Or…look what the cat dragged in…
Did you know that there is no complete and up to date list of the small mammals that live in the wild on Camano Island? The best way to reliably develop range maps documenting where a species is known to occur is to have a specimen in hand. These specimens are housed in various natural history museums where they are kept for generations and can be used for a variety of conservation assessments. For example, museum specimens help us determine whether a species is broadly distributed over a wide geographic area or whether it is restricted to only a few places. Knowing this helps target places to protect through various conservation actions.
The islands of San Juan and Island Counties are relatively poorly studied compared to other mainland sites. In San Juan County, the Shaw Island Vole occurs on some islands, but not others. This creature was designated as a sub-species of the mainland’s Townsend’s Vole in the 1940’s based on its smaller size and slightly different skull shape. Today we have sophisticated genetic techniques to help us understand how populations in different geographic locations are related to one another. Biologist Ruth Milner from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is now collecting specimens from as many islands as possible, as well as the mainland, to help us understand if the Shaw Island Vole is genetically distinct from vole relatives elsewhere in western Washington.
“Voles can be darned hard to catch,” says Milner, “so I am seeking specimens that turn up on doorsteps to increase our sample sizes.” Although the study will focus on voles, Milner says there are so few museum records for any small mammals in the islands that she is interested in preserving all native small mammal specimens that people might find.
Milner is particularly interested in obtaining vole specimens, but will take anything your cat or dog might bring you, except for house mice and rats. These creatures are ubiquitous and non-native. If you find a mouse or rat with a long, scaly tail with very little fur on it, it’s not wanted for this study. Voles have short furry tails, as do shrews; deer mice have long furry tails. If you find a small mammal carcass that is relatively fresh and intact, Milner will take it.
Specimens should be placed in a zip-lock baggie and frozen with the date of collection and specific information describing where it was found, along with a name and phone number or email of the collector included in the bag with the specimen.
Milner can be contacted at 360-466-4345 ext 265 or email@example.com to arrange for pick up of your specimen.