Rewilding Ealing, one mouse at a time

Calderglen Harvest Mice arrive in Ealing (Photo: James Morton)

We’ve recently kicked off our ‘Rewilding Ealing’ initiative with the reintroduction of locally extinct and nationally threatened species, the diminutive Harvest Mouse. Also known by its scientific name of Micromys minutus, or the ‘minute micro mouse’, it’s the UK and Europe’s smallest rodent, and the only one with a prehensile tail designed to cling to the finest of grass stalks and vegetation as it climbs.

Last year we outlined the aims, preliminary survey work and preparations for the project in a live webinar, recording available to watch here:

We were thrilled with the reaction to our crowdfunding campaign to raise funds not only to source mice in large numbers for release but also allow us to buy equipment and housing for our very own captive breeding facility. We asked our community of wildlife fans to sponsor a mouse for £10 and reached our target within days. The crowdfunder, which is still open to donations to support our borough wide conservation efforts, can be found here:

https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/ealingharvestmice?utm_term=V7VrrkVVn

We’ve partnered with Calderglen Zoo in East Kilbride near Glasgow who have been breeding Harvest Mice, and a few weeks ago delivered our very first mice to be released as well as to form the foundation of our own captive breeding colony.

And since the initial release we’ve had quite a bit of interest and coverage including BBC London and Scotland news. Check out the release and see these amazing little rodents being set free into the wild after a potential absence of 30-40 years from our borough here:

(Featured image: James Morton)

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Group reintroduces the threatened Harvest Mouse back to London!

Harvest Mice are set to be released in a new location in London by a local community group in Ealing, West London – bringing the rodents back to the area for the first time in decades.

Harvest Mice are Britain and Europe’s smallest rodent, and, in recent decades, these miniature mammals have undergone rapid declines due to changes in land management nationwide.  The mice live mainly in grassland areas and eat seeds, fruit and invertebrates and build their spherical nests high up in tall grasses.  

Reinstating the harvest mouse population is important for a number of reasons but, most significantly, their presence in the Ealing area can support the wider food chain and will be a welcome addition for Ealing’s growing populations of birds of prey including Barn Owls, Kestrels and Little Owls.

Local community group, Ealing Wildlife Group (EWG) are behind the project.  EWG are focussed on bringing nature back to urban areas and have spearheaded a number of other successful projects in the area including driving the increase in bird of prey species nesting in the borough.  

In order to release the Harvest Mice, Ealing Wildlife Group (EWG) successfully crowdfunded their project to purchase hundreds of captive bred mice from one of the UK’s leading rewilding experts and set up small breeding colonies of their own. The plan is to release the mice into the wild over the next couple of years.

Sean McCormack, Chair of local conservation community Ealing Wildlife Group (EWG), believes that communities and councils can work together to create suitable space for nature, and the Harvest Mice reintroduction project is just the latest in a long line of projects being spearheaded by EWG.  Dr McCormack said:

“After extensive surveying of likely locations in Ealing, we believe Harvest Mice are locally extinct here due to historic habitat loss and fragmentation.  Over the last few years however, there has been an effort to manage some of Ealing’s green spaces more sympathetically for nature.  What this has done has enabled several sites within the borough to now have habitats suited to the reintroduction of Harvest Mice.”

After holding a webinar with the local community to outline the details of the project, McCormack set up a crowdfunding page to help fund the reintroduction – asking funders to ‘sponsor’ a mouse for £10.  The money raised will go to buying mice from a responsible breeder, one who supplies many rewilding projects with rare and threatened native wildlife, plus equipment for setting up some small breeding colonies of their own – enabling EWG to continue releasing mice into the wild in Ealing over the next couple of years. 

EWG are also partnering with a number of conservation organisations already breeding Harvest Mice including Calderglen Zoo in East Kilbride near Glasgow, who have supplied the first cohort of mice to have been set free into the wild in Ealing.

EWG will also spend an extra £500 on Longworth live mammal traps, enabling the harmless monitoring of small mammal populations in Ealing.  This monitoring will ensure the habitat management continues to be successful and that populations of the harvest mice, as well as other small mammals such as voles and shrews, can continue to thrive for years to come.

Fundraising has been incredibly successful and the £2,500 target was hit within days of set up however, if you would like to contribute to this exciting urban rewilding project, you can find the Harvest Mice Reintroduction page here.  

If you would like to watch the Harvest Mouse webinar to hear more about this exciting project, you can find it on YouTube: youtube.com/c/EalingWildlifeGroup/ 

About Dr Sean McCormack

Sean McCormack, vet and Chair of local conservation community Ealing Wildlife Group is passionate about nature and biodiversity.  He has a large instagram following and offers content across a variety of topics (animal welfare, biodiversity and allotmenting).  He also showcases some of EWG’s practical conservation projects on their highly subscribed YouTube channel. Sean hosts the popular podcast ‘Sean’s Wild Life’ talking to relevant experts and celebrity guests to explore topics in nature conservation, rewilding, sustainability and our connections to nature.

Instagram:  @thatvetsean

https://drseanmccormack.com/

About EWG

EWG is an inclusive community of locals interested in nature and wildlife in the Borough of Ealing and beyond.  Set up in early 2016 by Sean McCormack, a vet and lifelong naturalist, the overall aim of the group is to build a community of like-minded individuals, who are passionate to learn more about nature and who see the value in actively conserving it.  Since 2016 it has grown steadily in membership and secured funding for several community environmental projects.  The main hub of activity and discussion remains the Facebook group, where members can truly appreciate the diversity of wildness on our doorstep through others’ observations and posts.

2 Comments

  1. Zaden Zane

    I was wondering why they don’t reintroduce Harvest Mice to the mainline railways going out of London. After all they’re full of brambly hedgerows which harvest mice love, and the railways provide ideal wildlife corridors linking the countryside with city centres. I would have thought the railways would be the obvious place to start.
    PS I’ve been watching your video. I think it’s great. I gave you pride of place in my blog post
    https://zadenzane.wordpress.com/2021/08/02/harvest-mice/

    • Sean McCormack

      Thanks for the kind words, and you’re absolutely right, the railway embankments make for wonderful harvest mouse habitat! In fact the last known record for harvest mice in Ealing was from 1979 at Perivale Wood Nature Reserve and the recorder believed they were coming in to the reserve from the adjoining railway line.

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