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Conservation Optimism: The Return of the Harvest Mouse

Harvest Mice were last sighted in Ealing, West London in 1979. However, following great rewilding efforts, harvest mice have been reintroduced to the area in a nature reserve. Cerys Deakin reports on the success of the rewilding efforts and discusses exactly how these little mice were brought back to Ealing.


Harvest Mouse. Image Credit: Seaq68 via Pixabay.


For approximately 45 years, harvest mice have been classified as extinct in the borough of Ealing with the most recent sighting being recorded in 1979. Perivale Wood is the second oldest nature reserve in the UK and is the area where the last sighting of harvest mice was recorded. This year marked the reintroduction of harvest mice following rewilding efforts, which involved the release of over 150 harvest mice into the woods.


So, what threats are harvest mice facing resulting in their declines? With habitat loss being widely described as the biggest driver for the declining populations, there is also evidence to illustrate the drastic effects of modern agriculture with the introduction of new machinery, pesticides and wide scale stubble burning. Whilst harvest mice are not categorised as vulnerable, they are now listed as a BAP species (Biodiversity Action Plan), meaning they require conservation plans to reverse their declines.



Perivale Wood was not the only release site for the mice, there were more than 1650 mice released across various sites. Alongside this, there were efforts to encourage the connectivity between sites to allow for future expansion of harvest mouse populations.


Much of the success of these efforts are due to the investment of the London Mayor which is estimated to be over £2.4 million since 2022, including £750,000 invested by Amazon’s Right Now Climate Fund. There has also been a partnership between Ealing Wildlife Group and Battersea Children’s Zoo which enabled these efforts to be a success. The zoo aided in the breeding and rearing of harvest mice that were then released across Ealing. The zoo has also worked hard to showcase the species in their expertly designed exhibit.

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Harvest Mouse Nest. Image Credit: Hajotthu via Wikimedia Commons.


Despite being small, harvest mice are key in ecosystems across the UK and it is essential to protect their species now and in the future. So, what can you do to help in the protection and conservation of these mice? A simple solution is ensuring that there are areas with long grass and bramble patches in gardens and parks for mice to make their homes. Alongside this, recording any sightings to the Mammal society and aiding local charity efforts are also key in ensuring that future generations of the harvest mice can thrive. The success for Harvest mice in England illustrates that when people work together to restore and protect these species and other wildlife positive outcomes are more likely.


If you want to get involved in surveying of harvest mouse surveys, you have plenty of time to prepare! Surveying season is typically between October and March, when mice are most found outside of their nests. Check out the Mammal Society to see exactly how you can help with the next survey season!

 


About the author: Cerys Deakin is a third year Zoologist at the University of Exeter, with a passion for conservation. Cerys has hopes to have a career in conservation and animal welfare, and has particular interests in mammals and primates. She also has a huge interest in animal and wildlife photography that fits in well with her studies. You can find more about her studies and skills on her LinkedIn page or check out her instagram at @cerys.hermione.photography

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