Tens of thousands of Eurasian harvest mice would die every year without the help of the Wimbledon Tennis Club and 1,000’s of used tennis balls from the annual championship.
The Eurasian harvest mouse is a tiny, adorable rodent weighing in at around 4 grams (for comparison, an American nickel weighs over 5 grams). They are native to Europe and Asia and love to populate wheat and oat fields, scurry through reed beds and other areas where tall ground vegetation is abundant. They especially love long grass. These little brown, furry Stuart Little’s weave a home out of shredded grass, or reeds, and attaches it to the long stems high above the ground.
But for the past few years, intensive farming methods and years of flooding have destroyed almost all of the homes these mice have managed to build. But, thanks to some animal conservationists thinking outside the box, they discovered that tennis balls make an excellent, waterproof home for these tiny rodents.
All it takes is a small hole cut out of each ball. The balls are attached to poles a few feet off the ground and now these mice can make their nests and hide in the holes when threatened by birds of prey and weasels, which are too big to get through the holes. But we know how fast mice reproduce – that’s a lot of tennis balls.
Did you know over 120 baseballs are used for one game of baseball? One hundred twenty footballs are used during just one Super Bowl. But those numbers are small compared to how many tennis balls are used during one Wimbledon tennis championship – more than 54,000. So many balls are used because tennis balls scuff easily, wear down quickly, or they can become so warm that the heat starts to affect the ball’s physical dynamics so players want a replacement often.
Since 2001, some of 54,000 tennis balls used every annual championship at Wimbledon are now being donated to various animal conservation groups around Europe. So that tennis ball slammed by Roger Federer or the winning backhand from Venus Williams might now be the cute, safe home for a Eurasian harvest mouse.