Large Mammals in Birmingham and Black Country
Although mammals are often not easily seen, an ever widening variety is present in this area.
Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) are well known as urban wildlife and can become very close to human contact. Often, they will occupy a den created by digging out under a shed or hole in a bank. They particularly like overgrown gardens and open space corridors along canal and railway lines with plenty of cover in the form of tall herb, long grass and scrub.
The key to their presence is a quiet and undisturbed location for their den or earth.
Foxes will use a wide variety of foods including worms from lawns at night, any rats, mice and voles, takeaway scraps and even fruit in the autumn.
The best time to see foxes is often at dawn or dusk when they are out hunting. However when young are present at den sites, activity includes food brought back to the den, holes dug in lawns and borders and pungent marking and droppings. Often people become quite upset about them and even worry they will harm pets and children. The reality is that foxes are easily frightened off and will not harm people or pets (though obviously rabbits and chickens would be in danger).
Many people enjoy seeing their local foxes and even feed them and it is surprising how “tame” foxes will become if they realise that they are not in danger.
Other large mammals are becoming more widespread and observed in this area including badgers, deer and even otters.
Badgers (Meles meles) are becoming more quite widespread and in urban areas they seem to be "more fluid" in their activities than in the wider countryside. Territories are occupied with very well worn trails being an easy identified indication of badgers. Due to their liking of using a particular well worn route means that where they cross a road, can mean they can become casualties and often, sadly, a dead badger is the most obvious sign of their presence.
Badgers will have main setts which can be several holes in size and be used by several badgers and be used for many years. They will also use single holes known as “outliers” and will move around their territory and use different holes for a night or short period as they use different parts of the territory. Badgers will use a wide variety of foods including worms off lawns (known as worming), they will feed on small mammals (even hedgehogs!), bluebell bulbs, they dig out wasp nests for the larvae and love plums and other autumn fruit . They do come into gardens and will feed on food put out for them such as peanuts and they love digestive biscuits!
Badgers and their setts are protected by law and have suffered from illegal and very barbaric badger baiting where dogs are set upon badgers. Sadly this still continues and destroyed setts may be seen where they have been dug out. If anyone sees men with dogs acting suspiciously near a sett, please inform the police but do not approach, as dangerous criminals are involved.
Occasionally deer are seen in this area, with the introduced Muntjac (Muntiacus reevesi), a small dog size animal probably the most common in this area. They occur even in some of the more mature suburbs and like areas with lots of cover in the form of woodland and shrubs. They have a particular liking for young shoots on roses. Other deer such as fallow, red or roe deer are only seen on the outskirts of the conurbation near open countryside.
Otters (Lutra lutra lutra) have been a big success story of a lost species which has made a comeback in recent years. Again very secretive and rarely seen, they now occur across the area, along canals and water courses of all types. Otter are thought to move considerable distances through the area and like dense waterside cover, occupying holts formed in banks and under piles of wood debris and trees in quiet undisturbed places near water.