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Student surveys to help assess Shropshire’s harvest mice population

Posted 23 February

"Little is known about harvest mouse numbers in Shropshire but numbers of them have plummeted nationally. With more help with site surveys, we will be able to build a picture of the population of these tiny mammals and work to offer them more protection".

Three people standing in front of reeds – Shropshire Wildlife Trust’s Stuart Edmunds and students Hannah Griffiths-Bourne and Toby Price at the site in Tibberton.

Shropshire Wildlife Trust’s Stuart Edmunds and students Hannah Griffiths-Bourne and Toby Price at the site in Tibberton.

A series of harvest mice surveys at sites across Shropshire are being undertaken by Harper Adams University students in a bid to determine the status of the mammal in the county.

Students have already surveyed sites at Tibberton and the Old River Bed Site of Special Scientific Interest near Shrewsbury, and are working alongside Shropshire Wildlife Trust and Shropshire Mammal Group.

In the survey in Tibberton, Stuart Edmunds from the Shropshire Wildlife Trust and Shropshire Mammal Group worked with BSc (Hons) Applied Zoology students Hannah Griffiths-Bourne and Toby Price to examine the site for signs that harvest mice were present.

Dr Julia Casperd, Lecturer in Ecology and Conservation, said: “Hannah successfully located a rather damp harvest mouse nest.

 “The students were also lucky enough to see barn owl and kestrel pellets, a live field vole and field vole feeding piles, latrines and tunnels - and a number of common snipe.”

Stuart said: "Little is known about harvest mouse numbers in Shropshire but numbers of them have plummeted nationally.

“With more help with site surveys, we will be able to build a picture of the population of these tiny mammals and work to offer them more protection".

Hannah, who is originally from Oswestry, added: “The day was cold but interesting – and it was great to find the only harvest mouse nest that day! Stuart was full of information and very friendly.

 “Studying at Harper Adams so far has been brilliant -I couldn't say a bad word about it.

“The main thing that drew me here was the rural area, having always been in a rural area and having horses I wanted to stay in an area that felt like home.”

And Toby, originally from Abercrave, Swansea, added: “The day was eye opening to me as it gave me an insight to what skills are needed to complete a wildlife survey. We were expecting to find field mice nesting areas, and we were able to find one nest. We also were lucky enough to see many vole pellets.

“It was nice to be able to work with an expert, who was able to give good advice.

“Studying at Harper has been amazing so far and I am sure it will continue to get even better. I was drawn to Harper because the course looked very intriguing, and I would love to be able to expand my knowledge on endangered animals.

“Hopefully, in the future, I would love to take part in a documentary that brings awareness to endangered species.”

Following the initial surveys, Harper Adams students will continue to work to develop their knowledge of the presence of harvest mice across Shropshire.

Dr Casperd added: “We will be returning to this site and a number of other sites in Shropshire in the summer to do some trapping to determine the abundance of these small mammals, followed by further surveying next Christmas.”

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