Celebrating our small cousins

It’s National Mammal Week, and with the latest David Attenborough series “Mammals” showing us just how diverse a group of creatures these are, who wouldn’t want to take a moment to celebrate them?

Britain has a healthy range of mammals, occupying all spaces from our seas to our mountaintops. Regular readers will know that I have a deep love of hares, those long-eared, long-footed super-sized rabbits who sit out in the countryside and take whatever the weather throws at them with something approaching Zen. But many of our mammals have to face lives of hardship and no small amount of fear from an early age.

So here’s a mammal that I stumbled across in a woodland a couple of years ago. So hungry that it did not run away when I walked along the track towards it, this is a baby vole. It’s probably a bank vole, although I can’t be sure because the way it is sitting concealed its tell-tale tail from me (the other kind of small land vole we have is the “short-tailed” or “field” vole). It’s just a vole, eating a nut, but this brave youngster was also a vole taking its short life into its hands. Because our voles are unfortunately snack-sized creatures, the ideal fast food for almost every British predator, from foxes to buzzards, owls to weasels and many more. It’s worth remembering that Mankind’s ancestors were probably not too much bigger than this.

baby vole
baby vole

So here’s to our much smaller fellow mammals. They may not be as successful as us in world domination, but they have courage and determination that should make us all proud.

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