Posted by: braddenvillage | February 20, 2010

Harvest Mice

Article from the People’s Trust For Endangered Species

Harvest mice are the smallest rodents in Europe and the only British mammal to have a prehensile tail. This means that they are able to grab thin objects with the tips of their tails to balance themselves and move skilfully between the tall blades of grass. They have a reddish-yellow coat with a distinct white underside, small hairy ears and a much blunter nose than other mice.

They are mostly active at night, although they do come out during the day in the warm summer months. They build several grass nests throughout a season, for breeding, sleeping and resting. Harvest mice are less active in winter but do not hibernate. They stay close to the ground for warmth and insulation, and store food to help them through the long winter months.

Breeding Harvest mice breed between May & October and can have several litters per year. After a pregnancy of 17-19 days, females give birth to three to eight young. The mother feeds the young with her milk for two weeks and then abandons them and they must fend for themselves.

Diet Grass seeds, fruit, berries, grain and sometimes insects in the winter.

Habitat Cornfields, hedgerows, reed-beds, brambles, long grass and even open fields. They make small nests connected to tall grasses above the ground.

Predators & threats Barn owls, stoats, weasels and crows. Many harvest mice die from cold and starvation during the cold winter months.

Status & distribution The harvest mouse population has decreased in the last 30 years and they are now rare and mainly found in southern and eastern England, with a few records in the Midlands, the north of England and southern Scotland. They are entirely absent from Ireland.

Did you know? Harvest mice shred grasses by pulling them through their teeth and they then use the shredded grass to weave a hollow nest, about the size of a tennis ball, suspended about 50-100cm above the ground, lashed to several tall grasses.

Article from the People’s Trust For Endangered Species – click here for their website

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