The surprisingly exotic wild animals that live around British Isles

Killer whales, humpbacks and sand lizards: The surprisingly exotic wild animals that live around the British Isles that most residents don‘t realise are on their doorstep

From killer whales to golden eagles and wallabies, there‘s a wealth of wildlife roaming the UK that residents don‘t know is there, according to new research.

In a nationwide study, 82 per cent of residents said they didn’t know they could see whales, coatis, hoopoe birds and sand lizards right on their doorstep.

Two fifths of people didn’t realise they could spot sharks on the British coast, despite at least 11 different species being found locally. 

When quizzed, only  seven per cent correctly identified a coati as an animal that can be spotted in the UK. 

The small animal, which is a member of the raccoon family, is native to South America, Central America, and south-western North America but started breeding in the UK having escaped captivity.

Meanwhile, the hoopoe bird doesn‘t breed in the UK, but as many as 100 birds can turn up in spring during their migration to Europe from Africa.  

Another export is the wallaby. Only 17 per cent said they were aware the Aussie favourite resided on the British Isles, with its territory including Loch Lomond, the Isle of Man, Norfolk, Buckinghamshire and the Peak District.

In the survey of 1,000 Brits by  only 15 per cent were aware of the amazing opportunity to spot the rare Afro-Eurasia bird. 

Meanwhile, 78 per cent of Brits were unaware that they could spot a killer whale in the UK – they can be seen off Cornwall – and 77 per cent didn’t know they could see a humpback whale, which can be spotted west of the UK and off the coast of Ireland.

The sand lizard, one of the UK’s rarest reptiles, is also slithering under the radar with 74 per cent of people failing to identify it as a home-grown critter. 

So how many people are actually taking advantage of having these animals on their doorsteps? Only 13 per cent said they had seen a golden eagle and just 18 per cent had been fortunate enough to spot a dolphin. 

Where to see the UK‘s exotic animals 

Humpback whale: At sea, to the west of the UK and Ireland, especially during spring and autumn migrations.

Killer whale: Unusual but regular visitor, particularly to northern seas, but have even been spotted off Cornwall.

Dolphins: The Moray Firth, to the North East of Scotland, and Cardigan Bay, West Wales are great places to see them. They can pop up anywhere around UK coasts.

Golden eagle: They can often be spotted gliding on air currents in Scotland.

Sand lizard: They hibernate over the winter from November to March, after which they like to bask in the sun and feed on fruit and bugs. Mostly found in south England .

Puffin: This distinctive bird can be found nesting in cracks in the rocks along the coast or on islands in the likes of Yorkshire, Northumberland and Aberdeenshire.

Scottish wildcat: The Scottish wildcat is also known as the Highlands tiger. Native to Scotland this mammal looks very much like a tabby cat but it’s a ferocious hunter. They are most active at dawn and dusk.

Otters: Otters live between land and water and are most commonly spotted in waterways around the south of England.

Hoopoe bird: The hoopoe bird doesn‘t breed in the UK, but as many as 100 birds can turn up in spring during their migration to Europe from Africa. Best found in south England.

Coati: The coati is a member of the raccoon family. They are most commonly spotted in northern England.

Red squirrel: Your best chance of seeing them is in the autumn when they are busy collecting food but there are less leaves on the trees. Scotland is a stronghold for the red squirrel.

Wallaby: There is an island in Loch Lomond, Scotland, called Inchconnachan, which has a mob of wallabies. To get there you will need to hire a speedboat or kayak.

Mountain hare: The mountain hare changes colours to aid with camouflage; it’s a grey-brown in the summer and white in the winter. They can be spotted in Wales,northern counties and Scotland.

Despite 67 per cent of participants knowing they could see a puffin, only 18 per cent had actually seen one for themselves.

The rarest UK animals proved to be the killer whale, humpback and hoopoe bird, with a mere one per cent of lucky respondents revealing they had seen them.

In comparison, owls (69 per cent) and red squirrels (53 per cent) were commonly spotted, yet hedgehogs were yet to be seen by around a third of respondents.

In a bid to help people find this amazing spread of wildlife, Snaptrip has created a hand drawn map to reveal exactly where they can be spotted across the UK, and is encouraging people to take a UK safari this summer.

Matt Fox, founder at Snaptrip, said: ‘The UK has so much to offer, and it’s clear that while we’re all aware of the many amazing cities and beaches, we’re not so clued up when it comes to the wild animals that we can find in our country!

‘With so many incredible animals waiting to be spotted, we’re encouraging people to take their very own UK safari. We’ve created an interactive guide with the help of the Marine Conservation Society, to show exactly how holidaymakers can glimpse them for themselves.‘