“When one tugs at a single thing in Nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world . . . ” John Muir 1838 – 1914

Amazing Marsh

The Power of Asking! Most Incredible Field Visit Ever – Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse Habitat

I’ve been doing research on the marsh habitat and the salt marsh harvest mouse (SMHM) for years for my books. I’ve worked in the marsh pulling ice plants, cleaned the marsh, laid down in the marsh to look up to the sky and run through the marsh probably a thousand times. But never, never have I seen the marsh mouse.

I have just finished another manuscript and needed expert review. I googled experts and found a research study being conducted out of UC Davis. Further digging and I uncovered the professional studies being conducted by a PhD candidate and field scientist. I emailed her and asked if I could ask her some questions and would she read my manuscript.

She said YES. And oh by the way, would I like to go with her into the field when she tags and collars the marsh mouse.

WHAT! SEE THEM FOR REAL? Yes, yes, yes. Well, after being sick, running a race, being out of town, I didn’t think it would work. Then she called and said, “How about tomorrow?” I am so there.

This is one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had. I could not stop smiling the WHOLE TIME. The UC Davis PhD Candidate is conducting several field studies through out the Suisun Bay. I met her, donned waders, hat and we sloshed through the marsh checking their custom made traps.

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These are special boxes designed to capture the mice. They are checked frequently to monitor and release the mice. House mice and Western Harvest mice are caught and released.

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Mice that are captured are measured. SMHM must be a certain length to participate in the study. They are SO CUTE.

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Salt Marsh Harvest Mice in this area are recognized by their darkened hair around their face.

 

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See the teeny earring on this salt marsh mouse? It has numbers on the tag so the field scientists may keep track of their study subjects.

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This is the tiny radio frequency collar that is placed on the mice to monitor their movements.

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Salt Marsh Harvest Mice have grooved teeth. Check it out.

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This little sweetheart posed before she received a tag and collar.

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Collaring is “sharp” work. Notice those gloves the field scientist is using. Mice are not keen on the collar and will definitely bite!


Slush, mush marsh

Low tide on the salt marsh.

The marsh was the place that people dumped their garbage and construction debri. Just an ugly wasteland along the coast or inland. On a low tide, like the picture on the left, you would have seen garbage, tires and more, exposed. On a high tide, you could look out over a marsh and see all different kinds of birds. But most people thought “Wow, if this was filled in, it would be a great _______ (you fill in the word).

Marsh reached the foothills. Road and school were built on the marsh.

And that’s what happened to 90% of the wetlands in California – they were filled in for new development, businesses, houses, manufacturing plants or were used for agriculture.

Across the United States, over 49% have been filled in. Pollution has harmed animals, birds and water quality.

Rich marsh habitat.

Now we know better.

The wetlands (literally means wet land) provide essential food, refuge or nursery habitat for 75% of fisheries species.
Tidal Wetlands can slow shoreline erosion.
They improve our quality of water.
They even protect the land from storm surges.
They provide shelter from encroaching humans.
They help control stream flow.

Never judge anything by its looks.