This piece was written as part of the Naturewatch blog, a brilliant web nature series I’ve presented and currently script edit for university. See the original piece here.
In our latest episode of Naturewatch, we were joined by Nick Baker of Really Wild Show and Springwatch fame, a genuinely amicable and knowledgeable bloke, who certainly inspired me from a young age when his book of the wildlife year became my holy bible. But Nick, Liz and myself were upstaged by fellow mammals far smaller than ourselves, in the form of the co-stars we waxed lyrical over during our piece.
The mice, voles and shrews that scurry, burrow and snuffle through the vegetation are Cornwall’s, and the rest of Britain’s, most numerous group of mammals. Despite this, they remain elusive and unseen while we clumsy humans stampede past like walking tractors – even when we do see them, they are frequently quick and unlikely to hang around for long, as our Naturewatch camera crew found out to much frustration! To get a really good up-close view of these animals (and contribute to good science too), your best bet is to go small mammal trapping.
Before you do, if your experience in the practice is limited or beginner, ensure you’re doing it with someone who has the know-how and holds a license to trap shrews – as this practice involves maintaining good animal welfare, you want to ensure any captures you get are as healthy and stress-free as they can be. One of the most common and efficient traps to use – including the type we used on Naturewatch – is a rather wonderful steel contraption called the Longworth trap, which consists of a detachable tunnel and nest box. The latter is filled up with warm, cosy bedding such as hay and bait to ensure you’ve got something to entice the critters with and a tasty meal for the night: seed mix for mice and voles, and plenty of fleshy blowfly larvae (casters) or dog/cat food for shrews, topped up with apple for fluid, provides a satisfying evening a la carte. The traps all set, well covered and insulated, usually in a hedgerow type feature (the animals use these as corridors across the landscape), you can leave them open overnight to return early the following morning to see what you’ve got. Continue reading