Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois
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Meadow Mice
Nature Bulletin No. 52   February 8, 1946
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
Clayton F. Smith, President
Roberts Mann, Supt. of Conservation

If you are good at arithmetic, try figuring how many descendants one pair of meadow mice could have in a single year under ideal conditions of unlimited food and shelter, no enemies and no diseases. They become sexually mature in 45 days, have from 4 to 13 young per litter, and as many as 17 litters in a year. Fortunately for us, mice are an important item of food for every predatory creature, including snakes, hawks, owls, crows, weasels, mink, foxes and skunks. Diseases, lack of food and shelter, and other causes also help keep the mouse population down, although occasionally there are "plagues" of 12,000 or more per acre.

The meadow mouse, or vole, also known as the field mouse, is different from the house mouse. It is chunkier and hag a very short tail. The upper parts of our local vole are chestnut brown, the underparts gray. They are found over all of North America, in many different forms peculiar to different localities. In this region they are found in open meadows, especially in low moist ground covered with rank heavy grass, where there many be 200 of them per acre.

Although most active at night, they move around more in the daytime than other species. They are active all winter, living in subterranean burrows but constructing networks of runways on the surface. When a heavy snowfall melts away, these tunnels will be seen everywhere in the flattened grass. They bend or cut off the tips of the grass blades, eating some of them, using some for nests.

A meadow mouse has an enormous appetite. It can eat the equivalent of half its own weight per day. They are very destructive to crops and orchards, eating not only grain and seeds but many species of plants, shrubs and trees. Often they will kill a fruit tree or a young shade tree by gnawing off all the bark beneath the snow. They also will eat flesh if available.

A meadow mouse will actually swim under water and dive to underwater holes. It is a vest-pocket edition of its close relative, the muskrat.

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