Since October 2021 groups of volunteers across the country have been searching up and down for signs of harvest mice, as the Mammal Society National Harvest Mouse Survey 2021/22 got underway. Our Ranger Nicola joined a group of mammal volunteers - including Diane and Michael, from the Forest of Marston Vale volunteers - who have also been getting involved looking for signs of this magnificent mammal in sites across the Forest.

A trio of images showing people looking in tall grass and bramble, and a harvest mouse nest

Harvest mice are under threat from habitat loss and modern agricultural practices and populations are thought to be in decline. They are classified by the IUCN-approved Red List of British Mammals as Near Threatened in Great Britain and Critically Endangered in Scotland. Because of this the Mammal Society is running its biggest ever national harvest mouse survey. The survey aims to understand the current distributional status of harvest mice by searching for their breeding nests. The mammal society hopes to use this data to protect existing populations of harvest mice and expand their distribution by encouraging land owners to manage their habitats differently.

Harvest mice at the UKs smallest rodent and the only British animal to have a prehensile tail. This means they are capable of grasping things with their tail. Their nests are made up of woven grass, and are found well above ground level (usually 30cm). Nests are surveyed in winter so that groups can search for abandoned nests with little chance of disturbing the animals.

Two people bent over looking through tall grass

Volunteer groups provide data to the Mammal Society on how many nests they find. Nicola, Diane, Michael and the team have surveyed five sites across the Forest and have found nests on three of them - Diane aims to survey as many Forest of Marston Vale sites as possible. Their latest survey took place on Saturday 15th January at one of our Community Woodland sites, where there were nine volunteers searching and a total of eight nests found in the area searched.

If you're interest in finding out more or would like to get involved in the search please watch the information video from the Mammal Society below, and contact them to be put in touch with the local survey coordinator:

Help us plant and protect more woodland and habitats in the Forest

We're working hard to create habitat that benefits wildlife for now and in the future. To help us plant and maintain more woodlands in the Forest please consider joining with a small monthly donation:

Become a Friend of the Forest