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Old World Harvest Mouse image
Old World Harvest Mouse

Old World Harvest Mouse

(Mammal)

Old World Harvest Mouse Baby
Old World Harvest Mouse Baby

Old World Harvest Mouse Habits

Harvest mice live in tall grass, grain fields, vacant lots, and along roadsides. During severe winters they sometimes seek shelter in sheds and houses. The male roams over a territory of approximately 500 square yards, while females have smaller territories.
In summer they are active at night, but in winter they are active during the day.

Old World Harvest Mouse Communication

Mice communicate with each other in a variety of ways, using their mouths, noses, ears and bodies. Much of their vocal communication is outside the human hearing range, though you can hear some squeaks in their lower voice range.
Mice usually squeak when talking to each other in their nests or when they are scared. They make plenty of vocalizations that we don't hear. Male mice create a kind of ultrasonic song to attract females who are ready to breed; females sometimes talk to their girlfriends using ultrasonic vibrations as well.
What we consider waste is vital communication for mice. They produce chemicals and pheromones in their urine that tell other mice who's related to whom, whether they have plenty of food to eat, whether they are ready to breed and who's in charge. Dominant males have a different scent to their urine than other males in the family group. If you're a mouse owner, you should clean the cage often, but not every day. Leaving urine-soaked nesting materials for a day or so helps the mice communicate.
Mice can communicate basic emotions, such as aggression or fear, using body language. When a male mouse wags his tail, it's usually a sign of aggression. Males fight for dominance and the right to mate with certain females, and they warn each other of impending fights by wagging tails. Younger or weaker males might cower instead of wagging back, hoping to prevent a fight.
Mice build strong social bonds by grooming each other. When one mouse gently grooms another, she's telling the other mouse that she's a friend. This can take a negative turn when a dominant male mouse decides to groom a submissive one to ensure everyone knows who's the boss: The dominant male might "barber" the other male, grooming him around the face until some of the hair falls out. A lack of bald spots can help other mice spot the dominant male right away.

Old World Harvest Mouse Breeding

Harvest mice breed from May to early October, often producing three litters of three to eight young in a single year. The newborns stay in the nest for 11 days, where they grow rapidly. The mother leaves to search for food but returns at regular intervals to feed and clean the young. She eats droppings so that predators are not attracted by the smell.
At two days old the young mice can push themselves around the nest. Four days later they start grooming themselves, and by the eighth day they can see clearly. At nine days they have teeth and begin eating solid food; at 10 days, the mother begins to wean them.
The young are fully independent two weeks after birth. The mother is usually pregnant again by this time, and she abandons her litter to look for a new nesting site. The young remain near the nest for several more days and then leave to find territories of their own.

Old World Harvest Mouse Food & Feeding

The harvest mouse eats seeds, fruits, berries, and insects such as moths, grasshoppers, and caterpillars. What it eats depends on what is available during each season.
Although grain is one of its main foods, the mouse compensates somewhat for any damage it may do to grain crops by eating the pests that threaten those crops. Wheat aphids, such as blackfly, secrete a honeydew that harvest mice eat.
To feed on grain, the tiny harvest mouse climbs up the stalk to the seed head. It uses its prehensile (adapted for holding) tail to grip the plant stalk and to balance itself. Then it breaks off a seed by grasping it in its teeth and moving its head with a sideways motion. It holds the seed in its front paws, removes the husk, and gnaws into the center of the seed.

Old World Harvest Mouse Key Facts

        Size 
              Height: Length of head and body: 2-3 inches. Tail: 2-3 inches
              Weight: 2 ounces
       Breeding
             Sexual maturity: 45 days
             Mating: May to October
             Gestation: 17-19 days
             Number of young: 3-8 per litter. May have 3 litters per year
       Lifestyle 
            Habit: Solitary. Active at night in summer and day during the winter
            Diet: Mainly seeds and insects, also some fruit
            Lifespan: In the wild, up to 18 months, but usually 6 months. Up to 5 years in captivity

 

DID YOU KNOW?

  • American harvest mice, like old world harvest mice, also build their nests on grass stems.
  • The old world harvest mouse is the only mammal in Europe whose tail is prehensile.
  • In the wild, pregnant females drive away the males whereas in captivity they tolerate them.
  • Harvest mice have been found living in ham curing rooms and larders, earning them the name "bacon" mice.
  • Mice produce chemicals and pheromones in their urine that tell other mice who's related to whom.

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