Ferals

Its a sad fact that many of the easily seen mammals in Australia and elsewhere are feral species introduced deliberately or accidentally by man. They are still countable for mammal watching if their populations are self-sustaining for ten years or more. The standard list for Australian mammals is available for download from the Facebook group Australian Mammal Watching.

This post will mention the feral species I have seen clearly in the wild, in Australia and the UK, bringing my blog tally at the bottom of the post closer to my actual total.

  • European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus). Easily seen around country roads at dawn and dusk. The occasional one appears in my yard, but only until hit by traffic or predated by …
  • Red fox (Vulpes vulpes). Introduced to Australia to perpetuate the abhorrent practice of fox-hunting. Beautiful animal. I’ve seen them nonchalantly walk past my back door here in Australia, and padding down the street in English villages.
  • Brown hare (Lepus europeaus). Rarer than the rabbit and tolerated more because of their rarity. My father in law would shoot rabbits on his farm but never hares. There is a small and timid population at Kearneys Spring Park at Toowoomba in Queensland, and at Cathedral Rock National Park in New South Wales.

  • Feral cat (Felis catus) Alongside the rabbit and fox, the feral domestic cat has caused huge damage to the Australian environment. Hard to distinguish truly feral cats from prowling moggies, but I have seen them on the local university campus where pets are not allowed and there are no nearby houses.
  • Feral goat (Capra hircus). Another environmental problem, although most have probably escaped from farms somewhere. I saw a small herd led by a big black male near Mt Duval north of Armidale NSW
  • Feral horse (Equus ferus caballus). This sighting is a little more contentious to the purist mammal watcher. I saw two on the coastal walk in Cornwall which locals assure me are semi-wild. Technically all Dartmoor ponies are owned by someone, so this is borderline, but hey, I’ll count it until I see some truly wild Brumbies here in Australia.

  • Lastly, speaking of contentious, Humans (Homo sapiens). I initially though I wouldn’t count humans but they are listed in Jon Hall’s mammals list and who am I to argue with the master? If you disagree strongly, you’d best take up mammal watching too and firmly exclude humans. PS Vladimir Dinet’s excellent field guide to finding North American mammals (Houghton Mifflin, 2015) has a great entry for Homo sapiens!

So we’re up to 20 species. Another 8 to mention in upcoming posts and then I’ll have to get back outside and start looking again. But these first twenty have included representatives of all three subclasses of mammals : monotremes, marsupials, and placental mammals, a landmark which requires a trip to Australia to be easily accomplished.

Mammal watching total = 20

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