Larger mammals in Riverside Park

Larger mammals in Riverside Park

by Tony Bunday

Riverside Park is a good place to see a number of our larger mammals.  Some of these are secretive and largely nocturnal, but evidence of their presence is there to be seen.

Otters regularly travel along the river and through the park.  Indeed, one of the very first environmental grants made by the then new National Lottery was for the building of an otter pass at Woodmill.  This enabled otters to pass from the Itchen’s fresh water side to the tidal estuary, and out to sea to feed, without crossing the road and the enduring the risk of being hit by traffic.   Otters have made a great comeback in recent years since a real low point at the end of the 1960’s.   Although they never quite became extinct in Hampshire, surviving on just our River Itchen, they are now to be found back across their former range across Hampshire and the IOW.   I have only once seen one locally.  Just before it got dark one August evening I surprised one by the sluice at Woodmill. It quickly dived on seeing me.   I have regularly seen tracks in stream side mud on the Mansbridge side across from the Northern part of the Park.

Look out for tracks like these.


Badgers are well established in the park – and in the adjacent Marlhill Copse – and have an extensive sett by the river immediately South of the council composting area.   They are extensive excavators.  As their sett is now built over what was the council’s rubbish tip from the 1950’s, they regularly dig up rubbish from the era.   If you collect old bottles it might be worth a look occasionally.   They are shy and avoid encounters with humans – and dogs – but are not hard to spot around dawn if you are willing to be up early.

Roe Deer can often be seen from the park browsing along the opposite shoreline and in the fringe of the woods between the Sewage Treatment Works and the University Sailing Club.

Foxes regularly patrol both side of the river but are more likely to be seen opposite the park North of the Sewage Treatment Works.  Often sunning themselves, or stalking and watching wildfowl along the river.  Cubs can sometimes be seen too.

A common or harbour seal is a regular visitor, especially in early winter when the migratory fish are running up stream.  It comes up the river with the rising tide.   It can be difficult to see, spending most of its time under the water.   Although called ‘common’ seal, it is actually rarer than our other domestic species.  The Atlantic Grey Seal.   The nearest breeding colony of common or harbour seals is in Chichester Harbour.

Grey squirrels and brown rats can also be seen regularly in the park.  Water voles might been seen North of Woodmill, and moles and hedgehogs are present.

Riverside Park is a very important strategic wildlife corridor connecting the open sea to the River Itchen and Itchen Valley Nature Reserve and beyond.   Many birds use the river and its valley for their yearly migration route.  It is extremely important that we protect it and maintain the wild areas that exists within it and along the river. To help do so why not become a friend of Riverside Park?  

I am in the park nearly every day with my black Labrador Ernie.   If you see me, do stop me and tell me what you have seen.  I am also one of your councillors so I you think I can help – ask me.

All photos of animals copyright reserved to Tony Bunday