Wildlife charity Wildwood Trust is behind the first ever all-Kent survey of one of the county’s most elusive mammals; the Harvest Mouse.
Results of the first ever study to look at the harvest mouse in this much of Kent are now available. The ‘Kent Harvest Mouse Survey’, led by Wildwood Trust, surveyed over half of Kent’s 3,500km² in between 2015 and spring 2020 and reveals landmark insight into this elusive and tiny mammal.
While previous surveys left gaps in the knowledge of harvest mouse in Kent, this survey concluded that the harvest mouse is thankfully still widespread across the county. But a number of threats loom over the little mammal:
Kent’s many developments, business and leisure builds affect some of the best harvest mouse habitats.
Marshland, which forms rich habitats for a range of species, including harvest mice, is significantly undervalued and often cleared for development.
The rapid development of housing to ease access to London, means floodplains are built upon
Housing and settlement often causes the removal of wild margins and watercourses, unkempt grassland, hedges and scrub where harvest mice live
The decline in traditional hedgerows and field buffer zones and the heavy drainage of fields means that harvest mice living space is lost, as well as safe zones to cross between habitats.
Harvest mice rely on road verges, but these are being increasingly cut down.
Kent’s increased risk of flooding could heavily impact harvest mice habitat.
Much can be done to project the future of the harvest mouse in Kent.
“Luckily we can help the harvest mouse by looking at the way we manage our countryside and environment. If we protect more marshlands, allow for wildlife corridors within housing and development projects, and time dredging and hedge- and verge cuttings better, then we can make a big difference for the harvest mouse. It doesn’t need much space, but it needs more than we are giving it now”. Says Steve Kirk, Leader of the ‘Kent Harvest Mouse Survey’ at Wildwood Trust.
Wave of local support
‘The Kent harvest Mouse Survey’ was carried out in collaboration with many organisations and individuals around Kent.The project was formed as a citizen science project, made possible by funds from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, and many local people were involved from the beginning.
“We are eternally grateful to over 20 organisations and more than 900 people involved in the project over the past five years”. Said Steve Kirk.
Wildwood Trust has no plans to stop anytime soon, although the survey is officially over. The Trust is currently building a database of harvest mouse monitors and plan to continue training people to look for nests.
The aim is to have a wide range of people across the county who can check a site known to have harvest mice present and report back about the status of the mice, as well as the condition of its habitat, including threats and developments.
Despite a conservation status as a Species of Principal Importance, the harvest mouse is one of the least studied mammals in the UK and the least understood of all British mice.
The species is listed as ‘near threatened’ in the UK,‘critically endangered’ in Scotland and ‘vulnerable’ in Wales on the IUCN red list.
A lack of ecological data makes it difficult to assess the speed of the species’ decline and it is often overlooked within actions on biodiversity and conservation.
Read the summary report here: https://kent.wildwoodtrust.org/conservation/kent-harvest-mouse-survey-a-hlf-funded-citizen-science-project/