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Oldfield Mice inhabit areas with loamy or sandy soils in the Northeastern United States.
Newly abandoned fields, where plants such as crabgrass are sprouting, provide good habitat. They are also found on grass-covered beach dunes and scrub areas nearby, where they are known as Beach Mice. They are not found on poorly-drained or hard-packed soil. They live in burrows, usually digging their own, but sometimes taking advantage of tunnels dug by moles.
Males and non-reproductive females average 12.5 g in weight. Pregnant females may exceed 20 g. The pale coloration of beach mice is believed to be an adaptation to the white sands of their coastal habitat. Although pale, beach mice exhibit a hint of brownish or grayish coloration across their backs. Beach mice are difficult to tell apart from other Florida mice. However, beach mice are normally much whiter than other mice.
The amount and hue of coloration varies among subspecies, with the Santa Rosa beach mouse being the palest and the Alabama beach mouse having the most pigmentation. Subspecies also may be distinguished by the extent to which coat coloration extends onto their faces and down their sides, and by the presence or absence of a tail stripe.
Habits: Home range size varies among subspecies but averages about 5000 m2 . Individual home ranges commonly overlap. Beach mice often maintain multiple burrows (20 or more) within their home range. Burrows are used for sleeping, nesting, feeding, caching seeds, or as predator escapes. Burrows have a 1-2 inch triangular opening and a 2-3 foot tunnel leading to a main chamber. On the other side of the chamber, mice excavate a second tunnel that ends just below the sand surface. This serves as an escape tunnel from predators. If the burrow is disturbed, the resident mouse will often explode through this escape hatch. Burrows are occupied and maintained by a male-female pair, or by a female and her pups.
Life cycle:Beach mice have a monogamous mating system. A male mates with one female. For perspective, monogamy appears in less than 3% of all mammals. Mating among beach mice peaks in the winter but continues year-round if food is available. Once pregnant, it takes about 23 days before the mother gives birth. Females give birth to an average of 4 pups per litter and are ready to breed again within 24 hours. Beach mice live 9 months to a year in the wild. Young mice have the ability to disperse several kilometers from their birthplace to establish their own home ranges.
Activity and Diet:Beach mice are active at night (nocturnal), spending the day sleeping in their burrows. Upon nightfall mice emerge from their burrows (often in pairs) and forage on seeds and fruits of beach plants, and insects. Mice gather seeds that have fallen or blown onto the sand or climb plant stems to harvest attached seed heads. Sea oats make up the bulk of a beach mouseâ€™s diet .
However, based on seasonal availability, beach mice also feed on bluestem, ground cherry (Physallis angustafolia), evening primrose (Oenothera humifusa), beach pea (Galactia spp.), dune spurge (Chamaesyce ammannioides), jointweed (Polygonella gracilis), seashore elder (Iva imbricata), and seaside pennywort (Hydrocotyle bonariensis).During the course of one night, mice make several trips to and from their burrows. They gather seeds and store them in their burrow. This behavior may help promote the dispersal and germination of beach plants, and, ultimately, influence the formation of dunes.
Reproduction: These mice are monogamous, with the breeding pair remaining together for a period of time.Breeding of Peromyscus polionotus occurs throughout the year. There is a decline in breeding activity during the summer. Gestation is 24 days in length but may be a few days longer if a previous litter is still nursing . Litter size ranges between three and four individuals. The average age for the first estrus cycle in a female is 29.6 days .
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