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Small Mammal survey on the Trent Washlands

Trent Washlands Burton, Nov 13th & 14th 2021
Report by Lawrence

We did a Small Mammal survey on Burton’s Washlands last month in conjunction with the Staffordshire Mammal Group as part of the Transforming the Trent Valley project.

We set 40 humane traps on the Saturday evening, and then checked them on the Sunday morning, recording any findings. The traps contain food and bedding, and do not harm the animals; in fact on sites where regular trapping takes place, some will become ‘trap happy’ and seek out the free food and shelter. Derek Crawley, from the Staffordshire Mammal Group led the walk to identify any small mammals found on Sunday, and recording the sex and weight of each animal. This data will help us to advise on how to improve the site management, to benefit the mammal population.

Setting the traps

We gathered by the life ring alongside the Silverway, where volunteers from BCV and Branston Friends group were shown how to spot potential small mammal runs and all joined in baiting and setting the traps.

Traps were carefully placed, where they would not be obvious to passers-by, (we did once have some traps put in the litter bins, probably by someone thinking that we were harming the animals) but where they would be easy to recover the following morning.

 One team placed traps round the life ring area and adjacent to the Silverway, whilst the others set theirs in the wood at the rear of the old Abbey.

Preparing the humane mammal traps

The survey

The team assembled at the car park, 10.00am, including a number of Mammal Group members, led by Derek, who gave a brief talk on what we were looking for and hoped to find. We then walked to the trapping site to gather the traps and see what we had caught.

The results were very good, with 14 woodmice in a total of 40 traps, = 35%, an average would be 10% = 4, so very positive.

If a trap is occupied (you can tell from the weight), it is upended in a clear plastic bag and emptied out. The occupant can then be moved to a corner of the bag for viewing, and then lifted out by the scruff of its neck, temporarily paralysing it, so it can be identified, sexed and weighed, before release.

First successful trapping
If a trap contains an animal the contents are emptied into a bag.
Placed in a glass tank – note long tail for tree climbing

We were not surprised that the tally was all woodmice, as they are more inquisitive than others. Also being a tree dweller, they would have a better chance of survival, in a floodplain. Later, evidence of badgers digging for worms was seen alongside the path, near St. Peters bridge and 4 harvest mouse nests were found, near the life preserver and the ditch alongside the car park.

A positive result, showing a healthy population of small mammals in the area, suggesting that the area is worth developing further.