The Desert mouse, also known as the desert pocket mouse, (Scientific name - Chaetodipus penicillatus) belongs to the Heteromyidae family. As the name suggests, this desert mouse is a rather small-sized creature. It measures to the size of a grown man's thumb.
The desert pocket mouse measures to 205 mm in total length. It has a very long tail that runs to over 110 mm. The tail being very fuzzy, bristled, and heavily crested, it is probably one of the longest tails you will find on a rodent so small.
This mouse has fur-lined pouches at the side of its mouth, which it uses to store its food in. Along with that, it also has 2 large teeth located in the front of the mouth. They are known as incisors and are used to dig through the hard soil while hunting for seeds.
Its fur is very coarse and it has a wine-colored bearing on the upper parts of its body, along with a few stray patterns of black and grayish tones. Its sides are black, while the underside and tail tufts are white. There are no lateral lines. The soles of the hind feet are also usually white. The desert mouse has no spine on the bottom, but has a lot of hair on it.
The male species of the desert mice are called buck, while the females are called doe. The young of the desert mice are called kitten, pup, or pinkie. A group of desert mice is known as harvest, nest, colony, or mischief.
Their predators consist of both, animals and birds, like snakes and owls, and other predatory mammals found in these areas. Their competitors for food and water include other heteromyidae like cricetids and Dipodomys merriami.
The desert mouse is usually found in North America in the regions of California, Colorado, Mexico, and Southwestern United States along with other desert animals. As the name suggests, the desert mouse prefers to live in areas that have a desert-like habitat. They are territorial creatures who prefer solitude.
It mostly feeds on seeds of the mesquite, creosote, broomweed, and palo verde tree or forbs. Along with that, it also feeds on grass, shrubs, and sometimes insects. A desert pocket mouse stores the seeds that it collects in burrows and dispersed caches. Nothing much is known about their water consumption, except for the fact that they fulfill their need for water from the foods that they eat.
This mouse excavates its burrows in sandy, silty, or gravelly soils. They prefer soft alluvial soils that are found near stream bottoms, desert washes, and valleys. They dig out the soil from these places to make their burrows near the base of bushes. These burrows are closed in the daytime. They do not prefer to make their burrows around rocks.
The desert mouse is a nocturnal creature. These creatures are active throughout the year but may be inactive during the winter season. They do not migrate to any other region during the winter, but might hibernate in the burrows during this time. Their young are born and raised in the burrow chambers that are especially dug out.
The breeding season of the desert mouse begins in late February and lasts till September. Most young are born in the months from April till May, while the number dips in June till August. The gestation period lasts for 23 days. The female will have a litter of 2-6 pinkies. It is difficult for the young to survive and only about 5% of these will survive. Another interesting fact about the mouse is that the female pups will reach sexual maturity early on and will become pregnant while still young.
Rarely do we know about the different creatures that inhabit the deserts, the desert mouse is one of them.