How to identify UK animals

Burrowing mammal homes Can you tell who lives in a hole like this?

Have you ever come across a hole in the ground or bank and wondered which animal lives in it? Or seen signs of digging and questioned which animal has been hard at work excavating a new home?

Burrows can provide valuable protection from predators and the weather and provide a safe place to raise young. They can range from a small and simple hole in the ground to a sprawling series of complex chambers and interconnected tunnels with multiple entrances.

Below are some common animal burrows, see if you can recognise the burrow and then match it up with the occupier.

Type of home Key features What lives here


Badger sett

Badger (Meles meles)



Mole hill

Mole (Talpa europaea)



Rabbit hole

Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus)



Water vole hole

Water vole (Arvicola amphibius)

Water vole


Fox den
  • Can be found almost anywhere.
  • Usually a single entrance hole occupied during spring breeding.
  • Holes can be 20 cm or more across.
  • Food remains and musty smell found outside when at home.
  • Watch fox cubs putting on a live show.

Red fox (Vulpes vulpes)

Red fox

Of course things are not always as straight forward as they may appear at first sight. For example a foxes den could originally have been made by a badger and it's not unusual for foxes and rabbits to share a badgers set! Stoats and weasels may also use holes vacated by their prey.

When to see

Winter is a great time to spot mammal holes and burrows as the surrounding vegetation has died back, while droppings (scat) and footprints in mud and snow can also provide tell-tale signs. We have downloadable (PDF) field guides to animal homes and animal droppings for a further helping hand.

If you have a camera or phone with you, then these handy tips and tricks will help you to get the best out of your photographic equipment, whatever your level of expertise.

Please do not disturb wild animals in their burrows and remember to follow the Countryside Code when out and about.

Been inspired?

We have guides to gardening for wildlife and feeding garden visitors. The Mammal Society also has some great tips for studying the mammals in your garden and Natural England offers some advice about making your garden more appealing to mammals.

Have you seen any unusual mammal homes recently? Then tell us about any you have seen by joining the big Summer of Wildlife conversation with BBC Nature on Facebook and Twitter @BBCNature - #summerofwildlife

You can also share your photos with us on the Summer of Wildlife Flickr group - #seeitsnapitshareit

The Burrowers: Animals Underground begins on Friday 16 August 2013 at 2100 BST on BBC Two.

More on This Story

Summer of Wildlife homepage

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