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  The Mammals of Texas - Online Edition

Plains Pocket Mouse
Order Rodentia : Family Heteromyidae : Perognathus flavescens Merriam

Plains Pocket Mouse (Perognathus flavescens).  Photo by John L. Tveten.Description. A small, silky, yellowish-buff pocket mouse; upperparts more or less washed with blackish; pelage relatively short. External measurements average: total length, 130 mm; tail, 61 mm; hind foot, 17 mm. Weight of adults, 8-11 g. The dental formula, as in all heteromyids, is I 1/1, C 0/0, Pm 1/1, M 3/3 X 2 = 20.

Species distribution mapDistribution in Texas. A mouse of the Great Plains region. Recorded in Texas from El Paso County and from High Plains and adjacent areas in northwestern part of state, south to Ward County.

Habits. This little pocket mouse is partial to sandy soils covered with sparse vegetation. In the sandhills of the Texas Panhandle its burrows are commonly excavated beneath clumps of Spanish bayonet or prickly pear, the entrances usually so distributed as to open from under the plant in all directions. Usually the main entrance is plugged with soil from within during the day, and if it is opened the mouse closes it again. The several other inconspicuous openings, hardly large enough to admit the end of one’s finger, are seldom plugged and may serve as "duck-outs."

Their food is almost exclusively the seeds of grasses and weeds. Food items found in their cheek pouches include seeds of needle grass (Stipa), bind weed, sandbur grass, a small bean (probably Astragulus), and sedge (Cyperus). Even those caught in grain fields usually have their pouches filled with weed seeds. Seeds of two species of pigeon grass, a few other grasses, and wild buckwheat have been found in their underground food caches.

Knowledge of their breeding habits is meager. Females collected in late July and early August contained four embryos each. Two collected on July 9 and 14 contained four and five embryos. No information is available on mating, gestation, birth, growth of the young, and family life.

Remarks. In previous editions the Apache pocket mouse (Perognathus apache Merriam) was treated as a separate species; however, recent taxonomic work on these mice by Dan Williams has shown they have a karyotype identical with that of P. flavescens and, morphologically, are quite similar. Therefore, P. apache is now considered to be merely a subspecies of P. flavescens.

Photo credit: John L. Tveten.