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Species Description

Cotton Mouse

Peromyscus gossypinus


Classification

Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Family: Muridae

Description

This is the darkest mouse in the southeastern United States. The fur is dark brown on the animal's back, being darkest down the middle of the back and lighter on the sides. The belly and feet are white. This is the largest member of the genus Peromyscus. It reaches a total length of 18 - 20 cm (7.1 - 7.9 in). none

Life Cycle

Mating occurs throughout the year, but diminishes in the middle of both summer and winter. From 1 - 7 young are born after a gestation period of 23 days. Weaning occurs at 3 - 4 weeks, and juveniles reach adult size within 2 months. The average adult lives no more than 4 - 5 months, and very few survive for a full year.

Natural History

This mouse inhabits dense underbrush along the margins of streams, swamps, and sloughs of bottomland hardwood forests and canbrakes. Populations ascend into pine-hardwood upland forests in areas immediately adjacent to lowlands. The Cotton Mouse is also found in dilapidated buildings and in slash piles of clearcut forests. Its nests are made under logs or rocks, in old stumps or brush piles, under bark on standing dead trees, or above ground in dense clumps of vegetation. This omnivorus mouse forages only at night, feeding on berries, seeds, nuts, insects, spiders, and slugs. The Cotton Mouse is a good swimmer and an adept climber, two useful adaptations for existence in its preferred habitat, flood-prone bottomland forests. The Cotton Mouse has been found in abandoned Gray Squirrel nests. Natural predators include the Bobcat, foxes, owls, and snakes.

Range

The Cotton Mouse may be found throughout the southeastern quarter of the United States, but does not occur in the highlands of the Appalachian mountains or in the Piedmont Region.

Conservation Status

This is a common species in the appropriate habitat.

Similar Species

The Cotton Mouse can be distinguished from the White-footed Mouse by its darker color, stockier build, and larger hind feet.