Date Published: 2 June 2010
Harvest Mice like old tennis balls
Old tennis balls are being used in an unusual ploy to learn more about one of the rarest mammals in the UK.
Harvest mice (Latin name: micromys minutus) are only about 2 inches (5cm) long. This spring and summer, wildlife experts are encouraging people to log sightings of harvest mice so that records of numbers and locations can be made.
Meadows and grassland are the animals' traditional homes but as farming methods change over time, the habitats are being lost and numbers are thought to be in decline.
Old tennis balls, complete with penny-sized holes, make a robust and popular choice of nest for the mice and around 200 are available for surveyors to distribute and monitor, after being donated by a local tennis club.
The project, supported by the Leicestershire County Council, is thought to be the biggest of its kind ever run in Leicestershire.
County Council wildlife expert, Helen O'Brien, said:
" As traditional agricultural practices diminish and combine harvesters collect the crops in huge, ever-efficient ways, they also swallow up the areas where harvest mice live.
Little is known about the creatures' current status locally so we need people to look in tall grass and fields and send in their information. Dissecting owl pellets and keeping track of what the cat brings are other more unusual methods people can employ.
The data will help us track numbers and tell us where we need to focus our attention to safeguard their future. For instance, if the population is fragmented, we could encourage groups to mix by improving habitats - this makes them less vulnerable to disease and prevents them from dying out."
Anyone interested in getting involved, can pick up tips and learn more about harvest mice at a training day where full training will be provided. This is taking place between 7.30pm and 9.30pm on Monday, 14th June at the County Council's Environmental Resource Centre in Birsall. Residents living in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland can get involved with the survey or book a place on the training day by calling Gareth Price on 0116 267 1950.
Aren't they just lovely !!!
Source: Leicestershire County Council, England (UK)..