Land animals in Scotland

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Watch this video and see some of Scotland's remarkable wildlife, from timourous red squirrels to playful dolphins.
Great Scottish wildlife

See some of Scotland's remarkable wildlife, from timourous red squirrels to playful dolphins.

  • A red deer stag at the Highland Wildlife Park, Kingussie, Highlands
    A red deer stag at the Highland Wildlife Park, Highlands
  • A red squirrel perched on a branch
    A red squirrel perched on a branch
  • A Scottish wildcat perched on a branch
    A Scottish wildcat perched on a branch

Scotland is renowned for its wonderful wildlife as it is for its spectacular scenery, both of which will truly take your breath away. The country is one of the world’s last great wildernesses where wildlife thrives and is home to many rare species. Amongst the towering mountains, pine forests and sparkling lochs you can uncover amazing Scottish animals, many of which have become iconic to Scotland.

Browse the selection animals below to find out more about Scottish wildlife.

Scottish wildcat

A unique species in its own right, the Scottish wildcat is the largest mammal predator and the only remaining wild feline species in the British Isles. Sadly, the Scottish wildcat is critically endangered and is increasingly under threat from interbreeding with formally domestic cats living feral. This is probably the most difficult Scottish mammal to observe in the wild, signs of this predator's whereabouts - such as bone and feather-laden droppings -  are inevitably easier to come across. Recent reforestation programmes have encouraged growth of the wildcat's range to the southern fringes of the Highlands.

When to see this species: winter, spring, autumn

Where to see this species: The Scottsh wildcat can be spotted in the Cairngorms National Park, Aberdeenshire, the Highlands, Caithness, Sutherland, Argyll and the Lochaber region.

Red squirrel

The red squirrel is one of Scotland’s most recognisable and popular mammals. It is Britain’s only native species of squirrel and Scotland boasts over 80 percent of the UK’s population. In recent years the red squirrel has been forced from much of its original habitat since the introduction of its larger grey cousin from North America. More difficult to observe than greys, these woodland characters can be found in native Scots pine and oak woodland areas across Aberdeenshire, Dumfries & Galloway, the central Highlands and the Cairngorms National Park.

When to see this species: spring, autumn

Where to see this species: Throughout the central Highlands, Cairngorms, Aberdeenshire and Dumfries & Galloway.

Red deer

The red deer is the largest native land mammal in Britain. They spend most of the summer months in Scotland’s hills and remote glens, and can be spotted on lower ground during winter, where food is more readily available. These mighty beasts are at their most impressive in autumn, during the height of their breeding season, or rut. Between late September and November the stags compete for female companions, filling the hills with the sounds of clashing antlers and a bellowing roar. Calves are born in June.

When to see this species: winter, spring, autumn. More information on deer ruts.

Where to see this species: They are widely distributed throughout Scotland although are absent from the Northern Isles, other outlying islands and much of the central belt and the south east.

Pine marten

These elusive creatures are one of the hardest Scottish mammals to spot in the wild - primarily due to its nocturnal habits. Once persecuted for its highly-prized fur, this sleek woodland predator has made a significant recovery and has expanded its range throughout Scotland. As they expand their range, the pine marten has become an ever more regular visitor to gardens across the Highlands, Grampians and eastern Lowlands. It is believed that pine martens have benefited from the expansion of commercial conifer forestry in Scotland during the 20th century.



When to see this species: winter, spring, summer, autumn

Where to see this species: Throughout the Highlands, Moray, Perthshire, Argyll & Bute (including Mull), much of Aberdeenshire, Angus, Stirling and parts of Fife. There is a small population in Galloway.

Adder

The adder is Britain’s only poisonous snake and the only snake you are likely to see in Scotland. These timid and secretive animals are scarcely dangerous if not aggravated and prefer to slither off into the undergrowth than confront humans and domestic animals.
Adders are grey or reddish brown in colour and easily identifiable by the very distinct dark zigzag pattern down their back. They hibernate from October to March. The best time of year to find them basking on a logs, large stones, or on open stretches of moorland is during the spring and summer months.

When to see this species: spring, summer

Where to see this species: Widespread across the country, except for the Scottish islands.

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