|The Mammals of Texas -
Rodentia : Family Muridae : Peromyscus
gossypinus (Le Conte)
Description. 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; hind foot, 23
mm. Weight, 34-51 g.
This mouse is most easily confused with
mouse (Peromyscus leucopus),
from which it can be distinguished by larger size (weight
usually over 30 g in adults as opposed to 15-25 g in leucopus)
and longer skull (27 mm or more in gossypinus and
less than that in leucopus).
Distribution in Texas. Found in woodlands
in eastern one-fourth of state.
Habits. 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
trapped in eastern Texas in canebrakes, under logs, and
around and in old, 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.
Their other habits are not well-known.
Nothing specific is known of their natural foods,
although cotton mice are omnivorous. Over one-half of
their diet may be made up of animal matter and food
availability probably determines the dietary composition.
Captive mice seemed to relish rolled oats, wheat, corn,
and bread. Green foods were eaten sparingly.
Breeding may occur throughout the year
although there is a decline in reproductive activity
during the summer months. In Texas, most breeding
commences in late August, reaches a peak in November,
December, and January and subsides by early May. The
gestation period is about 23 days in non-nursing females
and about 30 days in females which are nursing a previous
litter. Adult females may produce four or more litters a
year. The litter size ranges from one to seven and
averages three or four. The young are naked and blind at
birth. Their ears open in 5 or 6 days at which age their
incisor teeth erupt. Their eyes open in about 13 days and
shortly after that they begin to eat solid foods. They
are completely weaned at an age of 20-25 days. They
become sexually mature at about 60-70 days of age.
The name cotton mouse was applied to
the species by Le Conte, who found that the mice often
used cotton for nest construction. Ordinarily, however,
they do little or no damage to cotton or foodstuffs.