Eurasian Harvest Mouse, Harvest Mouse
Facts about this animal
The harvest mouse is the smallest rodent of Europe. Its head-body length ranges from 58-76 mm, the tail length from 51-72 mm, and the body-weight from 5-9 g. The muzzle is blunt, the eyes are rather small and the hairy ears short. The naked, partly prehensile tail has 120-150 rings. The fur is bright reddish with a sharply demarcated white underside.
Harvest mice are active by day and night. Male mice occupy a home range of about 400 sq m, while females keep to a smaller area. They are very active, agile little animals, using their prehensile tail to grasp grass stalks. The tail is wound around a stalk and in this way, the mouse can quickly climb the tall stems to find the seeds at the top.
Harvest mice feed mainly on seeds, buds, berries, fruit, bulbs, and new grass shoots, but a small proportion of their diet is made up of insects, particularly in the summer, as well as roots, moss and fungi. Some food is hidden underground for the winter.
Harvest mice are busy breeding from May to October, often producing 3 litters a year. After a gestation period of 17-19 days 3 to 8 young are born in the tennis ball size woven nest built by the female. The young are blind, naked and helpless to begin with. They grow very quickly, and by the eighth day they have grown grey-brown fur and opened their eyes. On the eleventh day they leave the nest and begin to explore, practising the skill of climbing grass stems. By 16 days of age they are completely independent. Their mother, who is usually pregnant again, abandons them, and looks for a new nesting site.
Harvest mice may reach an age of up to 18 months in the wild, but usually 6 months. In human care they can live up to 5 years.
Did you know?
That farmers have never deliberately persecuted harvest mice since their small appetites do little to affect crop yields? Harvest mice even do the farmer a small favour by eating harmful pests. However, they seem to be less numerous in cornfields than they used to be. This is most likely due to changing farming methods.
|Name (Scientific)||Micromys minutus|
|Name (English)||Eurasian Harvest Mouse, Harvest Mouse|
|Name (French)||Souris des moissons, Rat des moissons|
|Name (Spanish)||Ratón espiguero|
|Local names||Croatian: Patuljasti mis
Czech: Myska drobná
Italian: Topolino delle risaie
Romansh: Mieur pitschna
Slovak: Mys drobná
Slovenian: Pritlikava mi
Turkish: Hasat faresi
|CITES Status||Not listed|
|CMS Status||Not listed|
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|Habitat||In grounds with high plants, most of all in wet environments near ponds and rivers and in fields of wheat.|
|Wild population||Unknown, but stable (Red List IUCN 2011)|
|Zoo population||346 reported to ISIS|
In the Zoo
How this animal should be transported
For air transport, Container Note 81 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.
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Why do zoos keep this animal
Except for Britain where back-to-the wild programmes exist, zoos keep harvest mice primarily for educational reasons, because they are the smallest rodent on the European continent and show interesting behaviours, e.g. nest building. As a tiny species that is active during the day, harvest mice appeal particularly to children and may help to build a positive attitude towards animals and nature in the young generation.