Wildlife in the Lake District
The natural beauty of the Lake District’s varied landscapes provides the perfect home for some of the most unique wildlife in the UK. From the native Herdwick sheep to the timid red and roe deer, whenever you visit the Lakes there’s plenty of opportunity to get out and see first-hand some of the wildlife it has to offer. We’ve put together the complete list so you know what to keep an eye out for on your next visit!
A true native of the Lake District, there definitely won’t be a shortage of these woolly friends on display when you next visit. Typically, adult herdwick sheep are characterised by their white head and legs with a grey fleece. They can be seen either around the farms that make up the Lakes’ agricultural scene, or grazing half way up a steep fell. Herdwick sheep instinctively move to the fells each winter, navigating the rocky, steep cliffs thanks to their inherent knowledge of their land which has been passed down through generations of Herdwicks.
If you’re lucky enough to be visiting in lambing season (April-May), you’ll likely come across plenty of black Herdwick lambs running around the farms of the Lake District. All Herdwick lambs are born with a completely black fleece that slowly lightens to a dark brown in the first year of the Herdwick’s life. After just over a year, the lambs are shorn and their fleece grows back as the slate grey colour we commonly associate with Herdwicks.
You can read a more extensive guide to herdwick sheep here: https://www.herdysleep.com/blog/herdwick-sheep/
Argued to be equally as iconic to the area as Herdwick sheep, red squirrels are another native resident of the Lake District woodlands.
Most people are aware that red squirrels are a lot less common than their cousin, the grey squirrel. The population of the red squirrel is thought to be around 150,000 (most of these are found in Scotland) whilst grey squirrel numbers are upwards of 2 million in the UK. After humans introduced the grey squirrel to the woodlands of the UK, the squirrelpox virus spread quickly and proved damaging to the population of red squirrels in the Lakes and the UK as a whole. Since then, steps have been taken to ensure the population of red squirrels remain as healthy as possible. Conservation actions have been taken and locals in the Lake District are also encouraged to report sightings of the grey variety to help maintain the population of red squirrels.
Cumbria, along with Durham and North Yorkshire, remains one of the few places where red squirrels can be seen. Even though they are quite elusive, you are most likely to catch a sighting around Whinlatter Forest or Dodd Wood.
Many thanks to @katymorrisphotography on Instagram for sending in these two stunning action shots of red squirrels!
Red and Roe Deer
Another elusive member of the Lake District wildlife, a sighting of a red or roe deer is something that can make any trip to the Lake District a lifelong memory. As with all varieties of deer, these are exceptionally shy and cautious creatures so, even though numbers are high, the chances of spotting them out in the woodlands are very low.
Compared to other deer, the roe deer is relatively small in body size but their antlers may grow up to 20-25cm with some even developing four ‘points’. The red deer is much larger in size and also have larger antlers that typically look far more impressive. They can also be distinguished from the roe deer by the fact they often live in large herds. The Cumbrian Wildlife Trusts says, “Encountering a herd of red deer during the autumnal breeding season, known as the ‘rut’, is widely regarded as one of nature’s wildlife spectacles. During this time males bellow and roar to declare territory and compete with other males over females.”
Your best chance of catching sight of one of these two magnificent creatures is by heading to Ennerdale Valley where the wildlife conservation programme gives you a great opportunity to see these deer out in the wild.
For all the bird watchers out there, the Lake District provides a fantastic opportunity to see some of the most beautiful and majestic birds in the UK.
In the summer months, you’re likely to come across ospreys returning from Africa for the breeding months. In flight, they can be identified by their white and mottled under belly, dark brown angled wings and 4 finger-like feathers on their tail. Often, this striking bird of prey can be mistaken for a large gull due to their white underneath. They can be spotted in Dodd Wood which even has a viewing platform so don’t forget your binoculars!
Northern Eurasian Lynx
We’ve cheated a little with this one as the Northern Eurasian Lynx can only be found at the Lake District Wildlife Park in Bassenthwaite. However, this large carnivore once roamed the Lakes freely and was indigenous to Cumbria until it became extinct in the reason some 10,000 years ago. Nevertheless, if you’re in the area, the Lake District Wildlife Park is a fantastic day out and you will also get a chance to see Elva and Cai, the two brother Northern Eurasian Lynx that are cared for at the park.
The Red Kite is another distinctive and graceful bird of prey that can be spotted in the beautiful surroundings of the Lake District. After being pushed to near extinction across the whole of the UK, one of the longest and most successful protection programmes ever carried out allowed the number of red kites to recover considerably. Its reddish- brown feathers and white wings are unmissable and, under a licensed programme in the area, 90 red kites were introduced to Grizedale Forest in 2010, making it the perfect place to go to catch a glimpse of this magnificent bird.