Read about the life and work of the Attingham Wardens

Attingham Park is a National Trust property comprising of an 18th Century mansion set in a Repton landscape; the Park and wider Estate includes a deer park, walled garden, several miles of the rivers Severn and Tern, extensive farmland and woodlands.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Small mammal monitoring

 Jess and Paige (our student research intern) have been busy setting up a survey and monitoring of small mammals in the Park. Such monitoring is important as it allows us to observe rises and declines in populations. Currently there has been an alarming 75% decrease in small mammals across the UK - we need to find out if the same trend is apparent on our land. Small mammals such as voles, shrews and mice are important species and an indicator of habitat health - a decline in their numbers could have a big impact on other species such as the Barn Owl, which depends on them for food. Surveying is carried out using live trapping and the animals are released back into their territory as soon as we record the species.

The traps are filled with hay to make comfortable bedding for the night. Small mammals (and especially shrews) need to eat every few hours due to their high metabolism so several foods are also included in each trap - blowfly pupae (for the carnivores), a seed mix for the vegetarians and some chopped apple to provide water.

When emptying the triggered traps to see what has been caught, a large bag is used to stop the creatures escaping before we can identify them.The species, age and sex is noted. They are handled by a method called 'scruffing' - it may sound rough but it is simply holding them by the back of the neck, much like puupies and kittens, to examine them.

Above is a male field vole Microtus agrestis, identifiable by their large hind feet, short tail and grey/brown fur.

Above is one of the three common shrews Sorex araneus we caught. They have small eyes and a pointy, mobile snout. We also foudn a pygmy shrew, which is darker in colour and smaller than the common, but with a tail longer in proportion to its body.

Thank you Jess and Paige for the insight into their work! The monitoring will continue this bank holiday weekend.

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