Mammalian wildlife comes in all shapes and sizes! While often considered the ‘cute’ side of garden wildlife, they can also be quite damaging in the garden. These are particularly problematic visitors if you want a prim and pristine garden: squirrels, rate/mice, deer and rabbits (click on the name for information on how to deal with them as pests).

However, if you’re happy to compromise on a few dug up bulbs and chewed bark, here’s how you can attract some common mammals to your garden:


As well as being beautiful creatures (in most people’s eyes) foxes can be wonderful fun to watch. If you’re lucky enough to see young foxes at play or investigating new sights and smells in your garden, you’ll find them a real delight. However, they can cause damage by digging (always bury pet hamsters etc at least 30cm deep!), scent marking and scavenging for food from bins or, worse still, poorly protected chicken coops.

While stories abound of foxes attacking cats and dogs, this actually happens very rarely and is generally caused by the pet getting a bit too interested in the fox’s cubs. However, pet rabbits and guinea pigs are natural prey in the foxes’ world, so their outdoor accommodation should be well secured.

Foxes are happy to eat pretty much anything, so you can encourage them by leaving out household food scraps. However, feeding should be an extra treat for the foxes, not a replacement for their usual food habits – they mustn’t become dependent on you. So feed them just two or three times a week, on random days and times. Don’t try to domesticate them; feed them well away from your house and don’t try to do it by hand.


If you want controversy among British gardeners, then look no further than the grey squirrel! To some they are vermin who dig up bulbs, steal bird food from feeders and bury nuts then forget about them so hazel seedlings appear everywhere come spring . To others they are brilliant acrobats who do a great turn at super-cuteness when they sit back on their hind legs and nibble a nut.

You can’t do a lot about squirrels, grey or red. If you have them then you may as well get used to it – in fact why not enjoy it? Make sure you have some squirrel proof bird feeders so your feathered friends don’t lose out, then put some unprotected ones (or even special squirrel feeders) out, filled with nuts, in inaccessible spots and see how long it takes the ingenious squirrels to reach them. You can get really adventurous with hoops, ladders, greased poles, rope swings, etc. It will keep you entertained for ages!


Badgers generally choose to live near their natural food sources, though they are increasingly needing to live in more urban areas and can, therefore, be regular visitors to some gardens. Telltale signs can be holes in the lawn, bulbs dug up and major earth moving endeavours.

While badgers will eat almost anything, their main dietary focus is earthworms, earthworms and more earthworms! When earthworms are not available they enjoy anything that comes to hand, peanuts dropped from bird feeders being a particular favourite. If you have them living nearby then you can feed them kitchen scraps occasionally, but don’t risk becoming a replacement for their natural food sources. Don’t try to feed them by hand; while badgers aren’t dangerous they do have very powerful jaws and can do serious damage to human hands, albeit not intentionally.

Don’t be disappointed if your occasional badger visitors don’t then “sett” up home in your garden, they are very choosy about where they live and if your garden was suitable they’d probably already be there. Just enjoy their odd appearances.


OK, this is going to need a bit of selling. Why, oh why, would anyone want to encourage rats into their garden? Well, at the end of the day, rats really aren’t that much different from squirrels. They might not have such a cute appearance, but cuteness is a rather human prejudice which, arguably, we should try to rise above.

While you should always ensure that rats aren’t able to enter your home (with the exception of your roof space which can provide a good home for them so long as you’re not storing anything precious in there) you might want to be a little more lenient with them in your shed or in drier corners of your garden. They will appreciate scraps left out, in the same way as foxes or badgers will, and will do relatively little harm. Just remember, if you’re letting them stay in your shed, make sure any bulbs, fruit or vegetables in storage are sealed in sturdy plastic, metal or wood so they can’t get to them!


Mice never seem quite as bad as rats, though really they can be more of a pest as they’ll show a greater interest in seedlings and seeds (especially pea seeds) than their larger cousins. While you’d be advised to keep them out of your home (a kitchen with crumbs and food scraps left out is irresistible to a house mouse), allowing them some space in an outbuilding or dry corner of your garden will give you the occasional delightful sight of a little creature scurrying around, pausing every now and then to endearingly wash its face. You can also use plants to provide homes for them, such as thickly growing ivy or oak trees.

Like rats, they will eat pretty much anything you leave out for them (intentionally or otherwise) but can also be of service to the gardener by dining on slugs and caterpillars.


Deer can strip young plants and chew bark like nobody’s business and are a menace in the eyes of many country gardeners. To the more urbanite gardener the thought of a deer wandering through their back garden in the twilight is a vision of wonder. If you have them nearby then there’s not much you need to do to encourage them in – they’ll eventually find your dahlias and help themselves to a lovely meal! However, you can give them alternative food sources by planting potatoes or turnips near where they enter your garden. The only effective way to keep them out is 2.5m high fencing or creating a haha, so you may as well learn to live with them.

Pine martens

Pine martens may be cute, but they are incredibly shy and only reside in a few areas of the UK. If you’re lucky enough to live in one of these areas then you can try to attract them by providing a stout feeding platform and a small supply of sweet food – bread and jam is, apparently, a particular favourite!


While bats are still stalwarts of horror films, closer inspection reveals them to be intriguing and, yes, cute creatures. Bats eat insects and suffer greatly from the use of pesticides in farming. If you’re lucky enough to have some near you then you can encourage them by getting more insects into your garden. If you have natural food supplies nearby but not roosting sites (they like areas such as coniferous woodlands which have old, hollow trees for them to roost in) you can try putting up bat boxes. Ensure you use good quality boxes and put several up on your house and garden trees – you never know, you might go out one evening and find bats flying from them.