Meadow Jumping Mouse Zapus hudsonius pallidus Cockrum and Baker

Description:   The meadow jumping mouse is a graceful, colorful mammal that can be distinguished from other Kansas rodents by: 1) long tapering tail, bicolored grayish-brown above and yellowish-white below with a black tip, 2) large hind feet, 3) small front feet, 4) long, coarse, yellowish-brown fur on the upper body with black-tipped guard hairs that form a dark dorsal stripe, 5) yellowish-orange to pinkish-buff sides, 6) white underparts, and 7) dark ears edged with buff or white. Sexes are alike. Young are duller in color than adults and have softer fur.

Size:   Adults may attain the following dimensions: total length 178-220 mm; tail 106-131 mm; hind foot 26-30 mm ear 11-15 mm; weight 12-22 grams.

Range and Habitat:   The meadow jumping mouse occurs in the eastern third of Kansas where it inhabits abandoned fields or grassy meadows associated with shrubs or trees, generally in moist situations. It uses trails made by voles, but, like harvest mice, prefers to live independently of trail systems. Its distribution in the state is localized and variable.

Reproduction:   Two (rarely three) litters of two to eight (usually four to six) young meadow jumping mice are born to a female each year after a gestation period of 18 to 19 days. At birth their eyes and ears are closed and their bodies are hairless. Hair is present on the ninth day, and their incisors erupt in 13 days. Their ears open in 19 days and their eyes in 22 days. In four weeks they attain the color of adults, but are smaller. Young born in the spring may sometimes reproduce the same year. Females have four pectoral, two abdominal, and two inguinal nipples.

Habits:   The meadow jumping mouse has a nervous disposition and, when disturbed, will immediately jump through the grass in erratic leaps using its tail as a balance. It is a good climber, frequently ascending stalks of plants while foraging. It is also a good swimmer. An oval nest (100 to 150 m) is made of grass, rootlets and other plant fibers, and is placed either underground, under logs, on the surface of the ground, or sometimes a few millimeters above ground in hummocks of grass. The meadow jumping mouse is essentially solitary, and is rarely found in groups. In early autumn after accumulating fat, it retreats to a subterranean nest which is placed below the frost line and, after losing the tunnel, curls up in its nest with its tail wrapped around it and spends the next six or seven months in hibernation.

 

RIGHT: A western jumping mouse in hibernation. (Photo courtesy of V. B. Scheffer)

Food:   Food of the meadow jumping mouse consists of fruits and green vegetation, but principally seeds and grasses which they pull down to ground level by cutting the bases of the stalks. Some animal food is eaten, especially in the spring when seeds are scarce.

Remarks:   Owls, hawks, weasels, snakes, foxes, coyotes, and skunks are principal predators of the meadow jumping mouse. Little is known about longevity in this species, but it may live about two years.


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