December 12, 2017

Yellow-necked Mouse (Apodemus flavicollis)

Ever since I can remember I’ve wanted a Longworth Trap. This fantastic combination of shiny aluminium and post war British engineering allows the safe live capture of small mammals. Its a very elegant design featuring a kind of hallway and nestbox arrangement with a pressure sensitive bar that triggers a trapdoor once a creature is far enough inside. I’ve experimented with various baits over the years but a smear of peanut butter (crunchy – obviously) on the inside has proven the most irresistible.

Each winter,we share our old house with a few mice. They aren’t House mice (Mus musculus) but a mixture of Wood mice (Apodemus sylvaticus) and this species, Yellow-necked mice, who presumably decide that they’ll have a seasonally easier time of it by visiting us. This seems like the obvious reason but in a recent study, the Mammal Society concluded that although Yellow-necked mice are not fond of wet conditions, they’re not overly worried by the cold and that this house sharing behaviour may simply be down to the fact that population pressure means that young mice set off to find new territory at the end of the summer and they’re just exploring new habitat possibilities.

This winter, there have been fewer rodent visitors than in previous years. To make sure no trapped animals perish I monitor the trap frequently when deployed, and only ever put the trap down where there’s clear mousey evidence like nibbled packets in the larder, nocturnal scampering noises or, as has happened twice recently, when the bewhiskered guest boldly dashes across the carpet. In previous years I’ve relocated a mixture of species and up to ten or so individuals, but winter2010/11 yielded only four captures and of these only a single Wood mouse.

The mouse in this case was of a particularly large Yellow-necked variety. My son Joe, picked the trap up from the living room floor the other morning and as soon as he’d handed it over I could tell it was occupied as it was pretty weighty. Sure enough the Longworth’s resident was soon scrabbling around inside so we quickly rushed to put on wellies and coats so that we could set it free in the garden. We chose a highly salubrious location on top of our compost bins as a release site and I dismantled the trap inside a large plastic bag so that we could see and record whoever popped out.

This mouse was pretty unperturbed by recent events and sat on the top of the trap getting his bearings for a moment before trying a couple of experimental jumps, much to my son’s obvious delight. I then gently tipped the mouse out onto the compost bin beside Joe and with one mammoth leap of at least four feet, it had vanished into the catkin covered hazel hedge.

Incidentally, it stuck me as quite lyrical that I was taking pictures of a mouse with a Blackberry :)