Cut off their tails!

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Everyone remembers the farmer’s wife in the ‘Three Blind Mice’ nursery rhyme and we’re not joking. We (well Reading University actually) really do need you to cut off the tails of mice (and rats) and it’s all in the aid of science.
Researchers at Reading University have been working hard since 2010 to establish how likely it is that you, as pest professionals, will encounter rodenticide resistant rats. But as Dr Colin Prescott and his PhD student David Rymer explained at the London Pest Liaison meeting just before Christmas, it’s not only rats that carry genes that make them resistant to commonly used rodenticides. Mice have also got into the act.

This is important work and we know Pest readers will want to help. Many of you already have. So what do the researchers need from you to progress their work?

Contact Reading
If you want to participate, the first step is to get in touch by emailing the team. Give them your contact details (email and postal address).

You will then be contacted by either Mhairi Stevens for mice and Emily Coan for rats and instructions and vials for the tail tips you collect will be sent to you. Vials contain 80% Industrial methylated spirits to stop microbiological degradation of the samples.

David Rymer Colin Prescott

David Rymer (left) and Dr Colin Prescott 

Where to collect tails
Any location is fine, but depending on where it is or how many tails need analysing, there may be a charge. Typically two tails from a location new to the research project will be analysed free of charge.

How to collect tails
Tails need to come from animals that have been live trapped, caught by dogs or shot i.e. no rodenticide used. In addition, as Colin explains: “We can accept animals from kill traps as long as they have been dead less than 12 hours. And, don’t forget to make a note of the GPS co-ordinates or the post code and address for the location your tail tips come from.”

Emily Coan Mhairi Stevens

Emily Coan (left) and Mhairi Stevens ready to
receive your rodent tail tips

He continues: “We cannot accept animals found dead in the open as they may not be fresh and could well have died from anticoagulant poisoning. If the tail is muddy or excessively dirty then, if possible, wash it with a little clean water to prevent contamination in the lab.”

How to process tails
Cut off a tail tip (3-5 cm) using a clean blade or sturdy scissors

Drop each tip into a separate vial, label it with the location it’s come from (GPS coordinates or post code and address) and then within 12 hours of collection, post it to the university (details of where to send will be sent to you with the vials). If this can’t be done within the 12 hour limit then freeze the vials before sending off.

Rodent tail in vial

Vials for rodent tails wil be suplied free of
e for all new locations

Send vials in a jiffy/padded bag by 1st class post or by courier. Try to send on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday to avoid the chance of the tail arriving at the weekend and spending a few days out of the freezer.

Results and interpretation/advice will be sent to you as soon as possible.

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