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Species Description

Eastern Harvest Mouse

Reithrodontomys humulis


Classification

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

Description

A brownish gray to rich brown mouse with a grayish white belly. Tail is gray above and white below. Total length ranges from 10 - 15 cm (3.9 - 5.9 in). Ears are rather large. Tail is longer than 2.5 cm (1 in) but shorter than combined length of head and body. There is a vertical groove running down the front of each upper incisor. (This groove is the basis for the genus name.)

Life Cycle

The Eastern Harvest Mouse breeds all year. After a gestation period of about 22 days, 2 - 3 young are born in a globular, baseball-size nest, constructed of shredded grasses or plant fibers and placed on or just above the ground in dense vegetation. The young grow rapidly and are weaned within 4 weeks. Sexual maturity is reached at an age of 11 - 12 weeks.

Natural History

The Eastern Harvest Mouse is basically nocturnal, except during very cold weather when it may be active during the day. Seeds make up the bulk of its diet, but insects, fruits, and succulent grasses are also eaten. An excellent climber, it may spend a good deal of its time foraging above ground in dense vegetation. This species does not construct runways or burrows as do many other rodent species. Instead it uses the burrows and runways of other species such as the Hispid Cotton Rat. The Eastern Harvest Mouse is most common in old fields dominated by weeds and grasses. It can also be found in weed - filled ditches, among briar thickets, and beneath tangles of Honeysuckle. Predators of Eastern Harvest Mice include owls, snakes, and small Mammalian carnivores.

Range

This species has a southeastern United States distribution, ranging from Virginia west to southern Arkansas, south to eastern Texas, and east throughout northern Florida. The Eastern Harvest Mouse can be found anywhere in Georgia in suitable habitat.

Conservation Status

This is a common species of mouse throughout its range.

Similar Species

The introduced House Mouse Mus musculus does not have a groove running down the middle of the front surface of its incisors. Other mice with grooved teeth have external cheek pouches or their tails are either extremely long and scaly-looking or less than 2.5 cm (1 in) long.