5 million gray squirrels we have today.”
Fantastic news, we’ve had 15,000 recorded squirrel sightings so far in 2023! 🥳🥳🥳
A big thank you for reporting your sightings – they are critical to red squirrel conservation efforts and make all the difference 🥰🐿
Register all gray or red squirrels here: https://t.co/0QsDhHBIh9 pic.twitter.com/m7kgpUIK8e
— Saving Scotland’s red squirrels (@ScotSquirrels) November 10, 2023
Millets said there were several causes for the decline of red squirrels in the UK, mainly competition from gray squirrels that were introduced from North America.
If you spot a red squirrel in Scotland, you can report your sightings online to the Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrels campaign.
Where to find them: Badenoch, Strathspey, Cairngorms National Park
The capercaillie is a large bird, about the size of a turkey, that can be found in the native pine forests of Scotland.
The capercaillie was extinct in the UK until the 1830s, before others were brought from Sweden and reintroduced to Scotland.
But the bird is on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in the UK, with fewer than 2,000 remaining.
Where to find them: Dorset, Hampshire, Surrey, West Sussex, Lancashire
Sand lizards are one of the rarest reptiles in the UK, according to experts at Millets.
They are found on sand dunes and dry moors, but there are only a few colonies in the UK.
Millets said: “In the 1970s, 39 sand lizards were released by scientists to see if they could survive in colder temperatures further north.
“Evidently, this experiment was somewhat successful, as the sand lizard colony still exists today.”
The reptiles have also been introduced to other areas of southern England, Lancashire, Wales and the Isle of Coll in Scotland.
Where to find them: Merseyside, Cumbria, Scottish Solway
The Natterjack frog is one of the UK’s largest and rarest amphibians, Millets said.
They are found along the coast of the UK because they prefer shallow waters in sand dunes, heaths and salt marshes as warm water is required for these frogs to breed.
The outdoor experts added: “They can be identified by a thin bold yellow stripe down the middle of their back and the strange way they walk on their short legs rather than jumping.
“They are named for the males’ distinctive call, which can be heard up to a kilometer away during spring.”
Marta do Pinheiro
Where to find them: Scottish Highlands, Forest of Dean, New Forest
Pine Martens belong to the family of mammals known as mustelids, which include weasels, otters, badgers, ferrets, mink and other similar species.
About the size of a domestic cat, these mammals have a long, furry body, pointed blubber, and long, bushy tails.
They can be identified by their dark brown fur and cream markings on their neck and chest, Millets explained.
The experts added: “Once the second most common carnivore in the UK, pine martens are now a rare and special sight.”
Small turtle butterfly
Where to find them: Most regions of the UK
Although the little tortoiseshell butterfly is one of the most common butterflies seen across the UK in spring and autumn, in recent years their numbers have declined significantly, according to Millets.
The number of small turtle butterflies has fallen by more than 75% since 1976 and conservation efforts are being made to create and maintain suitable habitats for them.
Speaking about the rare species, Millets said: “The distinctive black and orange markings on the wings of small tortoiseshell butterflies help them disguise themselves from predators, but it is also how they can be distinguished by wildlife observers.”
Where to find them: Scottish Highlands
The Scottish Wildcat, also known as the Highland Tiger, is a critically endangered species native to the mountainous areas of Scotland.
It is one of the UK’s most elusive and rare animals, making encounters with these creatures incredibly rare, according to experts at Millets.
These wild cats are mainly found in regions of the Scottish Highlands, such as the Cairngorms National Park and the Isle of Mull.
Millets said: “Unfortunately, Scottish wildcats face a number of problems resulting in a smaller population, including deforestation, human interference and even hybridization (where wildcats breed with domestic cats).
“Many conservation efforts are being made to protect and restore Scottish wildcat habitats, including breeding programs, in the hope that this beautiful and unique species can be protected and enjoyed by future generations.”
Where to find them: East Anglia, Suffolk, Southern England
The Turtle Dove is a migratory bird that visits the UK during the summer months.
They are mainly found living in forests, hedgerows and farmland in the southern and eastern regions of the United Kingdom and Wales, according to Millets.
Turtle doves have become increasingly rare in recent decades, despite once being a common sight in the UK.
Millets added: “Like many of the creatures on this list, doves have suffered from the loss of their natural habitats.
“Intensive agriculture and the destruction of wildflowers have made it difficult for these peaceful birds to nest and breed.”
Turtle doves are recognizable by their soft, purring call and soft gray-brown plumage.
They stand out from other similar species of birds thanks to the black and white striped spot on the side of their neck.
If you spot any of these rare creatures in the UK, “keep a safe distance and do not disturb them”, the experts at Millets added.