Small mammals – it seems like a strange category to put anything in, but it does exist. It contains mice, voles and shrews, among other things. I feel compelled to write a blog today about these furry little animals as I will be spending a lot of time in their company over the next few weeks. In the past I have been lucky enough to have close encounters with the very adorable dormouse. In Somerset in England (with the National Trust) I was involved in some annual surveying to determine breeding status. These are one of the small mammals that have a very good press image. They spend colder and wetter spells in the summer in a sleep like state called torpor, where they conserve energy until its time to venture out again to feed. In this semi sleep, they are easy to handle and the field worker can take a few minutes to wonder in awe (and grab a few shots!)
This summer I was involved in another study on small mammals. This time it was less specific. We got up close and personal with anything small enough to enter the traps, and interested in our food offerings. The usual suspects were slugs (not very nice!), mice, voles and shrews. The project involved 5 days of catching and releasing the small mammals (it sounds better than rodents!). When an animal was caught we determined its gender, weighed it and gave it a very fetching haircut or tail mark so it could be recognised again if recaptured.
The majority of the small mammals are not very aggressive, so there is no need to fear mice! But unfortunately there is one species, which I will call the yellow necked bully (yellow necked mouse). This species is bigger and stronger than the others, and is known for its aggression and eagerness to taste the field worker! I have handled a few, but very carefully, without incident thankfully!
So over the next 3 weeks I am back in the field (yipeee!), getting close to the small mammals again. My weekend will be filled with studying photos of the small balls of fur, refreshing my memory, making sure I can tell them apart. Fingers crossed I don’t get bitten!