Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Uninvited Guests

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1997. All rights reserved.

On certain summer evenings out on the prairie you might hear what sounds like the howling of a miniature wolf. High-pitched and hysterical, a cry of "sk-sk-skreeee" slices through the wild grasses.

Measuring just four inches and weighing a single ounce, the furry source of this howling is the audacious little grasshopper mouse. Fiercely territorial and uncommonly bold, the males leave their burrows shortly after dusk, howl at the heavens to advertise their claims, and then swagger off in search of fresh meat.

While most mice dine happily on seeds, nuts and table scr

aps, the grasshopper mouse prefers to kill its dinner. Grasshoppers, appropriately, are a favorite prey. But this killer mouse also stalks mice, voles and kangaroo rats. Attacking from behind, it grabs its victim with its front legs and drives its incisor teeth into the brainstem. No playing around.

Those brown-furred critters scurrying through the grain fields, damaging crops and leaving tiny runways of felled grasses are more likely voles. Also known as meadow mice, voles have tiny ears, small eyes and bluntly rounded muzzles. And they are incredibly prolific.

Continued at... Uninvited Guests

Michael Hofferber
Rural Delivery
The Nature Pages
Book: Grasshopper Mouse