BBC's Countryfile focuses on Surrey's harvest mouse project
PUBLISHED: 08:25 06 October 2016 | UPDATED: 08:46 06 October 2016
The hunt was on for the elusive harvest mouse as the BBC's Countryfile team descended on one of Surrey Wildlife Trust's nature reserves near Godalming.
TV presenter Anita Rani and her camera crew braved torrential rain to join a hardy band of Trust volunteers, as they attempted to catch the little mice on Thundry Meadows, in Elstead.
The TV programme highlighted the Trust’s unique project to monitor harvest mouse populations across Surrey using DNA testing techniques, led by living landscapes manager Jim Jones.
“Anita was really enthusiastic to see which furry creatures we’d managed to trap,” says Jim. “It was such a dark, wet day, but gave us a great opportunity to shine a light on the science behind our harvest mouse project.”
The team surveys for the tiny mammals by undertaking nest searches and examining owl pellets for harvest mouse remains. They also set small mammal traps and collect hair samples from the harvest mice, which are sent to the University of Brighton for DNA testing.
“The results are used to create a genetic map, which shows whether harvest mice sites are inter-related. This tells us whether individuals are moving around across the landscape, using green corridors - they are a key indicator species for habitat connectivity,” adds Jim.
“This project is a great example of how much the Trust relies on our dedicated volunteers to help us carry out our vital work. They turned out in the rain before dawn – and not just because there was a chance they’d be on the telly!”
Harvest mouse numbers have fallen in the last 40 years because of loss of habitat and intensive farming methods. Surrey does have quite a healthy population, which is great news for this tiny rodent.
The mice are mostly nocturnal and found in dense long grass, reed beds, cornfields and brambles. Their tennis-ball sized grass nests can sometimes be spotted secured in reeds or long grass about knee height off the ground.
The Countryfile crew spent a couple of hours filming with the Trust in Elstead on the banks of the River Wey, which offers ideal habitat for harvest mice.
• Surrey Wildlife Trust write a monthly column in Surrey Life magazine. For more information on the charity, visit www.surreywildlifetrust.org