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Cotton mice (Peromyscus gossypinus ) is one of the largest members of the genus Peromyscus in the US, and can be recognized by its dark color.
A medium-sized, heavy bodied, white-footed mouse; tail much shorter than head and body, between three and four times the length of hind foot and not sharply bicolor, but darker above than below; ears small (16-18 mm from notch); upperparts mummy brown, the mid-dorsal area suffused with black; sides bright russet; underparts creamy white; feet white, but tarsal joint of heel dark like leg. External measurements average: total length, 180 mm; tail, 78 mm; Weight, 34-51 g.
Cotton mice are typically woodland dwellers and occur along water courses where stumps, down logs, and tangles of brush and vines offer suitable retreats; frequently they occur in woodland areas bordering open fields. They have been tumbledown buildings in wooded areas. That they are adept at climbing and may live off the ground in hollows in trees as indicated by the capture of individuals in live traps set on platforms in trees.
The food habits of Cotton mice are numerous and varied. As an omnivore, the cotton mice feeds on all types of food, from fruits and berries to insects and animal matter. Studies have shown that cotton mice is an opportunistic feeder, consuming whatever food is available. Its diet may consist of up to fifty percent animal matter. The cotton mouse primarily feeds at night.
Life Cycle: The mating system of this species has not been described. However, information on home ranges indicates that the species is probably polygynous. Males have larger home ranges than females, and their home ranges overlap extensively with those of other males and of females.
Females, on the other hand, have restricted home ranges, which may overlap those of males, but not those of other females. It is likely then that males have access to many females during breeding, but females are not likely to have access to many males.
Cotton Mice Nest
Cotton mice occurs in a great variety of habitats and ecological conditions, it is likely that there is some variability in mating systems. Like their sister taxon, P. leucopus, these mice probably form monogamous pairs under some cirumstances. During estrous, females of this species show little or no consistancy in their patterns of external signals. Swelling and protrusions of the vaginal area are observed inconsistently. It is likely, therefore, that these signals, used by people to determine the reproductive status of the female, are not that important to males of the species.
produces at least 4 litters per breeding season. This species averages a 23 day gestation period in non-lactating females and a 30 day gestation period in lactating females. There is a post-partum estrus in this species, which allows a female to rapidly produce addtional litters.
females give birth to their young in a nest constructed of primarily cotton. Births usually occur in the early hours of morning. One specimen, observed in captivity by Pournelle, was extremely active on the night prior to parturition, moving around anxiously and frequently stretching her entire body. Once morning arrived, she had quieted down and slept until the first birth.
They are born hairless, with their eyes closed, incisors underneath the gumline, and pinnae folded. However, cotton mice develop quickly. The ear pinnae are erect by about 4 days of age. By the age of 5 days, these mice are beginning to have a noticable hair cover on their backs. Around day 7 of life the incisors have broken through the gums. The young are fully furred by the time they are 10 days old, and appear to be alert and able to respond to stimuli in their environment. Most baby cotton mice open their eyes for the first time between the ages of 12 and 14 days.
Breeding season in this species may vary geographically. In Florida, these mice breed throughout the year, with a peak in breeding activity in the late autumn and early winter. There is a lull in breeding in the middle of the summer. Although the precise reason for this lull is not known, it may be related to temperature, since male reproductive condition appears to be affected by temperature. cotton mice has a relatively short lifespan, averaging four to five months.
Maintain tropical hardwood hammocks intact and protect through conservation easements. If modification of the habitat is necessary, limit the size of the footprint.
Restore highly modified hammocks through the removal of invasive exotic vegetation, and restore native vegetation to these sites. Minimize mosquito spraying which may impact the availability of food resources. Removal of potential predators, such as feral cats and dogs, black rats, raccoons and fire ants. Eliminate food sources and home sites for feral animals as well as black rats and raccoons. Enforce deed restrictions on cat control at the Ocean Reef Club and other areas.
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