As part of my project looking at the effects of industrial noise on owls, I’m also interested in determining what effect noise has on their prey. So this summer, I set out to look at small mammal population dynamics at noisy and quiet sites by conducting live-trapping of small mammals.
The type of traps we used are called Longworth traps, and they consist of a metal tunnel connected to a nest box. A small bar at the end of the tunnel trips the door of the trap. The traps were baited with sunflower seeds and pieces of apple, and bedding was placed in the traps so the animals could make a nest to keep warm overnight. We set the traps in the evening, and checked them first thing in the morning.
We caught a total of 8 species. The most numerous were red-backed voles, followed by deer mice and meadow voles. We also had a number of shrews, which are not rodents but insectivores. We also caught a few squirrels, both red squirrels and flying squirrels. And we caught a jumping mouse, they’re about the same size as a deer mouse, but have much larger back feet and very long tails to help them jump!
In addition, we caught two ermine. They are about the same size as a red squirrel, but with a much longer body. We were not trying to catch weasels, and they likely went into the traps because they smelled like their small mammal prey.
Photos and text by Julia Shonfield