The Hazel dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius), UK
This is one of the UK’s most endangered mammals, due to the destruction of so much of natural hedgerow and deciduous woodland. We worked with the University of Exeter at Tremough in Cornwall, UK, to adapt FIT for monitoring these tiny animals, initially at the specific level (to differentiate from sympatric species such as the wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus) and bank vole (Clethryonomus glareolus).
Because dormouse footprints are so small (some of the metacarpal pad impressions are less than 1mm in diameter), the method of collecting images had to be modified. Unlike other applications of FIT where footprints are imaged from a natural substrate, we collected inked impressions on paper. The University of Exeter developed a technique where an inked pad is placed before a long tunnel into which semi-absorbant white paper is placed. Animals run across the pad and along the tunnel, leaving impressions of all four feet on the paper. A large series of images were collected from both captive and wild animals of these three species, and an algorithm was developed that was successful in classifying at the species level.