Living in the Woods...
Mice on a Fast Track
Doreyl Ammons Cain
Have you ever been startled by a mouse? Like a flash they run underfoot, not stopping for anything. There’s a good reason that mice move so quickly; they’re the number one delicacy for many of the hundreds of carnivores that roam the forest. Mice live on a fast track.
Here at Nature’s Home many different species of rodents make their home. Always on the defense, their dark eyes sparkle with life and their furry bodies constantly adapt for speed. One of the cutest species, the Golden Deermouse, is named for it’s golden colored fur. Shy and secretive, you rarely see this good looking mouse. To find it you need to look in the branches of shrubs, vines and small trees. Sporting a strong flexible tail, the Golden Deermouse curls its tail around twigs and branches to keep balanced when sitting high up.
Meanwhile, down below, the Pine Mouse makes its home just under the leaf layer on the forest floor. Adapting to a burrowing life-style for safety, its tiny ears, short stubby tail and short fur make the digging process easier. It’s fur lies flat against the body when rubbed in either direction which helps when backing up in tight quarters.
On up Nature’s Home road at Moonshine Gap you’ll find the Southern Lemming Mouse. This short-tailed mouse’s fur grows so long and shaggy, you can hardly see it’s ears. This curious type of mouse eats the seeds from the tops of tall grass. Having to trim the grass in the middle to reach the seeds, the mouse leaves behind neatly stacked clipped grass stems. Because snakes, foxes and hawks take them in large numbers, the Southern Lemming Mouse is extremely cautious and hard to find. How you know they’re around is to follow their criss-crossing run ways through the grass and find the neatly stacked grass stems.
Inhabiting rock crevices and rugged mountain slopes here at Nature’s Home, the Eastern Woodrat ranks as the most unusual mouse of all. Almost humanlike, the Eastern Woodrat’s habits have earned it the nickname “Pack Rat.” The Woodrat collects all sorts of unusual objects and debris and hordes them in its nest. Their nests can become quite large, sandwiched between rock crevices. They prefer shinny things, like nails, bits of foil, coins, paper clips and broken glass. Remarkably, where ever they take an object, they leave something in its place. Backpackers have found acorns and pinecones in their pockets replacing lost keys and coins. Is this a sense of fair play for exchange? No one knows. When you’re hiking at twilight you can get glimpses of them; they look like a normal mouse but have a longer hair-covered tail and more conspicuous ears.
Some of our guests at Nature’s Home have encountered several of our “fair haired” friends. One family watched as babies were being born. The children and the parents said they’d never forget the experience. Our guard cat Bandit has had the most experience with the rodents at Nature’s Home. They keep her occupied all spring, summer and fall.
My husband, Jerry Cain, has recently invented his own type of mouse, a search engine for the Appalachian Web called MouseTrax. As quick and agile as the real thing, MouseTrax can connect you with all you want to know about travel, fun and adventure in a flash. You might say he’s gathering bright bits of information and hoarding it so you can use it. You can visit this new search site at www.mousetrax.org.
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