Wildwood Kent
Wildwood Kent
Wildwood Kent

Harvest Mouse

Micromys minutus

 
 

Description

Smallest of Britain’s rodents (4-6g on average). Noticeably smaller than other British species of mice, with small eyes and small furry ears. Fur is golden brown to orange, with a lighter underside. Tail is prehensile and the same length as the body and head.

Distribution

Found throughout Europe, and in parts of the Far East. Not found in Scandinavia.

Habitat

Heavily associated with grassland and arable land. Cereal crop fields are favoured, but are found anywhere with dense vegetation such as hedgerows, reed beds and areas of tall grasses.

Diet

Variety of insects, berries and seeds. Fungi and roots may also be eaten occasionally.

Behaviour

Active throughout the day and night (but mostly at dusk and dawn). Excellent climbers, using both their prehensile tails and large hind feet to grip grasp stems. Do not hibernate, so spend quite a lot of time underground during the winter. In summer months, they live in round, tennis ball sized nests of woven grass at least 30cm above ground. This is a clear indicator of harvest mouse presence.

UK Status

Found in England, south of Yorkshire. Absent Ireland, and a few records from Scotland and Wales but there are probably released captive animals. Locally, can be quite common but nationally considered rare. UK population is thought to be around 1,425,000 (PTES). In the last 40 years their population has continued to decline. Listed as a Biodiversity Action Plan species (BAP); a status that offers protection and conservation plans in order to halt or reverse their decline.

Threats

Changes in land management and habitat loss is the reason for this decline. The intensification of farming in recent years, as well as the large scale removal of hedgerows across Britain has meant that their habitat has become fragmented or disappeared completely. Roadside verges are becoming increasingly crucial for harvest mice.

Wildwood

Despite being a stronghold for Harvest mice, there are still gaps in the knowledge regarding their distribution throughout Kent. Wildwood have teamed up with the Kent Mammal Group on a project to tackle this. Visit our conservation page to find out more and get involved with the HLF funded Kent Harvest Mouse Survey.

Did you know?

Harvest mice live primarily within the “stalk zone” of vegetation. This is where they construct their hollow nests. Not only is the vegetation important as the material of their nests, but they use the tall grassy stalks as an integral framework for their structure. These nests are the size of tennis balls, usually around 50-100cm off the ground.