View from Lava Beds CA
Juniper Sagebrush Country
From the files of Donald R. Kirk:
Part 1. A Mouse at the Campfire
No moon tonight. Camped near a creek in an open juniper forest, our fire is a low glow of deep red embers. An infinity of stars sparkles the night sky. The four of us are content to gaze at the heavens in silence.
Something climbs onto my moccasin–clad left foot and tugs at the leather shoelace. I suppress the instinctive recoil of my foot and flick on a flashlight. A stout–bodied mouse with a short, white–tipped tail freezes motionless in the blinding radiance. The small mammal gives the shoelace another futile tug and then disappears into the darkness.
Questions spill from everybody: what kind of mouse was it, why did it want that shoelace, where does it live? I reply that given the sturdy body, the short, stout, white–tipped tail, and the location in this open juniper–sagebrush community it is almost certainly a northern grasshopper mouse.
Why this mouse wants my leather shoelace, I’ve no idea, but I do know that it lives in much of western United States, north into Canada, and south into Mexico. They are nocturnal, preferring moonless nights. They like shrubland, grassland, desert, and open forest like juniper, piñon pine, ponderosa, or other tree species.
The grasshopper mouse is a different kind of critter than the house mouse. Although the house mouse will eat almost anything edible, including insects, it is mainly a vegetarian. The grasshopper mouse, an aggressive carnivore, preys on insects, scorpions, lizards, and will even kill and eat other species of mice. Vegetable material, mainly seeds, may compose as much as 20% of their food. However, some individual grasshopper mice appear to stick to a 100% ‘meat’ diet. Read more about the housekeeping skills of the grasshopper mouse and their talent for howling right here on my next Saturday Blog.