Open Spaces: Canvassing Cape Canaveral for the Southeastern Beach Mouse

Canvassing Cape Canaveral for the Southeastern Beach Mouse

By Sandra Sneckenberger, USFWS

You might not think Cape Canaveral – yes, the home of America's space program – would be an ideal place to study mice, but you'd be wrong.

I recently spent two hectic and fruitful days at Canaveral Air Force Station trapping and studying southeastern beach mice with our conservation partners.

The days started early, ended late and were jam-packed.

mice-teamFrom left to right: Karen Holloway-Atkins, Stephanie Wise, Shannon Gann, Stephanie Legare, Kristen Kneifl and Sandra Sneckenberger (standing) and Donna Oddy (kneeling) display a  southeastern beach mouse they caught at
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. (Photo: IHA)

We began by checking traps in the shadows of active space launch complexes. Overall, we caught 34 beach mice on two grids.

It was not only a rewarding experience for scientific purposes, but it was also slightly historic.

One of those grids was near NASA’s storied astronaut beach house. That’s where astronauts gathered with their families for rest and recreation in the days immediately before their space launch missions since the early 1960s.

We then convened to discuss captive breeding and possible translocation of this species, which is federally listed as threatened.

After a robust discussion, we headed back out to the site, set more traps, and finally called it a day, only to rise early and repeat the process.

So, why conduct the study in the first place?

The southeastern beach mouse used to inhabit an area of about 175 miles up and down the Florida coast. Residential and commercial development, however, has affected much of its habitat.

But Cape Canaveral is different.

Since it has remained relatively undeveloped, it is the perfect place to study the beach mouse in its natural environment .

Representatives from Florida State Parks, our Jacksonville Ecological Services Office, Brevard Zoo, Patrick Air Force Base, Merritt Island and Pelican Island refuges were on hand to join me in the study. NASA’s contractor, IHA hosted our group of about 10.

Now, we’re developing a plan for possibly moving these beach mice around in ways that could help the species survive.

All attendees were happy with the progress we “launched” at Cape Canaveral.

Sandra Sneckenberger, is a Fish and Wildlife Biologist, at the South Florida Ecological Services Office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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Last updated: June 21, 2012