Welcome to Animal Magic – a series of fortnightly columns where we take an in-depth look at some of Tilgate Nature Centre’s popular, and less well-known, animal residents.
This week we put our tiny yet fascinating harvest mice under the microscope.
Harvest mouse (Micromys minutus)
Harvest mice can be found across Europe and Asia and typically live in areas with long grass and plenty of hiding places. They were once a common sight in Britain’s hedgerows but the removal of many of these habitats means they are now mainly found in southern England and Wales.
The active creatures are interesting to watch and are very cute with reddish-brown fur, a long hairless tail and tiny features.
Five fun facts
Britain’s smallest rodent
Weigh just 6g – less than a 2p coin
They have prehensile tails which means they are capable of gripping and are used as a fifth limb
Pregnancies last just 19 days and the babies are fully weaned after 15 days
Active during the day and night and don’t hibernate.
Come along and see
Our harvest mice can be found in the Discovery Centre, we usually have mice of all ages so you should be able to spot some babies too.
The mice enjoy exploring their homes and spend a lot of time clambering over things – especially seeding heads of grasses.
Their tails are key to their expert climbing activities as they use them to grip branches and keep themselves steady.
Another activity to watch out for is the creation of tennis ball sized nests which they skilfully weave from grass and use to sleep in and keep their babies safe and warm.
At the nature centre
We have had harvest mice at the Nature Centre for many years and they have always been extremely popular with visitors.
We regularly swap pairs of mice with other collections around the country to ensure we can have unrelated breeding pairs.
In the wild harvest mice rarely live more than six months and 18 months old is considered a very old age.
At the Nature Centre however, away from predators and harsh weather, our mice can live for up to five years!