Near Threatened in Britain
Weighing up to only 6 g – even less than a 2 pence piece, the harvest mouse can be identified by its tiny size & distinctive russet orange fur and contrasting white underside.
It is the only mammal in Britain to have a prehensile tail, which it uses to climb between tall grasses and reeds.
They are skilled nest builders as they bend & fold grass stalks around on themselves to form suspended ball-shaped nests off the ground.
Threats in the Wild
Harvest Mice are classified as Near Threatened in the UK, with the majority of the remaining populations located in the south of England.
The harvest mouse is incredibly susceptible to a range of threats, including habitat destruction and degradation – primarily as a result of agricultural intensification – and extreme weather events such as floods and prolonged frosts, which are becoming increasingly frequent as climate change progresses.
Consequently, harvest mice have been identified as a Priority Species by the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP, 2007) and a Species of Principle Importance in England and Wales.
Northumberland Zoo, with the help of a generous private donor, constructed a purpose-built facility in 2022 to house and breed harvest mice 'off-show' but within the public domain.
There is a large set of tanks in this room which will allow us to have multiple different bloodlines and offspring simultaneously. Harvest Mice are particularly feisty and offspring must be separated from parents at a young age. The on-show tanks will either house a single breeding pair, or same-sex offspring groups ready for release.
The offspring born here will be subject to a thorough on-site veterinary examination and health check from our vets prior to being released into the wild near Druridge Bay - less than 4 miles from the Zoo.
Staff from the Zoo will work with the Wildlife Trust and assist with future surveys of the wild populations moving forward.
Our facility is on show to the public with a series of tanks for holding breeding animals and offspring.