Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Woodland Mice

March came in like a lion in coastal New Hampshire. Let us hope the lamb takes us out at the end of the month. The one-foot snowfall on Monday prompted me to strap on my showshoes in search of fresh animal tracks.

Gray squirrel tracks lead to a big hole in the snow where it dug down to retrieve a cached acorn. Red squirrel tracks head for a low perch with spent cone scales cast about below.

A mink followed a small stream drainage, hunting in the zone between land and water.

The dainty tracks of the deermouse catch my eye. These tracks appear to be cast at full gallop, although it is hard to imagine the diminutive mouse, weighing in at one ounce, galloping across the snow. Deer mice tracks are easy to identify in winter as they show tiny feet - the larger hind feet landing in front with the long tail showing as a drag between the feet.

The "deermouse" is so named because its oversized eyes and bounding nature resemble a miniature deer. We have two woodland mice of the genus Peromyscus -- the deer mouse (P. maniculatus) and the white-footed mouse (P. leucopus). The two live in similar habitats and are hard to tell apart. Both are a soft brown or gray above and pure white below, and sport a long, bicolored tail.

These are the mice that sneak into our shed and into our lawn mower and snowblower. Last December our snowblower wasn't working well in the first snowstorm of the year. We took off the cover and discovered a huge mouse nest, with the mouse, no longer for this world, still inside. Hereafter we will clean all the yard equipment before first use.

1 comment:

  1. The Mad Farmer of NewmarketMarch 4, 2009 at 6:54 PM

    Very nice writing Ellen...quite enjoyable.