Friday, June 12, 2009

White-footed Deer Mouse

Not too many fans of the mice out there, I suspect. They get a bad rap, and generally, mice are tarred with the same brush and equally disparaged.

But not all mice are created equal. Much of the household mischief is caused by a European introduction, the House Mouse, Mus musculus, a truly elfin all gray job. That's not to say that the natives aren't above raiding the pantry, but their normal haunts are outdoors, in our woods and fields.

And with a good look, some of these rodents are quite the stunners.

I see lots of signs of mice when out and about, and less commonly, the beasts themselves. But not usually well enough to get good photographs, but I did today. While exploring a local patch, we came upon two separate White-footed Deer Mice, Peromyscus leucopus. Both of them were under large boards, and had constructed soft nests of plant fibers. They were under there, trying to pass the day in as much tranquility as a mouse can muster, when we came along. But, after photographing them we left them be. These are indisputably beautiful creatures, with huge black eyes, dumbo ears, long whiskers, and white underparts that contrast with the soft brown upper pelage.

This one sits in a temporary nest. One finds white-foots under logs and other objects, and in all manner of cavities. Many a bluebirder is familiar with this species, as they are excellent climbers and readily scale poles to the boxes and stuff them with their nests.

The life of a mouse is fraught with peril, and they are edgy high-strung little critters. With good reason. These are nature's sausages with legs, and nearly everyone wants to eat them. Terrifically abundant, white-foots are very important members of ecological chains, and not just because they provide meals for so many carnivores. They are inveterate seed-eaters, and thus spread plants around.
And when you see one like this, white-foots are undeniably cute.


Heather said...

While mice do startle me, and I don't like them sharing my living space, they really ARE cute. I think you've done a nice job capturing their cuteness here, Jim.

nina at Nature Remains. said...

Have you ever watched "Never Cry Wolf?"
It's my all-time favorite, not only for the story and great scenery of his research on wolves in the arctic (maybe Alaska?) but the humor is wonderful.
And he tested the hypothesis that wolves were sustaining themselves on mice--
and found it could be done.

salnmike said...

We co-existed with Mrs. Mouse and her many broods at the Cedar Bog kiosk for many years. She graciously allowed us to do business in her 'home' and we enjoyed watching her and the many generations that followed. Although we objected at times to her choice of nesting materials, it was always entertaining and - after all - Cedar Bog is her home. Love the post! Every animal has its place in nature.

Susan Gets Native said...

I like mice...for reasons you can probably figure out. :)
All the prey species make me happy when I see them.