Peromyscus polionotus ammobates

Peromyscus polionotus ammobates

Alabama beach mouse
FWS Focus

Overview

Adult Alabama beach mice are brown above, sometimes with darker stripe down back; white below. Tail short, dark on top. Juvenile and subabult Alabama beach mice may be gray above; white below but transition to brown when approaching adult status.
Characteristics
Overview

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, invasive species invasive species
An invasive species is any plant or animal that has spread or been introduced into a new area where they are, or could, cause harm to the environment, economy, or human, animal, or plant health. Their unwelcome presence can destroy ecosystems and cost millions of dollars.

Learn more about invasive species
, coastal development and predation by both native and non-native species.  

Scientific Name

Peromyscus polionotus ammobates
Common Name
Alabama beach mouse
FWS Category
Mammals

Location in Taxonomic Tree

Identification Numbers

TSN:

Characteristics

Characteristic category

Habitat

Characteristics
Habitat

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.   

Coastal
Characteristic category

Food

Characteristics
Food

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. 

Characteristic category

Physical Characteristics

Characteristics
Size & Shape

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. 

Measurements

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. 

Physical Characteristics

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. 

Weight

Adults average 0.46 ounces (13 grams) and pregnant females can exceed 0.71 ounces (20 grams). 

Color & Pattern

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. 

Characteristic category

Behavior

Characteristics
Behavior

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.

Characteristic category

Lifecycle

Characteristics
Lifespan

Average lifespan of beach mice is five to nine months.

Reproduction

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

Geography

Characteristics
Range

Historic Range 

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.  

Current Range 

The current range is split into two populations - the Fort Morgan population, which extends from the tip of Fort Morgan peninsula to the west side of Little Lagoon Pass, in the City of Gulf Shores and the Gulf State Park population, which is mainly located in Gulf State Park and limited adjacent areas in the City of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama. 

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