The Alabama beach mouse (Peromyscus polionotus ammobates) lives in the sand dunes of Alabama’s Gulf Coast. Primarily active during the night, this little beach critter burrows and nests exclusively in Baldwin County’s coastal dune areas.
The Alabama beach mouse ranges in length (head and body) from 2.7 to 3.4 inches. But, the tail length can add up to another 2.3 inches! Pale gray, with a white tummy, this species sports a faint dark stripe on its tail. Their diet consists of plant seeds (primarily from beach grass and sea oats) and insects.
The Alabama beach mouse has a lot going against him! Since 1985, this small, light colored mouse has been designated federally as an endangered species. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, “Coastal residential and commercial development and roadway construction have fragmented and destroyed habitat used by this species. Hurricanes, tropical storms, and dune use by pedestrians have also damaged or destroyed sand dunes and related habitats. Stalking by domestic and wild cats, as well as other animals, plus competition from other rodents have also contributed to Alabama beach mouse declines.“
The website further explains,“Beach mice are an important part of the coastal dune ecosystem. Thriving beach mouse populations indicate a healthy dune system. The mice themselves contribute by collecting and distributing seeds. Uneaten seeds grow into plants which help to stabilize dunes. Beach mice are also an important part of the food chain, providing a food source for dune predators such as the snakes and owls.“
It’s actually easier than you’d think to help protect beach mice and their habitat. Visitors to any coastal environment simply need to take special care not to walk or drive in dune areas. Where dune walkovers are provided for beach access, use them! ~ It’s that easy! ~
For those who live near beach mouse populations, the U.S.Fish and Wildlife Service has very easy, clear recommendations. Basic steps for coastal home owners and beach house renters include placing bagged garbage in rodent-proof trash cans, with tight-fitting lids, to prevent the establishment of other rodents (so they don’t compete with beach mice) and controlling outdoor and feral cats to reduce their hunting of beach mice.
Check out this FWS webpage for more information on the Alabama beach mouse and how beach goers can help the little guy out.
“Now it was Ralph’s turn to be frightened. Oh-oh, he thought, I’d better be careful. If there was one thing Ralph disliked, it was people who traveled with dogs. Dogs always sniffed around where they had no business sniffing.” ~The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary
Food for thought from E.G.D.: “If a farmer fills his barn with grain, he gets mice. If he leaves it empty, he gets actors.” ~Sir Walter Scott
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