||The Mammals of Texas -
Fulvous Harvest Mouse
Rodentia : Family Muridae : Reithrodontomys
fulvescens J.A. Allen
Description. A small mouse with grooved
upper incisors, tail much longer than head and body, and
inside of ears covered with reddish hairs; differs from
the pocket mice (Perognathus and
Chaetodipus), which also have grooved upper incisors and
long tail, in the absence of external cheek pouches.
Upperparts ochraceous buff, sparingly mixed with blackish
brown, sides nearly clear buff; underparts white or pale
buff. External measurements average: total length, 165
mm; tail, 93 mm; hind foot, 20 mm. Weight 14-30 g,
averaging about 18 g.
Distribution in Texas. Occurs in eastern
two-thirds of state, including southern portion of
Trans-Pecos. Absent from western Panhandle and central
Habits. These largest of harvest
mice occur chiefly in grassy or weedy areas dotted with
shrubs, or in creek bottoms with their tangles of
grasses, vines, and bushes. They are relatively rare in
blackland prairies which are the home of the smaller plains harvest mouse, R. montanus. In favored habitat they
travel from place to place on their own small trails or
use those of their animal associates cotton rats,
rice rats, and white-footed mice.
In addition to living in underground
burrows, many of them have penthouses in bushes above the
ground. These arboreal homes may be converted birds
nests or completely of the mouses own architecture.
One found in central Texas was a remodeled
cardinals nest about 1.3 m above the ground in a
yaupon bush. When the nest was disturbed, the mouse
quickly left it, descended to the ground by jumping from
branch to branch and entered an underground burrow. The
mouses nest, about the size of a baseball, neatly
filled the cavity of the birds nest. It was
composed of shredded grass and weed stems and had one
opening on the side. Another nest was about 7 cm above
the ground, in a clump of bluestem (Andropogon).
Their food is nearly all vegetable
matter, including seeds and the green blades of grasses
and sedges, but may include invertebrates. In coastal
areas of Texas invertebrates predominate in the diet of
these mice, but in regions with greater seasonal
variation in climate, vegetation dominates the diet in
fall and winter, while invertebrates are more important
in spring and summer. Clearly, their food habits are
somewhat opportunistic and based on food availability.
They readily accept dry rolled oats as bait. In
captivity, they eat about one-third of their own weight
in food daily. They are chiefly nocturnal and are active
the year round.
In Texas, it appears that the breeding
season extends from February to October, although peaks
in reproductive activity occur in late spring and early
autumn. Litter size may range from two to five, averaging
three or four. The gestation period probably is about 21
days. At birth, the young are naked, blind, and helpless
and weigh about 1 g each. Weaning occurs at 13-16 days
when the young weigh 3.0-3.5 g. By day 11 the young are
well-furred and at 9-12 days the eyes open.
These mice seldom conflict with
mans interests. Their known predators are barn
owls, barred owls, and red-tailed hawks but, doubtless,
other animals also feed on them.
Photo credit: John L. Tveten.