Derek Crawley

Flamingo Land documents harvest mice in North Yorkshire after a five year absence

Posted: 24th January, 2024

Flamingo Land has always been a centre of conservation excellence with ex-situ captive breeding and release programmes on an international basis as well as for British native species conservation. The company is continuously trying to increase its efforts to conserve wildlife in one of the world's most nature-depleted countries.

Part of this work involves surveying the vast array of wildlife that resides within the perimeter of the theme park, zoo and holiday resort. This is done using a range of tools such as moth traps, camera traps and footprint tunnels. Over the last year more than 580 native species of fauna and flora have been surveyed and discovered, including otters, hedgehogs, badgers, woodcock, skylark and even the critically endangered European eel

During one wildlife survey, in November 2023, a number of nests belonging to the harvest mouse, Micromys minutus, were found. The harvest mouse is Europe's smallest rodent, and the only one to have a prehensile tail. While listed as Near Threatened in Great Britain there has been a growing concern that the population is decreasing, most likely due to changes in habitat management and agricultural methods.

Following training by the Mammal Society, who are undertaking extensive research into the distribution of the harvest mouse in the UK, the conservation team at Flamingo Land set out to find evidence of this animal. Harvest mice weave incredible nests into the stems of tall grasses, and after the breeding season has finished it is safe to search for these to establish presence or absence.

The harvest mouse had not been recorded in North Yorkshire since 2017, according to the data available on the National Biodiversity Network and iNaturalist websites. In November 2022 the first nests were discovered but finding more nests this year confirms the population is continuing to breed and is more likely to be stable.

Flamingo Land’s conservation officer Kieran Holliday says “Assisting in UK projects is incredibly important and if we are correct that these findings are the first harvest mice found in North Yorkshire in five years, then it is proof that we are carrying out necessary and extremely valuable work which is amazing to see. The presence of this species is considered an indicator of a healthy ecosystem, and I find this extremely motivating that they are here and we are on the right path.”

Ecologist, Ian Bond, who provided the training on behalf of the Mammal Society said, “The harvest mouse is a bit of a mystery, the Mammal Society’s national harvest mouse survey is about encouraging the public to help solve that mystery. I’d encourage everyone to rummage around in the long grass to look for their nests; it’s a magical experience when you find one.”

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