List of extinct animals of the British Isles

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This is a list of extinct animals of the British Isles. Only a small number of these are globally extinct, most famously the Irish elk, great auk and woolly mammoth. Most of the remainder survive to some extent outside the islands. The list includes introduced species only in cases where they were able to form self-sustaining colonies for a time. Only Pleistocene species, and specifically those extinct since the Ipswichian interglacial (c.130,000 - c.115,000 BP), Devensian glaciation (c.115,000 – c. 11,700 BP) or into the Holocene (c.11,700 BP - present), are included. Great Britain was cut off from mainland Europe in around 8,200 BP by the Storegga Slide tsunami flooding Doggerland[1]. The date beside each species is the last date when a specimen was observed in the wild or, where this is not known, the approximate date of extinction.


Many of the early dates are very approximate, since caves in Britain were often excavated before modern archaeological stratifications and dating techniques.[2]

Common Name Species Latest Recorded Notes References
Arctic lemming Dicrostonyx torquatus c. 10,000 BP Late Glacial [2]
Arctic fox Vulpes lagopus c. 10,000 BP Late Glacial [2]
Barbary macaque Macaca sylvanus c. 130,000 BP Early Ipswichian [2]
Cave bear Ursus spelaeus c. 15,000 B.C.
Cave hyena Crocuta crocuta spelaea c. 32,000 BP Devensian [2]
Cave lion Panthera spelaea c. 32,000 BP Devensian [2]
Coypu Myocastor coypus A.D. 1978 Modern, introduced non-native
Eurasian aurochs Bos primigenius c. 1000 B.C.
Eurasian beaver Castor fiber A.D. 1526 reintroduced
Eurasian brown bear Ursus arctos arctos c. A.D. 1000
Eurasian elk Alces alces c. 3200-600 B.C.
Eurasian lynx Lynx lynx c. A.D. 400
Eurasian wolf Canis lupus lupus A.D. 1680-1786 1680 in Great Britain, 1786 in Ireland [3]
European Ice Age leopard Panthera pardus spelaea c. 24,000 B.C.
European jaguar Panthera gombaszoegensis c. (unknown)
Gray whale Eschrichtius robustus c. 598 B.C.
Hippopotamus Hippopotamus amphibius c. 135-114,000 BP Ipswichian [2][4]
Irish elk Megaloceros giganteus c. 6000 B.C.
Musk ox Ovibos moschatus c. (unknown)
Musk rat Ondatra zibethicus 1937 non-native [5]
Narrow-headed vole Microtus gregalis c. 8000 B.C.
Narrow-nosed rhinoceros Stephanorhinus hemiotoechus c. 12,000 B.C
Reindeer Rangifer tarandus c. 8000 B.C reintroduced [6]
Root vole Microtus oeconomus c. 1500 B.C.
Saiga antelope Saiga tatarica c. 10,000 B.C.
Scimitar-toothed cat Homotherium latidens c. 30,000 B.C. [7]
Steppe bison Bison priscus c. unknown [2]
Steppe lemming Lagurus lagurus c. 8000 B.C
Steppe pika Ochotona pusilla c. 8000 B.C.
Straight-tusked elephant Palaeoloxodon antiquus c. 115,000 BP Late Ipswichian [2]
Tarpan Equus ferus ferus c. 7000 B.C. re-established proxy [8]
Walrus Odobenus rosmarus c. 1000 B.C. occasional visitor [9]
Wild boar Sus scrofa c. 1400 reintroduced [10]
Wisent Bison bonasus c. 3000 B.C.
Wolverine Gulo gulo c. 6000 B.C.
Woolly mammoth Mammuthus primigenius c. 10,000 B.C.
Woolly rhinoceros Coelodonta antiquitatis c. 10,000 B.C.







Bees, wasps and ants[edit]


Butterflies and moths[edit]

General reference: Waring et al., 2009.[22]

Dragonflies and damselflies[edit]





Land snails[edit]

† – Species is extinct worldwide

Reintroduction and re-establishment[edit]

The white-tailed eagle has been successfully re-established on the western coast of Scotland.[27] Having clung on in parts of Wales,[28] red kites have been successfully re-established in parts of England and Scotland.[29] Ongoing projects involve both these species: the corn crake into parts of England and Scotland, and the great bustard on Salisbury Plain.

European beavers have been reintroduced to parts of Scotland, and there are plans to bring them back to other parts of Britain. A five-year trial reintroduction at Knapdale in Argyll started in 2009 and concluded in 2014.[30] A few hundred beavers live wild in the Tay river basin, as a result of escapes from a wildlife park.[31] A similar reintroduction trial is being undertaken on the river otter in Devon, England.[32] Also, around the country, beavers have been introduced into fenced reserves for many reasons including flood prevention.[33] In 2016, beavers were recognised as a British native species, and will be protected under law.[34]

In 2008, elk were released into a fenced reserve on the Alladale Estate in the Highlands of Scotland. Reindeer were re-established in 1952; approximately 150–170 reindeer live around the Cairngorms region in Scotland.

Set up by the Wildwood Trust, Konik horses have been established across many reserves as a proxy for the extinct Tarpan.[35]

In 1998, MAFF, now known as DEFRA released a report concerning the presence of two populations of wild boar living freely in the UK.[36] These boar are thought to have escaped from wildlife parks, zoos and from farms where they are farmed for their meat, and gone on to establish breeding populations.[37][38]

Around 20 white storks pass through the UK each year.[39] A colony at the Knepp Estate in Sussex, aided by zoologist Roisin Campbell-Palmer, hopes to reinforce these off-path migrants by introducing adults into a fenced reserve, where the juveniles born will be able to establish other colonies further afield.[40]

The northern clade of the pool frog was reintroduced from Swedish stock in 2005, to a single site in Norfolk, England, following detailed research to prove that it had been native prior to its extinction around 1993.

Smaller species, mainly reptiles, such as the green lizard and Aesculapian snake, have formed colonies probably due to a result of release from captivity.[41]

The large blue butterfly has been successfully re-established from Swedish stock at a number of sites, but few of these are open-access. There are also several successful cases of the establishment of new populations of heath fritillary.

There have been calls for the reintroduction of the Eurasian lynx, brown bear and grey wolf to the UK, because no large predators are living in viable populations in Great Britain. It is theorized that a large predators presence could create a trophic cascade,[42] thus improving the ecosystem.[43]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bernhard Weninger et al., The catastrophic final flooding of Doggerland by the Storegga Slide tsunami, Documenta Praehistorica XXXV, 2008
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Yalden, D. (1999), History of British Mammals, London: T. & A.D. Poyser Ltd., ISBN 978-0-85661-110-0
  3. ^ Wolves in Great Britain, Wolves in Ireland
  4. ^ Franks, J.W. (1960). "Interglacial deposits at Trafalgar Square, London". The New Phytologist. 59 (2): 145–150. doi:10.1111/j.1469-8137.1960.tb06212.x. JSTOR 2429192.
  5. ^ "Muskrat, Ondatra zibethicus". GB Non Native Species Secretariat. Retrieved 27 December 2018.
  6. ^ Pritchard, Emma-Louise (2018-12-08). "There's only 1 free-ranging herd of reindeer in the UK and they are gentle giants". Country Living. Retrieved 2019-08-12.
  7. ^ "The lost beasts that roamed Britain during the ice age". BBC. July 22, 2015. Retrieved 29 August 2017.
  8. ^ "Wildwood's horses roaming free in Wales | Wildwood Trust". Retrieved 2018-12-18.
  9. ^ "Walrus basks in Orkney attention". 3 March 2013. Retrieved 26 September 2018 – via
  10. ^ "Wild Boar in Britain". Retrieved 26 September 2018.
  11. ^ Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust - Eagle Owl
  12. ^ Spoonbills return to breed in the UK after 300 years
  13. ^ Bill Teale (2016-09-17). "Birdwatch: Rare appearance from Kentish plover". Yorkshire Post. Retrieved 26 May 2017.
  14. ^ "Reintroductions". Knepp Wildland. Retrieved 2018-12-18.
  15. ^ a b c Charles Snell (2006). "Status of the common tree frog in Britain". British Wildlife. 17 (3): 153–160.
  16. ^ Naish, Darren. Britain’s lost tree frogs: sigh, not another ‘neglected native’. 2007. Retrieved 20 December 2017.
  17. ^ "Species feared extinct as Lucky the pool frog dies". The Independent. 1999-01-14. Retrieved 2018-12-18.
  18. ^ "Breaking New Ground – Northern clade pool frog reintroduction project". The Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust. Retrieved 2018-12-18.
  19. ^ Kristensen, Hans; Rasmussen, Arne; Allentoft, Morten; Allentoft, Morten E.; Rasmussen, Arne Redsted; Kristensen, Hans Viborg (March 2018). "Centuries-Old DNA from an Extinct Population of Aesculapian Snake (Zamenis longissimus) Offers New Phylogeographic Insight". Diversity. 10 (1): 14. doi:10.3390/d10010014.
  20. ^ "Darren Naish: Tetrapod Zoology: Hunting Green lizards in Dorset: new aliens or old natives?". Retrieved 2018-12-18.
  21. ^ a b c Bumblebee superfacts, BugLife, retrieved January 23, 2013
  22. ^ Waring, P.; et al. (2009), Field Guide to the Moths of Great Britain and Ireland, Hook, Hampshire: British Wildlife Publishing, ISBN 978-0953139996; UK Moths, Ian Kimber, retrieved January 23, 2013 Missing or empty |title= (help)
  23. ^ Tilbury, Christine (March 2007), Gypsy Moth Advisory Note (PDF), Forest Research: Tree Health Division, retrieved 6 February 2014
  24. ^ "Viper's Bugloss Hadena irregularis – UK Moths", UK Moths, Ian Kimber, retrieved January 23, 2013
  25. ^ Gilbert Van Stappen (1996), "Artemia", in Patrick Lavens & Patrick Sorgeloos (ed.), Manual on the Production and Use of Live Food for Aquaculture, FAO Fisheries Technical Paper, 361, Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization, pp. 79–106, ISBN 978-92-5-103934-2
  26. ^ Geoffrey Fryer (2006), "The brine shrimp's tale: a topsy turvy evolutionary fable" (PDF), Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 88 (3): 377–382, doi:10.1111/j.1095-8312.2006.00623.x
  27. ^ George Monbiot. "15 species that should be brought back to rewild Britain". the Guardian. Retrieved 20 December 2015.
  28. ^ "RSPB: Redkite Conservation".
  29. ^ "The RSPB: Red kite". The RSPB. Retrieved 20 December 2015.
  30. ^ "Commissioned Report No. 685 The Scottish Beaver Trial: Ecological monitoring of the European beaver Castor fiber and other riparian mammals 2009-2014, final report" (PDF). Retrieved 18 December 2016.
  31. ^ "Tay Beavers Origin". Scottish Wild Beavers. Retrieved 20 December 2015.
  32. ^ "River Otter Beaver Trial - Devon Wildlife Trust". Retrieved 26 September 2018.
  33. ^ "Cornwall Beaver Project | Cornwall Wildlife Trust". Retrieved 2018-12-18.
  34. ^ Carrell, Severin (24 November 2016). "Beavers given native species status after reintroduction to Scotland". the Guardian. Retrieved 26 September 2018.
  35. ^ "Wild horses help restore moorland". BBC News. 2018-06-21. Retrieved 2018-12-18.
  36. ^ "Feral wild boar in England Status, impact and management A report on behalf of Defra European Wildlife Division" (PDF). National Archives. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Archived from the original on 1 January 2007. Retrieved 26 October 2017.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  37. ^ "Feral wild boar in England Status, impact and management A report on behalf of Defra European Wildlife Division" (PDF). Archived from the original on 1 January 2007. Retrieved 26 October 2017.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  38. ^ "Wild Boar". The British Association for Shooting and Conservation. BASC. Retrieved 26 October 2017.
  39. ^ Crisp, Wil (2018-07-07). "White storks to breed in Britain for the first time in 600 years". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 2018-12-18.
  40. ^ "White Storks". Knepp Wildland. Retrieved 2018-12-18.
  41. ^ "Non-native reptiles". The Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust. Retrieved 2018-12-18.
  42. ^ Britain, Rewilding. "Wolf". Rewilding Britain. Retrieved 2018-12-18.
  43. ^ "Call for lynx and wolf reintroduction". BBC News. 15 July 2015. Retrieved 20 December 2015.

Further reading[edit]