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Alabama Beach Mouse -- Habitat

Sea oats in Alabama beach mouse habitat. Credit: USFWS

Sea oats in Alabama beach mouse habitat. Credit: USFWS

The Alabama beach mouse (ABM) makes its home in the dunes of coastal Alabama. The mouse relies on a mix of habitat types to survive.

Primary and secondary dunes provide sites for burrows, as well as food.

Scrub dunes lying further inland also provide food and cover for the ABM are are especially important when frontal dunes are damaged. These areas are critical when mouse populations grow and the frontal dunes are no longer able to support the entire population.

Higher elevation dunes-or escarpment-provide safe haven during and immediately following hurricanes and tropical storms when much of the traditional habitat is flooded by storm surge or heavy rains.

Corridors between areas allow mice to move about in search of food or burrow sites, and contribute to maintenance of genetic diversity needed for the species' longterm survival.

Habitat Elements

To survive, the species requires several elements from its habitat: food (areas for foraging); shelter (areas for burrowing); and cover (areas which provide cover from predators).

Food: The ABM depends on an assortment of foods throughout the year, including the seeds of dune plants, acorns from oak trees growing in the interior scrub, and insects. Some of the plants which are important to the mice are: sea oats, ground cherry, dune spurge, bluestem, evening primrose, beach pea, jointweed, seashore elder, seaside pennywort and the various acorns.

Shelter: Beach mice make their homes in burrows dug into the sloping sides of sand dunes. The burrow contains 3 main parts: an entrance tunnel, which extends at an incline to a nest chamber usually 2 to 3 feet underground, and an escape tunnel that rises from the nest chamber to within an inch of the surface. Beach mice can quickly pop open this plug of sand and escape if threatened or disturbed. A beach mouse family will often use as many as 10 burrows within their home range. Sand contaminated with gravel or construction debris could pose a problem to ABM burrowing efforts.

Cover: The ABM is constantly in danger from native predators that roam the dunes…from snakes to birds to larger mammals. Often, these predators hunt at night, the very time when the mouse is most active. For protection, the ABM seeks out areas with enough vegetation to provide cover to hide from these predators, though not so much vegetation as to hinder its movement. Some common predators include natural predators-coachwhip snake, great horned owl-and those introduced by man, such as feral cats and red foxes.

 

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Last updated: March 17, 2014