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17 September 2014
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Farmland Activities - Small mammals

Wood Mouse

Look out for small mammals such as Voles and Mice in farming areas. We provide some top tips for spotting these elusive creatures - plus some advice on how to humanely trap small mammals.


Wood Mouse - small mammal watching.

Watching small mammals in the wilds can be great fun during the autumn months.

Amongst the many animals to look out for are the Wood Mouse, Vole, Yellow necked Mouse, the Shrew and Field Vole.

Vole spotting

VoleVoles are one of the many small mammals to be found in many farming areas.

Field Voles can be found throughout mainland Britain except in island communities including Shetland, the Isle of Man, Isles of Scilly, Lundy and Ireland.

They are characterised by a rounded snout and grey-brown furry body with paler creamy fur underneath.

These creatures are very difficult to see because they are very nervous, having a large number of predators including Kestrels, Stoats and Foxes.

The Field Vole likes ungrazed grassland areas and may also inhabit woodland, hedgerows, or moorland. Grass is the mammal's sole food source so it rarely ventures far from grassy areas.

Look out for 'vole runs', pathways amongst the tall grass that the animals use.

The Bank Vole is found all over UK in field margins, woodland and hedgerows - it is easily identified by its reddish coat and compact body.

Look out for hazelnuts that has been nibbled by Bank Voles - the teeth marks only on the inner rim are a give-away especially where the outer surface is left unmarked.

For all their small size Voles are remarkably agile and ferocious in the hand and will bite and squeal and wriggle with alarming vigour.

It's often easier to hear than to see a Vole - listen for their distinctive sound.

Field VoleFun activity: Field Voles can be captured in live traps - no licence is needed for trapping this mammal because they are not a protected species. However, this activity should only be carried out for study purposes to minimise disruption to the animal.

One of the most common humane traps is the Longworth version.

The Mammal Society runs a loan scheme for traps for its members and also provides advice on humane trapping.

The trap needs a plentiful supply of bait such as cat or dog food or oats - never leave a trap for too long and always get advice.

Read the Mammal Society's information sheet

Mouse spotting

Yellow necked Mouse The Yellow necked Mouse is a large and impressive mouse, similar to the Wood Mouse, but bigger and heavier.

Mice have pointed noses compared to Voles - they are easily identified by their large ears, a long tail and protruding eyes.

This mouse also has a broad, richly coloured yellow band across its throat which links to brown areas on its upper parts.

The Yellow necked Mouse eats mainly seedlings, buds and fruit, but it occurs only in southern England, locally in Wales and along the English Welsh border.

It loves orchards, woodland close to arable field margins, and hedgerows so these are good places to watch for it, but spotting them is not easy because they are mainly nocturnal.

The mice may store food in an underground burrow systems can be extensive which have been known to cover a large area with many different entrances.

This mouse is particularly inclined to visit human habitation with the onset of winter, and its urge to seek sanctuary around harvest festival time means it merits term "church mouse".

The Yellow necked Mouse can be caught and handled humanely if you're hoping to study this attractive small mammal.

Learn how to do this by reading the Mammal Society's booklet "Live Trapping Small Mammals: A Practical Guide".

Read the Mammal Society's information sheet



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