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Feature Creature - Harvest mouse

Credits: Amy Lewis

Who loves this little creature? It's the HARVEST MOUSE! These tiny rodents may continue to breed throughout the autumn if the weather is good, although you'd be very lucky to see one!

Fantastic facts:

 

*Favourite foods: seeds, insects, fruits and berries     *Enemies: birds of prey, weasels, crows and foxes

 

*Life span: about 1 1/2 years in the wild     *Number of young: around 7 babies per litter

 

*Super-power: amazing hearing. They can detect movement from several metres away, giving them time to scurry for cover.

 

*Latin name: Micromys minutus (small mouse)     *Colour: Grey/brown at first, becoming more red as adults  

 

But what are these little rodents and what can they do? Harvest mice are:

 

Mini mice

 

Harvest mice are the UK's smallest rodent, weighing only as much as a 20p piece! Their tiny size makes them perfect for life in grasses and reeds where they spend most of their time clambering through tall stems. They are also the only UK mammal to have a 'prehensile' tail, meaning they use their tail as an extra limb to grip surrounding stalks.

 

Weavers

 

Harvest mice are famous for building round nests out of grass. Females weave these nests from the leaves of living grasses and line them with extra padding, creating a complete sphere without an entrance. These nests shelter their young and are freshly built for each litter, of which there might be three per year.

 

The best time to look out for these nests is in the winter when many of the surrounding plants may have died back. They are often built some way off the ground and may be found in bramble patches, hedgerows, long grass and reed beds.

 

Nests may be active from spring all the way through to early winter, but in the coldest parts of the year harvest mice take shelter amongst the matted layers of old grass close to the ground.

 

 

 

 

 

Sensitive

 

As you might guess, harvest mice get their name from their relationship with farmland. Traditionally, they were most often encoutered at harvest time when they would help themselves to spilled grain and find their way into stacks of stalked wheat left out in fields.

 

Harvest mice are not so abundant throughout the UK today, but there are signs that they are making a comeback in some places where traditional skills are used to manage the land. Have a look at this video about a Suffolk Wildlife Trust project monitoring harvest mouse numbers with the help of one of its enemies...

 

Credits: Harvest mouse nest (c) Martha Meek / Harvest mouse (c) Amy Lewis