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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Conservation Field Camp 2011: Small Mammal Trapping

Anne Schnell checks small
mammal traps with students
(5/11, South Bristol NY)
This is the third post about CON 190: Conservation Field Camp, a required course for our conservation students at Finger Lakes Community College (FLCC). I have written about camera trapping and mist netting so far, but today's entry will be about small mammal trapping. Largely, I am an observer for this portion of the day. Clinton Krager is the lead instructor with Anne Schnell as co-instructor. The animals are captured using Sherman traps. These are live traps made of aluminum or galvanized sheet metal (I found a short history of Sherman traps here). We were trapping in a new location this year and had scoped it out a few days before the class began. Clinton had to set all 70 traps the night before Camp began. The traps are for educational reasons, so there is no need to place the traps randomly. We set them in rows in order to make it easier to check them and not miss any. Each trap gets a bright yellow flag to mark its presence.

We averaged 18 animals each day. That gave plenty of students a chance to try their hand at getting an animal out of the trap safely, identify it, determine gender and weight. The traps were all baited with the same home remedy concoction of Clinton's. I do not know the whole recipe can I can say for sure that it contains flour, molasses, peanuts, peanut butter, bird seed and tastes delicious... For some reason, each year I have to take a little taste. I think all good biologists should make the effort to know what they are trying to give their subjects. I draw the line at decade old squirrel paste though...

Removing animal from Sherman trap
(5/11, South Bristol NY)
The technique to remove an animal from the trap is to place a cloth bag around the back of the trap and flip it open so the animal has no where to go but into the bag. Well, that is not exactly true. Most often, they chose to stay right in the trap and need a little shaking to give them the idea that it would be better to exit. When the students do this for the first time, they are often reluctant to shake too hard (I am always a little worried about the ones that do not have this reluctance). So they shake and immediately the bait and cotton balls fall into the bag. Some get excited and think that is the animal and reach down to close the bag around it and the real animal escapes. I always picture the mouse in the Sherman trap throwing the cotton balls in one direction and darting in the other, but I have no direct observation of this behavior.

We caught only Rodentia. But we did get a nice diversity. In the week we managed:

-Red Squirrel
-Eastern Chipmunk
-Northern Flying Squirrel
-Meadow Jumping Mouse (many!!)
-Woodland Jumping Mouse (1)
-Deer Mouse
-White-footed Mouse
Clinton Krager with students
(5/11, South Bristol NY)
Red squirrel
(5/11, South Bristol NY)
Two of my favorite captures were the red squirrel and the jumping mice. This year I took one of the reds out of the trap without getting bit :) Here is a nice photo close up of a red squirrel that had a small cut on his ear from the trap. Red squirrels are most associated with coniferous trees although they can be found in deciduous forests as well.

Clinton Krager holding a red squirrel
(5/11, South Bristol NY)

After weighing the animal, we return it to the location where we caught it.

Meadow jumping mouse
(5/09, South Bristol NY)
My final photo is of a meadow jumping mouse from a Field Camp past. Check out those feet! Absolutely amazing... Jumping mice are actually pretty common but not commonly identified. I think people see something jump away and think "frog". There were a few days when we caught six jumping mice. Trivia: Jumping mice are the only rodents in NY with grooved incisors. Our rabbits and hares have grooved incisors as well.

1 comment:

  1. Zapus is a cool critter! We used to get them in traps back home in WI. I miss them since moving to the southeast...

    So, curious....what size Sherman did you catch the red squirrel in? That's a great catch for a Sherman trap!


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