May 16, 2022
Small but Super
- as seen by -Brandon Moore
As the seasons change and the weather begins to warm, nature’s activity level slowly picks up pace. This seasonal shift conjures a reminiscing of afternoons spent in golden, grassy meadows while exploring some of my favorite local state park trails here in New York. Seeing wildlife in nature was something I always felt privileged to observe; an experience that made me feel even more connected to the natural world. It helped me develop a deeper appreciation for the diversity of the animal kingdom as a whole. From the smallest ant climbing the bark of a sycamore tree, to a beautiful white-tailed deer making its quiet passage across the trail in front of me, I learned to recognize and acknowledge the purpose each one served.
Usually seen as vermin in most people’s personal homes, the mouse is often overlooked for the important role it plays in nature. Here at the Wildlife Conservation Society Bronx Zoo’s Mouse House, we maintain one of the largest and most diverse rodent collections in the country. The different biome tiers within the building exhibit the unique species that call those particular areas home, and my personal favorites are the zebra mice (Lemniscomys rosalia) in the grasslands tier. Also known as striped grass mice, these distinctive rodents live in large colonies of up to 70 individuals. They are great climbers and jumpers and especially enjoy utilizing the extensive branches and perching we provide them. They are native to areas of Northern Africa where they live prolifically in large grassy fields, hence their alternative name, grass mice. These rodents are also expert burrow builders and will create extensive nests where they deliver their young after a gestation period of just 21 days. They are omnivores and will feed on a variety of fruit, vegetable, and insect sources. One of the most remarkable traits these mice possess is the ability to shed their tail, which they will do when frightened or preyed upon. This adaptation allows them to escape a potentially life-threatening situation. For their size and stature, these amazing rodents exhibit some extraordinary qualities that warrant some recognition.
The next time you visit the Bronx Zoo, be sure to take some extra time to check them out, along with the rest of our amazing mice and small mammals at the Mouse House.