Traps, Tracks and Signs

Last night a group of families met in the evening at Blashford Lakes to learn a bit more about Blashford’s mammals. We set some longworth traps for trapping small mammals out and about in the woods around the Centre. We put food and hay inside the nesting chamber of the traps so that any trapped animal had a comfortable over night stay.

A longworth trap with the door open.

 After all the traps were set we headed out for an evening walk to the woodland hide and then walked back with bat detectors to listen out for any early evening bats. Unfortunately the only bat we saw was a lonesome pipistrelle flying over the Centre at 8.50pm when only 2 of the most determined visitors remained. We called it a night and crossed all our fingers that the small mammal traps would be more successful.

I need not have worried. As soon as I arrived I couldn’t resist but have a quick search to see if any of the traps had been tripped. The trap I had put in the compost bin to try and catch an almost guaranteed mouse or vole which we often see feeding in there on our compost webcam had let me down, the door was still open. However 5 of the other 10 traps did have closed doors! A brilliant result!

The trap door had closed!

After everyone had arrived they collected their traps and we waited in suspense as the first trap was opened. Would we have caught a small mammal or had we caught a very fat slug which can also activate the trip wire? We were in for a surprise as out hopped a very lively common shrew! This is the best photo I could get as it moved very fast and didn’t stay still for a minute but you can just make out its outline with its long twitchy nose.  They have tiny eyes and ears and a tail about 3/4 length of their head and body.

A common shrew

The next trap contained a bank vole. The vole was far less active and after exploring the tank it settled down to eat. Voles have very rounded snouts and their ears are covered with fur.

A bank vole

This photo shows the vole’s short tail in comparison to a mouse.

A bank vole - has reddish-brown fur and a short tail (although not as short as a field vole's tail)

The next two traps had both caught wood mice! This gave us a complete set of small mammals; a mouse, a vole and a shrew, which was an absolutely fantastic result! In the photo you can see the protruding eyes and large ears that are characteristic of mice, they also have the longest tails.

A wood mouse

The last trap contained a bank vole. This vole was much more camera-shy and hid amongst the hay.

Our second bank vole

When we had all had a good look at all the animals we had caught we released them back in the woods next to where they had been trapped.

We had a quick look through the moth trap and then headed out on a walk to look for tracks and signs of other mammals that had been out over night. We investigated lots of holes of all shapes and sizes, we found some nibbled hazelnuts and pine cones, lots of rabbit poo and some more snuffle holes made by the badgers searching for juicy worms to eat. We also found the remains of a gull.

After everyone had gone home and I was cleaning out the traps I remembered to go and collect my trap from the compost bin. But this time the door was closed! A bank vole had climbed in since I had looked in the morning. I released the vole back into the compost bin and it shot away out of sight.

I have sent our mammal records through to the Hampshire Mammal Group who seek to establish and monitor the presence of mammals throughout the county. Help us to build a complete, current picture of mammal distribution across Hampshire by recording every time you see a mammal in the county, and submitting it to the County Mammal Recorder. Email HMGRecorder@hwt.org.uk with the following information: 

  • Your name, the date and time of day you saw the mammal.
  • The precise location of the mammal (include a post code and also a grid reference if possible, e.g. SU123456).
  • The species seen (use the scientific name if known).
  • Additional details e.g. alive/dead, number of individuals etc will also be useful.

Thank you!

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