Photo of the Week – December 26, 2013

Last week, I went out to our family prairie to pick up a pile of old steel fence posts.  As I began loading the posts into my truck, I noticed a few deer mice scurrying for cover.  Although the pile had only been there for a month or so, a group (family?) of mice had apparently taken up winter residence.

Deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus) at the Helzer family prairie.

Deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus) at the Helzer family prairie.

I stopped loading posts and grabbed my camera.  Then I started pulling posts off the small pile more carefully, so as not to smush any of the little creatures.  As the pile shrank, the mice started running for cover one by one.  Interestingly, as they scattered, the mice followed several fairly well defined paths that each ended at tiny mouse-sized tunnels.  I wouldn’t have noticed the paths before I saw them used, but could definitely see them afterward.  It’s always good to have an emergency plan, I guess.

A few of the mice paused in their escape just long enough that I could crouch slowly down and snag a photo or two of them before they continued their escape.  I felt badly about taking apart their “nest” -  I hope they found another place to live nearby.  On the other hand, there are other residents of our prairie such as the red-tailed hawk and coyote families that need to eat too…

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About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is an ecologist and Eastern Nebraska Program Director for The Nature Conservancy. He supervises the management and restoration of approximately 4,000 acres of land in central and eastern Nebraska - primarily along the central Platte River. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press.
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9 Responses to Photo of the Week – December 26, 2013

  1. S. Carter says:

    This is cute as a button! How kind of him to pose for you and thanks for the i.d.

  2. Brian says:

    Cute picture for sure.

  3. Sara McClure says:

    In the winter I seem to get about 1/3 deer mice to 2/3 house mice coming into my house. The deer mice are so much bigger. Of course neither are much of a match for my cat who earns his keep when the weather turns cold and these little guys look for a warm place to hide.

  4. We need to remember the “wee and timorous beasties” in our midst.

  5. You sure get to see some cool things at your prairie! Great photo!

  6. Bob Stine says:

    To a Mouse, by Robert Burns
    —————————————–
    Wee, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie,
    O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
    Thou need na start awa sae hasty
    Wi bickering brattle!
    I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,
    Wi’ murdering pattle.
    I’m truly sorry man’s dominion
    Has broken Nature’s social union,
    An’ justifies that ill opinion
    Which makes thee startle
    At me, thy poor, earth born companion
    An’ fellow mortal!
    I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
    What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
    A daimen icker in a thrave
    ‘S a sma’ request;
    I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,
    An’ never miss’t.
    Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
    It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!
    An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,
    O’ foggage green!
    An’ bleak December’s win’s ensuin,
    Baith snell an’ keen!
    Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ waste,
    An’ weary winter comin fast,
    An’ cozie here, beneath the blast,
    Thou thought to dwell,
    Till crash! the cruel coulter past
    Out thro’ thy cell.
    That wee bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble,
    Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
    Now thou’s turned out, for a’ thy trouble,
    But house or hald,
    To thole the winter’s sleety dribble,
    An’ cranreuch cauld.
    But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
    In proving foresight may be vain:
    The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
    Gang aft agley,
    An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
    For promis’d joy!
    Still thou are blest, compared wi’ me!
    The present only toucheth thee:
    But och! I backward cast my e’e,
    On prospects drear!
    An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
    I guess an’ fear!

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