Wildlife found throughout the College Valley
The valley is well known for its population of feral goats and is home to around 150. Rumour has it that they were released in medieval times by the monks on Holy Island. This primitive British breed would have died out completely if they hadn't escaped into the wild. As farming changed there was a swing to foreign breeds which produced more milk. The goats can often be seen on the Newton Tors along the eastern side of the Valley. However they can pop up in the most unexpected of places!
Over the years many goats have been re-homed to help manage environments elsewhere in the UK and this has helped to ease the pressure on local vegetation. The Valley is currently trying to obtain funding to have the goats placed on the native breeds at risk register.
Roe deer are present throughout the valley. Whilst they are beautiful they also bring their own challenges with damage to trees so their numbers are carefully managed.
The valley has a healthy population of red squirrels. Last winter (2009), they were seen crossing the road between Whitehall and Trowupburn to retrieve their pockets of hazelnuts gathered in the autumn. The nuts are a great source of proteins for the squirrels. There are footpaths around Whitehall and with care and quiet you could be lucky and see one of these lovely little mammals.
There have been occasional sightings of grey squirrels and the valley operates a humane trapping policy to capture these invaders. Every captured grey squirrel is blood tested for squirrel pox. Fortunately there have been no positive tests.
Adders, Britain's only venomous reptile are also present in the valley. Slow worms, which are really burrowing limbless lizards (commonly mistaken for snakes) are also common. They have been granted protected status along with all other native British reptiles.
Otters are present along the College and Lambden burns. Whilst it is more usual to see the evidence of where they have been, there was one rare exception when an otter was seen walking past Dunsdale house!
There is a good population of rabbits, hares, voles, fox, stoat and weasels. These can be seen throughout the valley.
College Valley has spent a lot of time and effort reintroducing black grouse, a marvellous bird at risk of imminent extinction in the UK. Black grouse UK, part of the UK Biodiversity plan, is dedicated to reversing this trend towards extinction. In 1995 the Wilderness above Mounthooly was planted with over 55000 broadleaves. This became the largest new native woodland in England. Black grouse were initially quite successful but bad weather has affected the last three breeding seasons and numbers have declined.
There is a healthy and well managed population of red grouse on all the heather areas in the valley; letting the shooting for these remarkable birds provides a significant income for the estate. The sound of them telling one to 'go-back, go-back, go-back' is one of the sounds of wilderness areas.
This pdf download has a list of birds both resident and as visitors.
A hummingbird moth was spotted at Fleehope in 2006.