The county of Yorkshire, and specifically the Yorkshire Dales, hosts some of the most attractive and panoramic natural scenery in the whole of the United Kingdom. So, it is only natural then, that the large swathes of undisturbed landscapes here are also home to some of the country’s most endangered, rare or downright beautiful animal species as well. Since the early 2000’s the National Trust has been campaigning to keep the Dales unspoiled and wild, as a fit habitat for endangered species across the county – and by all accounts they have been quite successful.
Join us then, as we count down some of Yorkshire’s most celebrated and interesting wild denizens.
Although there are over a dozen species of Yellow Wagtail across the world, there is only one that is virtually exclusive to the North Yorkshire area for much of the year. Motacilla Flavissima, to give their full Latin name, are a migratory species. They spend much of the year on the West coast of Africa and migrate back to the Yorkshire Dales in for the Spring and Summer. Historical records show they were once abundant here, but in 2000 only 25 breeding pairs were recorded. The iridescent little wagtails favour hay meadows as their chosen habitats, and changing farming practices across the region have seen the number of suitable areas plummet.
Yorkshire Pine Marten
These stoat or ferret like creatures were once the second most dominant carnivorous animal in the United Kingdom – some one hundred thousand years ago. Today, they are extremely rare in England and across the world. So much so, many experts considered them virtually extinct in the UK except for a few small areas in Northern Scotland. However, locals have always maintained that they do survive in the County of Yorkshire. Sporadic sightings over the past decade or so led scientists to conduct an extensive campaign to confirm their presence, which paid off in 2017. Before that the last confirmed evidence, was a skull found in 1993. Reclusive animals indeed!
House Sparrows are one of the most widely distributed wild birds in the world, having cannily spread to Africa, the Americas and Australia from its Eurasian homelands. However, in the UK their numbers have been on a steep decline, of up a 70% reduction in many areas, since the 1970s.
As the name suggests, house sparrows (or Passer Domesticus) are confident and adapt well to living in urban conditions, so the usual prime suspect of animal population decline – continuing urbanisation – cannot be blamed here. UK scientists are still debating and investigating as to why house sparrow numbers are falling. But for now, one of the last large areas in which they remain an extremely common sight in the British Isles – is in Yorkshire. They tend to prefer suburban or village areas, and often nest in abandoned buildings. In fact, house sparrows have been recorded living down deep mines in the Yorkshire area in the past few years.