A few weeks ago I saw a Mammal ID morning advertised at the headquarters of the Staffs Wildlife Trust; the Wolseley Centre, about 20 minutes from me. The morning would be spent checking a number of traps that had been set in the grounds. I thought it sounded interesting, so I signed up.
It was a stunning morning as I made it down to the centre. You can find out more on their website HERE.
There were only five of us there, with Scott from the Wildlife Trust who was leading the session. The previous day, they had set 42 traps in and around the grounds. Most of these were the traditional Longworth humane traps. They were also trialling some plastic versions of these traps to see how effective they were. The session would involve walking around the grounds, collecting and recording the mammals that were trapped.
We started by taking a look at the Longworth trap. The trap consist of two parts – a tunnel, which contains the door tripping mechanism – and a nest box, which is attached to the back of the tunnel. The nest box provides a large space for food and bedding material. When setting the trap, you must put bedding and food in this compartment, so that the mammal can survive the night. If you think you may trap shrews, then you have to apply for a license from Natural England. You must also provide food suitable for them, such as mealworms or casters. A shrew must eat regularly as they have such a high metabolic rate.
Scott showed us the trap and how it worked and collected the first two. Holding the trap in a large plastic bag, he removed the tunnel part and checked the mammal was not in there! He then tipped the contents of the nest box area into the bag, along with its trapped occupant… our first capture was a wood mouse!
Scott then showed us how to secure the mammal in the corner of the bag whilst emptying the other contents from the bag. You could then hold the mouse by the scruff of its neck and place it inside your cupped hands. Held there for a few seconds, it would (sometimes!) calm down. Scott then opened his hand and the mouse proceeded to run up and down him, before rushing off to safety in the undergrowth, none the worse for the experience!
We worked our way around the site, collecting , opening and checking the contents. We all had a chance to have a go and I was surprised how much you could handle the mice and voles. The mice were very energetic, running up and down you, but the voles were more sedate and would sit in your hand. Scott said the voles very rarely bit, although the wood mice sometimes gave you a nip!
We had soon released a number of bank voles and wood mice, but were hoping to catch some field voles as well. The voles that visit my clay cavern are bank voles; these are commonly found in hedgerows and have a rich russet red tinge to their coat. Of course, I only ever see mine in black and white, so it was lovely to see them in daylight! The field voles are found in more open, rough and tussocky grassland. They have a greyer coat and a shorter tail. We captured a couple of these and the colouration was the clearest indication as to the species.
This image shows a bank vole:
… and this a field vole:
Thanks to Steve for this picture of me holding a bank vole…
We collected 42 traps and had an amazing capture success of 28/42 – 17 wood mice, 9 bank voles and 2 field voles with 14 traps either false triggered or empty.
Before finishing, we went to one of the stream outlets, where the Trust have captured some great otter clips! The rock in the image is where they have been sprainting and they have been coming past this point about every 10 days or so. Their great camera trap footage can be seen HERE.
A big thanks to Scott and the team who set these traps. It was a really interesting morning and wonderful to see these mammals up close. Support your local Wildlife Trust by checking out what events you have happening near you.