Science

The Little Known World of The Harvest Mouse

From October 2021 until March 2022 the Mammal Society encouraged the public across the UK to help search for harvest mouse nests.

Image credit Gary Chisholm

Classified as Near Threatened with extinction (Red List for Britain’s Mammals) very little is known about the current population or distribution of the harvest mouse. The harvest mouse is thought to be an indicator of the health of an ecosystem, predominantly found in farmland, so declines are thought to be caused by changes in habitat management and agricultural practices. 

Harvest mouse distribution (in green), taken from ‘Britain’s Mammals 2018: The Mammal Society’s Guide to their Population and Conservation Status.’

This is why the Mammal Society set out to develop a monitoring strategy for harvest mice.

Zeb Soanes, Mammal Society Patron explained:

“Understanding more about this tiny species is so important. The harvest mouse is an important indicator species for the health of arable habitat, so understanding where they are found can help the Mammal Society reinforce the case for responsible farming practices and support for enhanced protections that align with that. Please do become a harvest mouse hero and support this survey!” 

The first survey season found just under 1, 500 harvest mouse nests from over 900 searches. On average 1.96 nests were found per survey and one survey even found 46 nests in a day. Nearly 30% of surveys found more than one nest and harvest mice were found to be present in 74% of the area surveyed. Additionally, harvest mice were found on a further 40 survey sites beyond those historically surveyed. Most notably in Scotland where this species is Critically Endangered.

Click on this link for: Surveys and projects

Dr Frazer Coomber said:

“The initial survey season got off to a fantastic start increasing the reporting of this species and laying the foundations for a community of harvest mice surveyors.

“However, in order to start assessing the status of this species we need to collect more data from across a larger geographical extent. I am excited to launch this year’s survey season in October which we at the mammal society have been working tirelessly on. We want to increase the community of surveyors and now have many more people in places across the country helping us.”