Species Of The Week Number 42: Wood Mouse

We are very grateful to the Yorkshire Mammal Group helping us survey the small mammals around the Urban Farm and on Sugarwell Hill last weekend. It was part of our year-long Meanwood Road Bioblitz - which has identified 768 species so far. The Mammal Group showed us how to set and bait 50 of their Longworth traps, anticipating the arrival of some furry friends overnight.

Meanwood's Wood Mouse population did not disappoint with 13 of them venturing in for a feed, activating the pressure pad on the trap and closing the door of the trap behind them. The traps are waterproof and full of yummy seeds and the like so the trapped mice were comfortable overnight.

Wood Mice are a sandy-brown colour which, alongside their bigger eyes and ears, distinguishes them from the House Mouse. They can have as many as six litters every year which they raise in underground nests made of plant material. The nest burrows even have little doors made up of stones and leaves. Each litter has between four and eight young - which (rather shockingly) can be the progeny of as many as four different males.

With this level of reproduction you'd think we would be overrun, but predation by cats and foxes helps to keep the numbers down. and 30% of the Tawny Owl diet is made up of Wood Mice. (Little Rabbit FooFoo is also responsible for bopping some of them on the head of course).

Wood Mice have quite large territories - as much as one and a half acres for the males, females stay slightly more local. It must be very confusing for Wood Mouse to navigate their way around the undergrowth with its confusing mix of twigs, leaf litter, roots and plant stems. In fact I expect you also are wondering exactly how they do it?

Well, funny you should ask.

Wood Mice are super clever and are the only species in the entire animal kingdom (except for us) that are known to make and use their own actual signposts. They do this by positioning bright leaves and shells as a form of way-marking when exploring their local environment. High fives to the scientists Pavel Stopka and David W Macdonald who discovered this unusual and unique skill. They did an experiment swapping the mice's natural signposts for small white discs, and then watched how the the mice then moved them around and travelled between them.

Publicado el 10 de julio de 2023 por clunym clunym


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