Can you help us find out more about two small mammals that seem to be struggling, the hazel dormouse and the harvest mouse? The National Dormouse Monitoring Programme showed a 48% decline in numbers of dormice between 1995 and 2015 and the dormouse is classed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. Whilst the population size of harvest mice is currently very uncertain because of a lack of data.
Dormice are fattening up for the winter and leave tell-tale nibble marks on hazel-nuts (see nuts below). Please let us know if you spot any, find out how to do this here. You can also look out for the beautifully woven nests of harvest mice attached to long grass stalks. These become easier to see in autumn and winter as the vegetation dies down.
Small mammal populations are often quite high in autumn after the breeding season. Before the nights get too cold, you could have a go at making a footprint tunnel and seeing which small mammals you can identify from their tracks! Click on the link for details of how to make a footprint tunnel https://www.hedgehogstreet.org/footprint-tunnels/. Alternatively you can buy a footprint tunnel from NHBS here.
However, small mammal tracks can be difficult to identify so many people surveying small mammals use Longworth traps. Live-trapping gives you a better chance to identify animals to species, especially similar animals such as wood mice and yellow-necked mice, which can only be distinguished by looking for the yellow collar on the underside of the yellow-necked mouse. Please note that live-trapping shouldn’t be conducted during the colder months as small mammals need to eat a lot to stay warm and can’t do so trapped in a box overnight!
For more information on the harvest mouse click here.
For more information on the hazel dormouse click here.