The Alabama beach mouse is one of several subspecies of oldfield mice (Peromyscus polionotus) that are found living only in coastal sand dune areas along the Alabama and Florida coastline. The range of the Alabama beach mouse historically extended from Ono Island to Fort Morgan, and included much of the Fort Morgan Peninsula on the Alabama Gulf Coast.
These small light-colored mice burrow and excavate nests in dunes and are primarily active at night. Their diet consists of various plant seeds and insects. They prefer sand-covered slopes with patches of sea oats, beach grass, other grasses and herbs, as well as interior sand dune ridges. Thriving beach mouse populations are an indicator of healthy dune ecosystems which help protect coastal habitats, especially during hurricanes.
The Alabama beach mouse faces several natural and human-made threats including severe weather events,, coastal development and predation by both native and non-native species.
The Alabama beach mouse makes its home in the dunes of coastal Alabama. The mouse relies on a mix of habitat types to survive. Primary, secondary, tertiary and interior scrub dunes provide sites for burrows, food and water.
Scrub dunes of the tertiary and interior category, that are further inland, provide safe haven during and immediately following tropical storm events when primary and secondary dunes are temporarily impacted or lost. Beach mice residing in scrub dunes will recolonize the primary and secondary dunes when they reform and are capable of supporting the population. Corridors between these dunes allow mice to move freely in search of food or burrow sites, and contribute to maintenance of genetic diversity needed for the long-term survival of the species.
Beach mice build complex burrows which are dug into the sloping sides of these sand dunes. The burrow contains three main parts: an entrance tunnel, which extends down an incline, a nest chamber which is 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. Within their home range, a beach mouse family will often use and maintain as many as 10 burrows.
The Alabama beach mouse 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.
Being nocturnal animals, they have large eyes and big ears to help them as they leave their burrows at dusk and remain active at night. They are much less active on full moonlit nights to avoid becoming a late night snack for predators.
Adult beach mice are 4 to 5 inches (10 to 13 cm) in length including the tail. They have slender body, bicolor fur, a tapered or pointed nose, small rounded ears and black eyes.
Being nocturnal animals, they have large eyes and big ears to help them as they leave their burrows at dusk and remain active at night. They are much less active on full moonlit nights though to avoid becoming a late night snack for predators.
Adults average 0.46 ounces (13 grams) and pregnant females can exceed 0.71 ounces (20 grams).
Adult Alabama beach mice are brown above, sometimes with a darker stripe down its back; white below. Tail is pinkish in color, not longer than the body, and may have a faint black tail stripe. Juvenile and subadult Alabama beach mice may be gray above; white below but transition to brown when approaching adult status.
Alabama beach mice are primarily monogamous, meaning that they mate for life. They live five to nine months, can reproduce through the year in good habitat, with fall and spring being the peak reproducing times, and both parents spend equal time caring for young.
Average lifespan of beach mice is five to nine months.
Alabama beach mice are primarily monogamous, meaning that they mate for life. They live five to nine months, can reproduce through the year in good habitat, with fall and spring being the peak reproducing times, and both parents spend equal time caring for young. Beach mice can have up to eight young, called pups or pinkies. Average births in the laboratory setting are four young. It is believed only one or two of these young survive to adults. Females can become pregnant following birth of young, a trait known as postpartum estrus.
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