Wood mice aggressiveness and flight response to human handling: Effect of individual and environmental factors

MªCarmen Hernández, Álvaro Navarro-Castilla, Ana Piñeiro, Isabel Barja

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Numerous studies have examined human disturbance repercussions on wildlife, mainly focused on the effects on behaviour, reproductive success and population dynamics. However, few studies have addressed the behaviour of prey species during and after human capture and handling and how this may correlate to individual characteristics or variation in their physical environment they inhabit. We explored wood mouse’s fleeing and aggressive behaviours in response to captures by human in their natural habitat. Eighty-seven wood mice were caught using Sherman live traps. For each trapped individual, aggressiveness was measured as the total number of bites inflicted upon the investigator during handling time. Afterwards, each mouse was released in a two-metre radius partially covered vegetation area that allowed visual mouse tracking by the observer and flight behaviour was registered by individual one-zero focal sampling technique during 2 min. Both aggressiveness and fleeing behaviour were analysed regarding individual (sex, reproductive status, age) and environmental factors (habitat and season). Males, adults and breeding individuals showed heightened aggression levels. Higher aggressiveness levels were found in wood mice occupying scrubland and during summer and autumn. The flight response was exclusively explained by reproductive status, whereby breeding individuals spent more time on fast escape than nonbreeding ones. These results indicate that both individual and environmental factors seem to influence defensive behaviours in the wood mouse during and after being captured by a human. Since human disturbance shares many aspects with the predation risk, behavioural responses found to captures may likely be influenced by previous experience of individuals with predators as well as to seasonal and habitat features conditioning predators’ densities but also protection against them.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)559-569
Number of pages11
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018


  • behavioural responses
  • human disturbance
  • risk of predation
  • small mammals
  • wood mouse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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