Autumn is the season when we are most likely to see small mammals in our gardens. As the weather turns colder, there is a tendency for mice and voles to forget their fear of humans and take shelter in our sheds and outhouses.
For anyone who lives in urban areas the most likely visitor is the house mouse but, if you live near the countryside, then you might be lucky enough to share your garden with a wood mouse, also known as the field mouse.
The wood mouse is altogether a more attractive proposition than the house mouse. For one thing it is less likely to enter our homes and cause damage and for another it doesn’t have the distinctive 'stale' smell. This is an appealing creature with large black eyes, big ears and an attractive pelage which, unlike the drab grey house mouse, is chestnut brown above and clean white below.
Wood mice find shelter and food in gardens as winter approaches. They are agile enough to climb on shrubs to find berries and will even take food from bird feeders, if they are not too high, but they can more commonly be found searching for fallen berries and nuts on the ground close to dense cover. Watch out for them darting across open spaces between one feeding area and another, particularly at dusk when they are most active.
To do your best for garden visitors, both avian and mammalian, don’t be tempted to prune any of your shrubs or trees until their berries have all been eaten or fallen to the ground. In quiet corners of the garden leave piles of logs which will be used as shelter by wood mice.
If you would like a more intimate look into the private life of a wood mouse try erecting a nest box low down against a tree. The hole in the nest box should be about 1 ½ inches diameter and face the tree trunk in such a way as a mouse can gain access. Next year, during spring and summer, have a look inside to see if a wood mouse has made a nest there.
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