Last Saturday morning myself and a group of enthusiastic participants were up bright and early to go in search of elusive mammals in Christchurch park. The evening before, myself and volunteer Ian had set up 20 Longworth traps and 10 footprint tunnels around the park, and thankfully we only had a few traps left to set as the rain began to fall!
Longworth traps are a survey method used for small mammal population studies as they safely trap mice, voles and shrews in the nest chamber of the trap (full of hay, bird seed, apple and casters), ready to be identified (and sometime marked) in the morning. Casters are a critical ingredient, as these will satisfy any shrews that are trapped – these insectivores need to eat every few hours to survive!
Footprint tunnels are the main survey method for detecting hedgehogs. They contain food, ink and paper, so that any animals enticed in by the food leave behind their footprints for us to identify!
We were very pleased to find a young bank vole in the first of our traps, though he/she didn’t fancy sticking around for long, so unfortunately we didn’t manage to sex it. The rest of the traps were empty, but we did find lots of signs of small mammals in the footprint tunnels, with 9/10 tunnels containing teeny tiny footprints.
We will be running further mammal detective events around Ipswich parks in the coming months, so keep an eye on our Whats On (type ‘hedgehog’ into the search bar for our project events!). In September we will also be conducting a five night hedgehog survey in Christchurch park to obtain a high level of confidence of hedgehog presence or absence from the park. If you’d like to be involved, please email firstname.lastname@example.org