Bank vole trapped on day 1 of the project

Lewes ecologists take to the woods for a spot of small mammal trapping for The Mammal Society

Wednesday, July 31st, 2019

In Spring this year, a team of volunteers from our Lewes office took to the woods for a three-day small mammal trapping project as part of a wider initiative undertaken by The Mammal Society to create an up-to-date and comprehensive density database on British mammals that will be freely available to all.

The 2018 ‘Review of the Population and Conservation Status of British Mammals’, published by the Mammal Society in collaboration with Natural England, highlighted the lack of data available on many of the mammals present in Britain. With current estimates for population status based on density information collected 10-20 years ago, The Mammal Society are working to compile a new ‘density database’ containing recent records of mammal densities across a variety of habitats throughout the UK. The society are therefore calling for volunteers to help carry out surveys across the country and gather as much data as possible.

Small mammal data

First in The Mammal Society’s spotlight were small mammals, for which they were looking for pre-breeding information to be collected from a range of grassland and woodland habitats.

Rosie Marston, Senior Ecologist and Natural England hazel dormouse survey licence holder saw the call on social media and organised a small team of volunteers from our Lewes office to carry out trapping in a local Sussex woodland.

7 volunteers, 3 days, 50 traps, 25 captures, 3 species

In early April this year, the seven volunteers, from Assistant to Principal Ecologist level, set off into a local woodland for three days of trapping. The willing team was comprised of Rosie Marston (Senior Ecologist), Ben Kimpton (Principal), Theresa Stewart (Principal), Georgina Baulcomb (Ecologist), Jess Lewis (Assistant), Jenn Crossman (Assistant) and Alex Bishop (Assistant).

longworth are used to survey small mammals

The project involved setting up Longworth traps for three consecutive days in a grid with 25 trapping points, with two traps at each point. Food and bedding were placed in the traps and were checked morning and night by various members of the volunteer team.
Any animals caught were identified by species, and the weight, sex, age and breeding condition were also noted. The team made sure to fur-clip each animal so that individuals could be identified and noted as a new capture or recapture.

Project diary

The team captured the following:

  • Day 1 pm : 1 x bank vole
  • Day 2 am:  3 x bank voles, 1 x yellow necked mouse, 2 x wood mice
  • Day 2 pm: 4 x bank voles
  • Day 3 am: 4 x bank voles, 2 x yellow necked mice, 2 x wood mice (one picture below)
  • Day 3 pm: 6 x bank voles

The team counted in total 25 captures (including re-captures): 11 bank voles, 3 wood mice and 2 yellow necked mice.

Long term benefits

Fir clipping a mouse

We encourage more ecologists and conservation workers to get involved in the research. This type of survey work provided valuable practical experience for our ecologists working towards their dormouse licence, such as small mammal handling and fur clipping (for licence level 2).
Mammals are some of the most under-recorded species in Britain. Compiling more up-to-date data on mammal densities will offer a better picture of the general health of the environment’s ecosystems.

Small mammals play a crucial part in the food chain of declining species such as the barn owl for instance. In the long term, the research data will therefore help to inform ecology and conservation practices.

The Mammal Society ‘density database’ will be freely available to all who would like to use it, including Local Records Centres.

To find out more and to get involved, See The Mammal Society website here.

Protected small mammals

Amongst the small mammals present in the UK and Northern Ireland, the water vole and the hazel or common dormouse are are legally protected species.

  • Dormice are fully protected under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (as amended) and Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended).
  • Water voles underwent the most dramatic and serious decline of any British mammal during the 20th Century. The water vole is now legally protected under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended).

At The Ecology Consultancy, our experienced ecologists can advise on and carry out all aspects of dormouse and water vole conservation and protection, from thorough and licensed field surveys to mitigation work, applications for European Protected Species Mitigation licensing and habitat management and enhancement. You can read more about the services we provide for water vole surveys, mitigation and protection here and about dormouse surveys and mitigation here.

We are still within the survey season for both of these species:

  • Surveys for dormice using nest tubes take place between March and October and nut searches are best undertaken from September to November.
  • Water vole surveys are conducted between March and September and look for field signs such as burrows, droppings, feeding stations, runs and footprints.

Get in touch to consult our experts and book in your protected small mammal surveys before the season is up.

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