The University of Northampton and Moulton College are working in partnership to investigate the ecology of the declining harvest mouse, by tagging 150 of the wild rodents and releasing them in a top secret location in Northamptonshire.
The majority of the animals have been bred by Moulton College and Berkshire College of Agriculture, alongside some donated by zoos including the New Forest Wildlife Park. The animals have been tagged with a 7mm microchip, and their individual movements will be followed by innovative wireless radio frequency technology which has been designed for the study. The project aims to investigate the animal’s behaviour in the wild, and monitor how harvest mice disperse and then utilise farmland habitats.
Emily Howard-Williams, a lecturer in Countryside Management at Moulton College and a PhD student at the University of Northampton, believes her research is fundamental to protecting the vulnerable species. She said: “Harvest mice are elusive and much under-studied animals. They are so small they are often severely overlooked and we know very little about how they behave in the wild.
“Discovering more about how they behave in the wild is very important for harvest mice conservation. Previous research using radio-tracking has only been able to monitor harvest mice for three-week periods, micro chipping means that this monitoring can be life-long.”
Harvest mice are the smallest rodents in Britain. The harvest mouse population is under threat because of the destruction of their habitats, modern farming methods and the use of pesticides.