Terrestrial Mammals

We have recorded 16 priority terrestrial mammal species in Sussex, including riverside mammals and bats.

Harvest Mouse

Photo: Hugh Clark/Sussex Wildlife Trust

Biodiversity Action Plan terrestrial mammal species recorded in Sussex

This includes…

Barbastelle Bat A medium-sized long eared bat that is now very rare in Britain and threatened with extinction over much of Europe. Causes of its decline are not well understood, but thought to be at least partly due to a parallel decline in its insect food. The Barbastelle prefers wooded countryside and it appears to favour the larger river valleys. In winter it roosts in caves, mine tunnels, cellars and hollow trees. Most records in our area are from West Sussex, but there are a few from East Sussex. Like all bats, a legally protected species and listed on the Sussex Rare Species Inventory.

Bechstein’s Bat A medium sized, long-eared bat of well-wooded, low-lying countryside. In summer it roosts in tree holes, bat boxes and, less commonly, in buildings and it hibernates in cellars, mine tunnels, caves and tree holes. It is the largest and rarest British Myotis spp and is virtually restricted to southern England. Most records in our area are from West Sussex, but it was recorded from one location in East Sussex in the late 19th century. Like all bats, it is legally protected.

Brown Hare Widely distributed throughout England and Wales and probably an ancient introduction. Hares occur on a wide range of mainly open farmland and nationally the species is thought to be undergoung a steady decline. Much less common in Sussex that it used to be, but widely recorded.

Brown Long-eared Bat The second most common British bat, but difficult to distinguish from the rarer Grey Long-eared Bat Plecotus austriacus. It frequents open woodland, wood-pasture and orchards and has summer roosts in older buildings and trees. It usually hibernates in caves, tunnels and mines. The Brown Long-eared has declined in the British Isles though it remains widespread. Like all bats, it is a legally protected species.

Greater Horseshoe Bat Characterised by a horseshoe-shaped noseleaf, this is one of our largest bats. Summer roosts are mostly in older houses, churches and barns while caves, disused mines, cellars and tunnels are used as winter roosts. This bat is rare in Britain and now almost confined to south-west England and south Wales, though there are a few remaining sites for the species in West Sussex. It is estimated that the number of Greater Horseshoe bats has declined by over 90% in the last 100 years. Like all bats, a legally protected species and listed on the Sussex Rare Species Inventory.

Hazel Dormouse A nocturnal species of woodland and overgrown hedgerows. Dormice spend much of their time climbing among branches in search of fruit, nuts, insects and other food. They sleep in nests during the day in hollow trees, unoccupied bird or bat boxes and similar places and hibernate in winter. Dormice occur mainly in southern England in this country and are widespread in suitable habitats in Sussex.

Noctule Bat A large bat of woods, wood-pastures and mixed farmland that sometimes occurs in towns. Summer roosts are usually in trees and the often gregarious winter roosts in trees, rock fissures, bat boxes and buildings. Widespread, but declining, both in Sussex and in England and Wales generally. Like all bats it is a legally protected species.

Soprano Pipistrelle Long considered as a variant of the 45 kHz Pipistrelle, this species has only recently been formally separated and named. Pipistrelles are the commonest bats in the British Isles and are found in all types of countryside, except very exposed areas, as well as in towns and suburbs. Summer roosts are usually in buildings, though tree holes and bat boxes are also used. Winter roosts are in buildings, tree holes and caves.

Text: Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre

More information about terrestrial mammals

People’s Trust for Endangered Species
Sussex Bat Group
Sussex Mammal Group
The Bat Conservation Trust
The Mammal Society