Deer Mice In-Depth

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Deer mouse is in the peromyscus genus. This is a genus that is related to the house mouse but distantly. Superficially, the mouse resembles Mus Musculus but they have some larger eyes in comparisons. They also have a two toning kind of coloring, the deer mouse has darker colors on the back while the limbs and abdomen have got a white hair color.

Deer mice are great runners and jumpers if we were to compare them to house mice and the name deer mice actually refer to the agility that they possess.

Physical appearance

The deer mouse body is small and weighs around 10-24 grams. They are between 119-222 mm in length normally and are a little longer than the normal house mouse. The tail length differs from one population to the next. It can be anywhere between 45-105mm. There are the woodland deer mice, which are larger than the prairie deer mice. They have bodies that are round with a nose that is pointed. Their eyes are beady, black and large. They have large ears that have very little fur on them and prominent long whiskers. Their fore limbs are much shorter than the hind ones.

They are grayish-reddish brown in color. The under parts are white. They have short fur that is soft and dense. The tail is finely haired which is dark at the top, but with a light bottom. There is a sharp color division. This is what makes them different from the white footed mice. There are other characteristics that distinguish them from other mice.

It is important to note that the characteristics of the deer mice sometimes differ and it mainly depends on the location. In some instances, you may not be able to tell them apart from others by only the physical appearance.

Habitat of the deer mice

Deer mice are quite common in America and they are well distributed in Canada, Alaska and central Mexico. The southeastern side of US does not have them and they’re also absent in coastal areas of Mexico.

They live within different kinds of habitats throughout the areas that they are found. They can survive in alpine, upper tropical, woodland, agricultural fields, brush land, grassland, and desert and forest habitats. They are more commonly found in the woodlands, the bush areas and the prairies.

Reproduction

Deer mice can be considered to be polygamous. This means that a male can mate with one or more females. The females will have quite a number of litters within a year. If in the wild, there is usually no reproduction over the unfavorable months such as winter. The females can become pregnant a short time after they have just given birth.

The gestation period of a deer mouse is around 22.4-25.5 if it isn’t nursing. If it is nesting, then the pregnancy can last anywhere between 24.1-30.6 days. A single litter can have up to eleven young ones. Typically, a litter has between 4-6 babies. Normally, the size of the litter will increase every time the female gives birth until the 6th litter. After this the number of babies may decrease.

When a deer mouse baby is born, it is usually very weak, but the development comes in fast. The mass of a baby is usually around 1.5g and they are usually hairless, with closed eyes, ears folded over and the skin pink in color. Usually, the ears unfold after three days with the ear canal staying closed till the 10th day. On the 15th, the eyes open and the young ones can start a solid diet between 25-35 days.

A deer mouse can start reproducing when it is 35 days old. If they are in captivity, the deer mice can actually live around eight years. In the wild, they have a much less life expectancy. It is around one year.

Behavior

Deer mice are nocturnal, meaning their activities are usually during the night. Though they love the ground, they are excellent climbers too. Activities are usually concentrated around the food store and the nest. The ones living in prairies have nests just below the ground within their burrows. Those living in the forests love to nest near things such as tree barks, outbuildings or cottages, brush piles, tree cavities and even stumps. Rounded masses of different plant materials are used to create nests.

A basic social unit usually consists of several adult females, one adult male and young ones. The deer mice come together in groups of all sexes and areas where they huddle together as a way of heat conservation. In winter, they can enter torpor so as to conserve energy by the reduction of their body temperatures.

The home range

They have home ranges of around 242sqyuare meters to 3000 square meters. The males have got home ranges that are much larger when compared to those of the females. The males utilize the home ranges so as to gain access to food and also to reproduce with females and nesting. For the females, their home ranges are used for feeding, rearing young ones and nesting purposes.

If a female has young ones, she is more aggressive within her territory than is the case with the males. Their territories do not overlap as much as those of males. Usually, the young ones can be killed by an intriguing deer mouse.

Communication

Deer mouse’s eyes are large and so are the ears. They have a keen nose and quite long whiskers that are used to perceive the environment that they live in. Their communication is by grooming each other, making noises that are squeaky, and also producing scent.

If you disturb them, they can drum the front pays up and down on a surface so as to warn other deer mice. Pheromones can also be used.

What do the mice eat?

These mice are omnivorous. There eat plant matter and this mainly depends on the habitat that there are in. They can also eat animal matter such as invertebrates, and insects. They can eat their feces. When the climates are cooler, then they can hide some stocks of food to be used in winter.

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