1. Small Mammal Trapping in the Himalaya

Some of you may know that I have started a three-year study into the altitudinal variation in small mammal communities and populations in Nepal. And I’m sure it will come as no surprise to know that I have been using BioEcoSS TubeTraps – 150 of them! They take a bit of carrying to get them up to 4000m, but I have a very enthusiastic team of colleagues and porters. I completed the first autumn field season last November. Despite atrocious weather, it was very successful. I caught 228 animals, belonging to ten species, including four species of shrews, a vole and several large rats! More about these captures in a future snippet.

But, the scientific results will have to wait for a while. The purpose of this snippet is to let you know about the practicalities of using BioEcoSS TubeTraps and CarryCases. Just to set the scene, here are some snaps of them in use:

All Photos © Simon Poulton

The CarryCases really proved their worth, both for trekking to and from the field sites, and for preparing and carrying the traps to the trapping grids. In particular the cases were very useful for sorting the traps prior to use, filling the nest boxes with food and bedding and then snapping the tunnels into them. They even doubled up as a camp-table for sorting and storing the tissue samples!

The nametag holders in the base of the tunnels were extremely useful, because each trap within the grid had a unique number. Although the tags did get pretty wet in some cases, because they were printed on card, they remained visible – unlike when felt pens are scribbled all over traps, and then being crossed out and renumbered by another user! As a matter of interest, we found that colour-coding the traps and cases with insulating tape was very useful to help ensure that the correct traps were place in their proper place within the grids.

On the whole, false trip rates were fairly low at 4.8%. Of these, 3.4% were just closed but empty traps. The remaining 1.4% had either been disturbed by livestock or wild animals, or were open with clear signs of animals having entered. Interestingly there were five cases of traps being completely covered by soil from ant activity – a notorious problem in the sub-tropics I suppose!

A more complete analysis of these methodological factors will have to wait for future field seasons to be completed, but if you are interested in more information, drop me an email at simon@bioecoss.co.uk

Finally, I would like to say a big "Thank You!" to everyone who has helped me with this project. There are too many to name individually at this stage, but here's a photo of the team that went to Pipar in Annapurna National Park, with the magnificent Machhapuchhare (3m short of 7000m) in the background. I would like to acknowledge the permission granted to me by the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Simon Poulton: 2nd January 2014