Harvest mouse returns to its Hampshire roots
The harvest mouse, the smallest rodent in the country, has returned to the Hampshire village where it was first identified more than two centuries ago by the famous naturalist Gilbert White.
Thirty years ago, the fate of the harvest mouse was looking bleak, with attempts made by the people of Selborne to reintroduce them. However, landowners and conservationists in the Hampshire village have been working together and it has been recently announced that over 150 nests have been recorded.
It was in Selborne in October 1767 that Gilbert White, writing to fellow naturalist Thomas Pennant, explained how the mice he had been examining were an entirely different species which we would today identify as the harvest mouse.
In the 248 years since White’s observations, harvest mice have suffered largely due to changes in habitat management and agricultural methods.
In 1998, a nest of the small rodents was found by garden volunteer Laurie Woods, after a long absence at Gilbert White’s former home, and in 2011, staff from the museum made an attempt to reintroduce the mice once more, with some success.
This included creating habitats such as long straw wheat, which was grown within the 30 acres of garden and parkland at the museum in the hope that harvest mice would once again prosper.
By activities such as establishing and maintaining tussocky and seed-rich grass headlands around arable fields and planting, gapping up and laying hedges, the ‘Selborne Landscape Partnership’ has created a connected habitat for small mammals such as harvest mice, also benefitting birds such as barn owls and insects.
The group, which is lead by local farmers and also includes the South Downs National Park, the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, Hampshire Wildlife Trust, the National Trust and Gilbert White’s House, plans to roll out further conservation schemes on over 4000 hectares over the next five years to allow wildlife to continue to flourish in the land of Gilbert White.
To find out more about the amazing conservation work done to reintroduce the harvest mouse or to learn more about the man who first recorded them, go to www.gilbertwhiteshouse.org.uk