A wildlife conservation group is looking for volunteers to help reintroduce the harvest mouse to Ealing.

Harvest mice are the UK’s smallest rodent, and Ealing Wildlife Group is searching for their nests as part of a larger conservation plan to reintroduce wildlife species to urban areas whose numbers have dwindled in recent years.

Sean McCormack from Ealing is a vet and founded Ealing Wildlife Group over four years ago to inspire local people to get involved with wildlife conservation. 

McCormack, 37, said: “We’ve deprived our ecosystems of another very important species at the bottom of the food chain that supplies a food resource for things further up the chain.

“Part of the reason why birds of prey are struggling in this country is that prey availability is not as good as it was 50 years ago.

“If we lose the species at the bottom of the food chain, we're really not doing very well in terms of protecting our biodiversity.”

The miniature mammals are 5-7cm in size and 4-6g in weight, with an average lifespan of 18 months.

They live mainly in grassland areas and eat seeds, fruit and invertebrates and build their spherical nests high up in tall grasses.

Harvest mice are listed as a Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) species because their numbers have declined over the years, and they are also protected from deliberate cruelty under the Wild Mammals Protection Act.

People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) research showed the UK population of harvest mice is 1,425,000, with numbers declining over 40 years meaning the rodents are now rare.

Ealing Wildlife Group has over 3000 members and is encouraging people to search for harvest mice nests in grassy areas such as Horsenden Hill.

McCormack said the nests are distinctive and easy to identify.

Before Ealing Wildlife Group can begin reintroduction plans, they need to see if there are any existing harvest mice habitats in the area first.

McCormack said: “I would be very pleasantly surprised if we saw them.

“If we don’t find them it's all the more reason to reintroduce them, because we're then confident that we're putting back a species that we have caused local extinction of.”

The reintroduction process would involve acquiring captive bred harvest mice from conservationist organisations and reintroducing them in suitable sites.

McCormack is leading an online zoom discussion about the project tonight at 8pm, with 100 spaces available.

A recording of the webinar will also be available on EWG Facebook group and YouTube channel afterwards.

Featured image credit: Michael Richardson - Wildlife Wanderer