Sunday, 13 February 2011

Small Mammals

Opening a humane small mammal trap in Jubilee Country Park
Opening a humane small mammal trap
On 13th February was a roundup of small mammals in Jubilee Country Park. It was led by Jenny Price, with most of the work being done by Tony and Marcus, the park's in-house surveyors. They were very familiar with small mammals and their handling.

The evening before, some traps had been left around the park in likely spots, containing some hay and various types of food to keep any caught creatures alive overnight. So at 9 a.m. a group of people, including several small children, assembled, to go and see what had arrived.

The park is much used by dog owners, and we saw several enter the park as we gathered - including a three-legged greyhound! - so there are not many creatures to be found in the easily accessible areas. Of the dozen or so traps, most were in the woods, and these contained wood mice. A few were in hedgerows in the meadow areas, and in one of those traps there was a field vole. These are both common species, but it is reassuring to see a good population of them. It suggests that the park is being managed well.
A wood mouse being held firmly but gently in Jubilee Country Park
A wood mouse being held firmly but gently

There were also a few corrugated iron shelters, where sometimes you can find small mammals, lizards and snakes, but there were none on this cold and wet morning.

So, I took quite a few photos. In the shaded woods on an overcast morning, it was not at all easy to get an unblurred picture; they needed too long an exposure. That's a wood mouse on the left. But I got some nice sharp shots of the field vole, out in the open; they are at the bottom of this post.

The process of checking the traps was this. If the trap's door was open, they were just collected up. If closed, the traps were carefully put into a big transparent plastic bag, disassembled and emptied.

The creatures were extremely fast and lively, and were quite able to shoot up unguarded arms and escape; they had to be cornered inside the bag and then grasped firmly by the scruff of the neck. A couple of wood mice got away from unwary graspers, including even Jenny, so real care was needed. The photo at the top shows a trap being emptied.

I volunteered to pick up the creature that was turned out of the last trap, and when I took it from the plastic bag it promtly urinated on me. A pity there are no photos of that! I couldn't take photos at the same time as holding what turned out to be the field vole, also called a short-tailed vole, but I got some good closeups after that. The animal experts were very pleased with this vole; they had seen one under the corrugated iron before, but never had one in a trap.

Here's the park's Friends site: Friends of Jubilee Country Park.

A short-tailed vole being inspected in Jubilee Country Park
A short-tailed vole being inspected

A short-tailed vole being held for its photograph in Jubilee Country Park
A short-tailed vole being held for its photograph

A short-tailed vole being held for a closeup in Jubilee Country Park
A short-tailed vole being held for a closeup

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