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On a brief visit to the island it will soon become obvious that this is a good place for wildlife. Red deer roam the hills. Raptors and Buzzards soar over the skylines. Seals and otters can be seen in many of the bays and inlets. The blend of mountains, coastline, moorland and bogs is a wonderful habitat for both flora and fauna. Red deer are seen on the hills and in the many forests here. In the winter they are often found along the shoreline licking the salt from the rocks. Fallow deer inhabit the wooded area around Gruline and Salen and wild white goats are found from Grass Point in the south-east down to the Ross in the south-west.
Seals are easily viewed from a number of points on the island, but the best way to see them is from a boat, as they swim in the sea or bask on one of the small islands. Both the common seal and the Atlantic grey seal (the third rarest seal in the world) are frequently seen. Grey seals are found on both sides of the north Atlantic Ocean, separated into three distinct populations. The western Atlantic population is centred in the Canadian Maritime provinces, and is distributed from north Labrador down to New England, individuals occasionally wandering as far south as Virginia. The eastern Atlantic population is found mostly around the coasts of the United Kingdom and Ireland, as well as on the coasts of the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Norway, and northwestern Russia as far as the White Sea. Smaller groups are also found on the French, Dutch and German coasts, and wandering individuals have been found as far south as Portugal. A third population of grey seals, quite distinct from the eastern Atlantic population, is located in the Baltic Sea.
This is one of the best places to see whales and dolphins in the UK and Europe too. The waters around here are home to bottlenose dolphins, minke whales and harbour porpoises. Risso's dolphins, killer whales, common dolphins and Atlantic white-sided dolphins are also common visitors to the area. For more information on whales and dolphins in Scotland and the best places to see them , visit the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust's Marine Discovery Centre in Tobermory.
Otters are often sighted and many sea lochs have permanent residents. Mink are becoming an increasing problem on the island and are now seen more often than we would like.
There are also polecats, weasels, stoats, feral ferrets, rabbits, blue and brown hares and rats. Field voles and mice help feed the buzzard population and of course the many cats, both domestic and feral, that live on the island. There is a good population of shrews and pygmy shrews, the latter being a protected species.
Evidence of moles can be seen almost every where and they have been known to appear by the roadside. Lizards can be found basking in the sun on dry stone dykes and slow worms sunning themselves on the grass and moss. Frogs are plentiful and there is also a healthy population of both toads and newts. Grass snakes and adders do well here, too.
Beautiful dragonflies are regular visitors to ponds and bogs in the summer and there are always plenty of colourful butterflies and moths to be seen, along with their creepy crawly, hairy caterpillars. One of our natural assets is its rich variety of bird life. What follows is just a brief summary which attempts to give some impression of a very large range indeed!
Flocks of Great Northern Divers can be seen in the spring on sea-lochs, displaying their summer plumage before pairing off to breed. Red-throated and Black-throated Divers are much rarer but are occasionally seen. Little Grebe breed by some of the inland lochs and there have been regular sightings of the Slavonian Grebe.
The best way to view nesting sea birds, such as Puffin, Razorbill, Guillemot and Kittiwake, is to take a boat trip to the Treshnish Isles in late spring or early summer.