|The Mammals of Texas -
Hispid Pocket Mouse
Rodentia : Family Heteromyidae
: Chaetodipus hispidus Baird
Description. A medium to large pocket
mouse with harsh pelage and large hind foot, the sole of
which is naked to the heel; tail less than half of total
length, distinctly bicolor, sparsely haired, and lacking
tuft; upperparts olive buffy, lined with black; lateral
line wide and clear buff; underparts white. External
measurements average: total length, 198 mm; tail, 93 mm;
hind foot, 24 mm. Weight of adults, 30-47 g. Dental
formula as in Perognathus flavescens.
Distribution in Texas. Statewide except
for extreme southeastern portion of the state.
Habits. These large pocket mice
prefer areas of sand or other friable soil covered with
scattered to moderate stands of herbaceous vegetation.
The margins of brush fields and the rank growth in fence
rows offer suitable cover. Dense stands of grasses and
brush usually are avoided.
Their burrows are always dug in friable
soil. They have been described as resembling 1-inch (25
mm) auger holes bored straight into the ground. Usually
all the dirt excavated from the burrow system is piled
near one opening, leaving the others inconspicuous and
without mounds. The openings usually are plugged in the
daytime. A burrow excavated in Brazos County had two
openings, neither of which was plugged, connected by a
single tunnel that descended to a depth of about 40 cm. A
side branch contained food and nest chambers. Another
burrow was found opening under a log which served as a
roof for the nest chamber. These mice have been known to
inhabit deserted burrows of Mexican ground squirrels in
Their nest is composed of shredded dry
grasses and weeds. In captivity, the mice pile the
nesting material into a loose heap and then mat it down
by sleeping on top of the structure. They seem to behave
likewise in the wild. They appear to be active through
most of the year in the southern part of their range, but
they probably "hibernate," or at least hole up,
in winter in north Texas.
Their food consists almost entirely of
vegetation, principally seeds. Frank Blair found the
seeds of gaillardia, cactus, evening primrose, and
winecup most frequently in their caches; in addition, he
lists 23 other species of plants that were utilized. In
Texas a cache of about one-half liter of Diodia teres
(Poor Joe) seeds was found and in another instance the
store was entirely seeds of sandbur grass (Cenchrus).
Animal matter makes up only a small part of their diet.
Blair lists grasshoppers, caterpillars, and beetles.
Judging from records of capture of
juveniles, one or two litters of young are produced in
the northern part of the range, but breeding is
practically continuous throughout the year in south
Texas. Young animals out of the nest (about 1 month old)
have been captured as early in the year as January 8 and
as late as October 14. Based on embryo counts, the litter
varies from two to nine, averaging six. Nothing is known
regarding the gestation period or the growth and
development of the young.
ln sandy-land farming areas these mice
can do considerable damage by digging up and carrying
away planted seeds of cantaloupe, watermelon, peas, and
small grains. In range and pasture lands they perform a
service by eating seeds of weeds.
Remarks. In previous editions,
this mouse was included in the genus Perognathus;
however, recent taxonomic studies have shown that it,
along with all spiny-rumped pocket mice of Texas, should
be included in a separate genus, Chaetodipus.
Formerly included with hispidus in the Perognathus
species group, the desert pocket mouse (C.
penicillatus), rock pocket mouse (C.
intermedius), and Nelsons pocket mouse (C. nelsoni) are all now included in the
Photo credit: W. B. Davis.