New use for tennis balls in Slimbridge

21 June 2010, 12:50 | Updated: 21 June 2010, 13:14

Its not just Wimbledon that need them...

Harvest Mouse

CONSERVATIONISTS hope that the simple tennis ball could be just the thing to give their harvest mice an advantage this year.

While only new balls will do for the players about to do battle on  Wimbledon’s courts, old ones are making perfect nest houses for the tiny mice at WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre.

Staff at the Centre in Gloucestershire hope they will help boost the numbers of mice living in its wetland mammal area Back From The Brink.

John Crooks, mammal manager, said: “We are hoping it will be a case of game, set and mouse!

“I have cut small penny sized holes in the balls and put straw inside and they seem to be taking very well to them. 

“We have about 30 in our collection here and we are hoping that the tennis balls will make them feel secure so that they breed well this year.

“A few years ago numbers of the mice in the wild did fall but they are starting make a come back as they many populations have moved to new nesting sites such as hedgerows and wetlands.”

The mice, which only measure about two inches in length when fully grown, are the smallest rodents in the UK.

Their breeding season is from May to September and they tend to have litters of four to six young.  In the wild they weave circular nests out of grasses and attach them to stems high above the ground.