More than 50 mammal species are found in Northern Virginia; and Willowsford habitat is suitable for many of them.
Some mammals, such as gray squirrels and white-tailed deer, are often seen. Others, like skunks, fox and bears are more elusive. The smallest mammals, including voles and shrews, are rarely seen because they spend much of their lives underground or hidden under leaves and low growing plants.
Animal species have different roles in the habitat or ecosystem, and all species in the ecosystem rely on each other.
Keystone species, such as white-tailed deer, have a disproportionately large impact on an ecological community, affecting many other organisms. As Virginia’s largest herbivore, a relatively small number of deer can have a huge impact on a forest environment. Their excessive browsing removes native tree seedlings, young shrubs and groundcover plants, leaving less food and shelter for other animals.
Predators, such as foxes and coyotes help manage prey species, such as rodents. And certain mammals—the ecosystem engineers—can influence habitats by modifying their environments. Beavers, for example, build dams, create ponds and wetlands, and alter stream habitats.