Search for an endangered mouse – Part 2

March 24, 2009 by
Filed under: Australian Mammals 
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How to catch an Endangered Hastings River Mouse.

Hastings River Mouse captures - dougbeckers.comWe need somewhere to trap, something to trap them in, some bait as a lure a way to handle them, a way to measure them and sex them and then a way to mark them so that I can determine if I have captured the same mouse previously. I also must have some specialist training and licences and approvals to trap. I also trap with some colleagues, such as the Rangers of the various National Parks.

Elliott "A" trap - blogWhat do I use to catch them?

I use an aluminium self folding trap called and “Elliott” trap to catch the Hastings River Mouse. The trap is laid during the day and left open at night. In the morning early the traps are checked and any animals captured are “processed” (I’ll discuss processing later). The traps are baited with a small bait ball comprised of a mixture of rolled oats, honey and peanut butter. When the animal enters the trap, it treads on a “treadle” at the base and the front door snaps shut capturing the animal. If the weather is wet and rainy the traps are placed in a plastic bag to prevent the animal (and bait) getting wet.

Where to trap?

I trap in locations where the Hastings River Mouse has been captured previously, and more specifically the trap needs to be placed on the ground where an animal is most likely to be captured. Hastings River Mice love living in thick understory vegetation and like living near complex habitat such as large logs with hollows, and against logs is an excellent place to capture one of these animals.Elliot trap against log - dougbeckers.com blog

The traps are left out for 4 nights, checked every morning, and hopefully I get lucky and catch one of these special animals.

What happens when I catch a Hastings River Mouse?

Apart from doing a little jig bacause I caught one, I need to get it out of the trap without injuring it, and without being bitten on my fingers- OUCH!

Captured Bush Rat - dougbeckers.com If an Elliott trap has the door closed, then there is a good chance there is an animal inside (the photo shows a bush rat – Rattus fuscipes – captured). I carefully pickup the trap and open the door slightly to see what is inside. I do this carefully because there can be other things other than a Hastings River Mouse inside, that can really bite! I have caught large snails, crayfish, mice, rats, dunnarts, lizards and even venomous snakes have been caught in “Elliot” traps.

Hasting River Mouse - processing mouse 1 - dougbeckers.com A calico bag is placed over the entrance to the trap and the door is opened and the animal goes into the bag and it can then be weighed and handled. The photo shows Ranger Richard Harris is getting a Hastings River Mouse out of a calico bag.

You have to be careful about getting any animal out of a bag, they all want to get away from you and won’t hesitate to bite you to try and help their escape!

Once I have the mouse in my hand, I can “process it”. I determine its sex by examining its genitalia, estimate its age, look at its general condition, determine what species it is, pick off any ticks that it may have – if it has ticks they are generally around the ears and the back of the neck. I also give it a unique marking it by applying some paint to either an ear, foot or the base of the tail so that if I recapture it I know which animal it is. Everything is recorded in my special field book and then the animal is released.Hasting River Mouse captures dougbeckers.com

The photo above shows a somewhat bedraggled Hastings River Mouse being released, notice the small patch of yellow paint on its left ear. How many traps are required to catch a Hastings River Mouse? You will be surprised how many traps are required and what other animals we catch at Mt Royal National Park along with Hastings River Mice. But that’s the next story.

Want to see more photos? Click here to see more.

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