Kingston University Biodiversity Action Group

26-09-2013 : Anyone at home in the woodland?!

Mini Mammal Monitoring - what did we find in the woodland at Kingston Hill? A group of five eager volunteers spared time over three days to try and find out!

Jen sets up the trap on our first night

The first evening, our 10 Longworth traps were filled with hay bedding, chunks of carrot and apple, rolled oats (all sounding very good so far...) And then we added casters - fly pupae used by fishermen as bait. The smell and look of these certainly turned our stomachs, but apparently mice find them irresistible!

This tasty combo was sure to bring out the small mammals of our woodland...wasn't it?!

We laid the traps every 10m along a 100m transect through the woodland in a range of habitat. On the first night the traps were locked open. This was known as the acclimatisation period, allowing mice to get used to the traps, and enjoy our offerings without being trapped.

Bruce lays a trap in amongst the bramble, tilting it downwards to allow any rain to drain out
On the second night we replenished the food in the traps. We were excited to see evidence that something had entered some of the traps for a quick snack over night.

Toothmarks on this piece of carrot were evidence of nibbling...

...and again on this piece of apple. Things were looking good!
Replenishing the traps was an important task as we wanted to make sure our mice and voles would be comfy and well fed during their capture period.

Jen, Rachel and Bruce refill the traps with food. Stand back its the smelly casters!
The traps were then replaced, this time set to lock shut when anything walked over the trip wire inside.

Rachel and Jen reset trap to lock on night 2
The traps were placed in bramble, under ivy and in log piles. We had a good feeling about these last ones - would we be right?!

Angela replaces trap in an excellent position among logs on night 2
Twelve hours later, weary but excited volunteers got up early for our 7am start to go and check the traps. This was as long as we could leave any animals inside the trap without fear of stressing them too much. Each trap was checked in turn by tipping the contents into a plastic bag.

John inspects the contents of a trap on the last morning
Trap by trap a similar pattern was occurring - open doors! This indicated nothing was trapped inside, but we continued the checks just in case. It soon became clear however that fortune was not on our side and we hadn't caught any mini mammals this time. However, our wildlife count was not zero - we saw plenty of slugs were taking advantage of the free feed, and spotted a few woodlice and spiders in the hay bedding. Nice to know our efforts weren't entirely wasted!

Slug found inside the trap on the last morning

John scrapes out slugs from the trap last morning
Our theory concluded that the slugs had often wedged the traps open allowing mice to come and go freely. We noted the woodland was in good shape and could still see blackberries on the bramble so we have no reason to be concerned that we didn't find any small mammals this time. And who wouldn't choose fresh blackberries over carrots and casters?!

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