Mammal Communications Papers
Are badgers Meles meles effective dispersal agents for bramble Rubus fruticosus agg. in Ireland?
Mary O’Sullivan, Peter W. Jones & D. Paddy Sleeman
Four aspects of the dispersal of bramble by badgers were studied: plant distribution, occurrence of fruits in diet, damage to seed during ingestion and effects on seed germination. Bramble plants were concentrated around a main sett and associated latrines Plants represented the main food items, with bramble seeds being by far the most common seeds present. Seeds revealed little damage after passage through the gut of badgers. Egested seeds germinated than seeds in intact fruits. This suggests that badgers are effective dispersers of brambles in Ireland.
A pilot study of a novel method to monitor weasels (Mustela nivalis) and stoats (M. erminea) in Britain.
Elizabeth Croose & Stephen P. Carter
A pilot study was undertaken to determine the efficacy of a novel method for detecting the presence of live weasels and stoats. The ‘Mostela’, a wooden box containing a plastic tunnel and a camera trap, was used at three sites in England. Weasels were detected at all three sites, the time to an initial detection at a site ranged from 16 to 54 days. Stoats were detected at one site. A high number of trap nights was required to achieve a relatively low number of detections. The method shows potential for future surveys and research, particularly on weasels.
An improved identification marking method for hedgehogs.
Nigel Reeve, Clare Bowen and John Gurnell
An improved identification marking method for hedgehogs has been devised using 10 mm lengths of yellow plastic sleeving bearing pre-printed animal identification numbers. Hedgehogs were marked with duplicate numbers in a single central patch just behind the crown of the head; easily visible in both active and rolled-up hedgehogs. The tags have minimal welfare implications, do not interfere with the function of the spines and can be easily read by anyone finding the animal. This method is very effective, requires minimal handling and is suitable for use by volunteer field workers.
Surveying small mammals in urban hedges
Eleanor Atkins, Ruth Swetnam, Paul Mitchell and John Dover
The suitability of hedges and non-hedge linear boundaries for small mammals in urban Stoke-on-Trent were assessed in 2015 and 2016 using baited hair tubes and footprint tubes. Small mammals were found in 63% of all study hedges and 10% of non-hedge linear boundaries, with the upper levels of hedges used as frequently as the base. Hawthorn and privet hedges showed significantly more signs of small mammals than beech hedges or non-hedge linear boundaries. The findings suggest that we should protect and enhance our urban hedgerow resource as a valuable habitat for urban small mammals.
Joshua Twining, Johnny Birks, John Martin and David Tosh
Artificial den boxes have been used to supplement denning sites of the European pine marten (Martes martes) in Scotland and Northern Ireland where natural arboreal cavities are scarce. Here, information on food caches from annual checks are reported. Pine martens predominantly cached birds, largely juvenile passerines, followed by small mammals and amphibians. This investigation highlights the potential importance of food caching in the species, as well as the ability of artificial den box schemes to explore enigmatic aspects of marten ecology in the future.
Murray Bracewell and Nick C. Downs
Non-hibernating hazel dormice (Muscardinus avellanarius) construct nests in shrub and tree vegetation up to 10 m above the ground. They also readily use and build nests in boxes, which are often used as a tool to monitor populations. The availability of natural nest materials may affect nest site selection or nest box utilisation and to gain a better understanding of this we analysed the materials used in 56 dormouse nests, collected from boxes within six southern English woodlands in 2009, and estimated collection distances. The contribution individual nest materials made to the nests were assessed using dry weights.
An estimate of the annual number of hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) road casualties in Great Britain
David E. Wembridge, Martin R. Newman, Paul W. Bright and Pat A. Morris
Counts of hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) road casualties identified in car surveys have been used previously only once to estimate road traffic mortality nationally (Morris, 2006). Here, data from four surveys (conducted between 1952 and 2004) were used to estimate annual road-casualty numbers in Great Britain. The estimate of 167,000–335,000 is substantially greater than Morris’ (2006) value, with possible implications for hedgehog conservation.
Margaret M. Andrews and Peter T. Andrews
Paul Chanin, Catherine O’Reilly, Peter Turner , Lisa Kerslake, Johnny Birks & the late Michael Woods
Summary The use of ‘DNA barcoding’ using mitochondrial DNA to study the diet of dormice was investigated. Half of the 26 samples contained insect DNA, from four species of Lepidoptera and one Dipteran. It was concluded that this is a practical approach to investigating dormouse predation on insects and discuss its limitations.
Mammal Notes 2009 – 2012
Mammal Communications were initially launched in 2009 under the name Mammal Notes. Here are Notes submitted between 2009 and 2012:
In the UK, road casualties are considered to be a significant mortality factor for badgers. Ireland is unusual in having a very high number of small rural roads with low traffic densities and low speeds. Intensive studies in such areas where the population of badgers was known showed that the mortality rate was much lower than in the UK, approximating to 1%.
D. Paddy Sleeman1 , Daniel M. Collins2 & John Davenport1, 2012. What proportion of badgers (Meles meles) are killed on roads in rural areas in the Republic of Ireland? , p.4.
Because badgers spend time underground and forage in forested areas where unobstructed views of satellites are not possible, two approaches to obtaining location fixes from GPS collars were tested. Success in obtaining fixes was significantly higher with sampling intervals of 5 minutes (79%) than with sampling intervals of 60 minutes (50%).
Brendel, C. et al., 2012. Testing a Global Positioning System on free-ranging badgers Meles meles. , p.5.
Data from a four-year study of common dormice were analysed to see if they preferred nest boxes or nest tubes. Boxes were spaced at 30m, with two tubes between each, 10m apart, along a road and on the central reservation (100 boxes, 200 tubes). Sixty two dormice were marked and captured a total of 110 times. Thirteen of the captures were in tubes indicating that where a choice is available, boxes are preferred.
Chanin, P. & Gubert, L., 2011. Surveying hazel dormice (Muscardinus avellanarius) with tubes and boxes: a comparison. , 4, p.6.
Records of stoats and weasels are shown to be rare in archaeological faunas in Britain and their absence from Mesolithic records may be a consequence of this. The co-occurrence of lemmings and stoats at some sites suggests an early arrival and native status for the species rather than introduction by humans.
Yalden, D.W., 2010. The history of stoats Mustela erminea and weasels M. nivalis in the Post-glacial of the British Isles. , p.4.
A standardised method for monitoring hedgehogs was tested at 30 sites in the UK. Surveyors carried out transects using hand held torches. 97 surveys were carried out and hedgehogs detected on 14. The low level of encounters was believed to reflect local populations. Increasing transect length would increase encounters but the method may be unsuitable for quantitative assessment.
Poulton, S.M.C. & Reeve, N.J., 2010. A pilot study of a method to monitor hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus). , p.4.
Badgers were observed to eat the fruits of yew trees in Kew Gardens, London. The leaves and seeds of yew contain toxic alkaloids. Seeds in badger faeces were tested for the presence of these which were found at similar concentrations to those of uneaten seeds. It was concluded that badgers can safely eat yew ’berries’ because the toxic seeds are not digested.
Gasson, P.G., Lees, J. & Kite, G., 2009. How do badgers eat yew “berries” without being poisoned? . , p.2.