How many types of mice are found in Dorset?
Five types of mouse are found in Dorset, these are the Wood Mouse, Yellow Necked Mouse, House Mouse, Harvest Mouse and the Dormouse. The Wood Mouse is the most common with Harvest and Yellow-necked Mice currently thought to be the rarest in this county.
Wood Mouse and Yellow-necked Mouse
- What do Wood Mice look like and how are they different from Yellow-necked Mice?
Wood Mice and Yellow-necked Mice have grey-brown fur with a contrasting white to grey underside. Both also have large protruding eyes, prominent ears and long, slightly hairy tails. Head and body length in these mice is commonly between 8cm and 10.5cm with a tail of between 7cm and 9.5cm. The Yellow-necked mouse is larger and heavier than the Wood Mouse but is most readily distinguishable by the presence of an unbroken yellow collar-like-band passing across the chest between the forelegs. Wood Mice often have a small orange-yellow streak on the chest here between the forelegs but never a continuous band.
- Where do Wood Mice/ Yellow-necked Mice live?
Found throughout Britain, the Wood Mouse is our most common wild rodent, succeeding in a variety of habitats including fields, gardens and open moorland as well as woodland and scrub. They eat a variety of foodstuffs including seeds, green plants, fruit and animal food and may, like their cousin the House Mouse, come into outbuildings and houses in search of food. Wood Mice are very active and agile but usually spend most of the day in underground burrow systems which can be quite extensive and will include nest chambers and food stores. Although having similar requirements the Yellow-necked Mouse is less common in Britain than the Wood Mouse and is only found in parts of Southern England and the Welsh Border Counties. It is generally less likely to be encountered than the Wood Mouse but will also come into gardens and houses in the autumn.
If Wood/ Yellow-necked Mice are found in your home you can live trap them, but release them at least 2 miles from your home, or they'll be back!
- What do House Mice look like?
House mice are a similar size to Wood Mice but are greyer with a strong ‘mousy’ smell and greasy fur. They have a more pointed face than Wood Mice with slightly smaller eyes and less prominent ears and a tail that is more or less hairless, appearing slightly scaly. The contrast between upper and lower is also less clear being more or less uniform grey on both sides.
- Where do House Mice live?
House Mice are common in houses and outbuildings, as well as in field and hedgerows, but mostly spend the winter in a building, and will never be far away from their food supply. Anything soft and easily shredded will be used to make a nest and these adaptable creatures can live in all sorts of places. House Mice tend to taint the places they live in, leaving greasy smears on well used routes as well as leaving droppings and urine and gnawing all sorts of unusual items, including wires and soaps.
- What do Harvest Mice look like?
The Harvest Mouse is one of the world’s smallest rodents, distinguishable from other UK mice by their tiny size, golden-yellow upper fur with white underside and long, prehensile tail which they wrap around vegetation for support. The blunt nose and smallish ears also help to identify this species. Adult Harvest Mice are only 5-7cm long, although the tail is this length again, and weigh only 5-8g on average (about the same as a 2p coin).
- Where do Harvest Mice live?
Although traditionally associated with cornfields Harvest Mice use areas of undisturbed, long grass, bramble, rushes and reeds across a range of habitats but most often associated with field edges, hedegrows, cereal fields or reedbeds. In summer they create small, neatly woven nests well above the ground. Nests are made from shredded grass or other reed but always include some live stems so that the nest hangs within the supporting vegetation. During the winter nests will be made closer to the ground, often in the base of a hedge.
For the very eagle-eyed nests may sometimes be seen between early autumn and late spring, after this time nests are commonly destroyed by new growth of the supporting plant.
- What do Dormice look like and where do they live?
Dormice have orange-yellow fur with paler undersides and are easily distinguishable from other mice by their thick bushy tail, colouration and stocky build. They grow to a length of about 6cm to 9cm with a tail length of between 5.5cm and 7cm. They can live up to 5 years in the wild, longer than many of the other small mammals.
Although the preferred habitat of the Dormouse was traditionally considered to be hazel coppice woodlands, Dormice have been found in a variety of woodland types as well as hedgerows, scrub and even sometimes in gardens. Dormice are mostly only active at night and spend a good period of the year (from October to April) in hibernation, having built up a reserve of fat in the preceding autumn. During their active period they require a range of food sources, taking pollen, flowers and insects early on the year and moving on to nuts and berries as they emerge in late summer and autumn.
Similarly to Harvest Mice, summer nests are made up off the ground while winter nests are at or below ground level. Dormouse nests are, usually, neat constructions of woven grassy material or stripped honeysuckle bark with an outer layer of green leaves (usually hazel leaves if there is some close by but any type of leaf can be used). The nest is slightly larger than that of the Harvest Mouse and does not contain living material. Unlike Harvest Mice Dormice will also readily use other structures, such as bird boxes, in which to make a nest. Dormice are excellent climbers and spend most of their time moving about above ground in the tree canopy or within a hedgerow.
Although Dormice experience a patchy distribution around the UK, Dorset is classed as a stronghold for the species and we are lucky enough to have records of this species at around half of our nature reserves, including several woodland and farmland reserves and even in the coastal blackthorn scrub at West Bexington.
- What is the legal protection of Dormice?
Dormice are strictly protected by English and European Law, and cannot be intentionally or recklessly killed, injured or disturbed in their nests. A licence is required to carry out any survey which may involve disturbing the animals, or to make any detrimental changes to an area known to support Dormice (for example by constructing a new road).