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Rodents

House Mouse
Field Mouse
Norway Rat
Gopher


House Mouse

The house mouse (Mus musculus) is considered one of the most troublesome and economically important pests in the United States. House mice live and thrive under a variety of conditions in and around homes and farms. House mice consume food meant for humans or pets. They contaminate food-preparation surfaces with their feces, which can contain the bacterium that causes food poisoning (salmonellosis). Their constant gnawing causes damage to structures and property.

House mice are gray or brown rodents with relatively large ears and small eyes. An adult weighs about 1/2 ounce and is about 5 1/2 to 7 1/2 inches long, including the 3 to 4 inch tail.

Although house mice usually feed on cereal grains, they will eat many kinds of food. They eat often, nibbling bits of food here and there. Mice have keen senses of taste, hearing, smell and touch. They are excellent climbers and can run up any rough vertical surface. They will run horizontally along wire cables or ropes and can jump up 13 inches from the floor onto a flat surface. They can slip through a crack that a pencil will fit into (sightly larger than 1/4 inch in diameter).

In a single year, a female may have five to 10 litters of usually five or six young each. Young are born 19 to 21 days after mating, and they are mature in six to 10 weeks. The life span of a mouse is about nine to 12 months.
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Field Mouse

Field mice are characteristically small rodents. As their name implies, they are most common in fields. Field mice may also be found dwelling in the plains, forests and in old, rural homes. They are cousins to the rat and possess some of the same physical characteristics. Field mice are brown, black or white in color and feature long, hairless tails. Field mice also have sharp claws. However, field mice are smaller than rats. They are also extremely intelligent.

Field mice are scavengers that will feed on any food available to them. These mice are prey to cats, dogs, bears, wolves, snakes, owls and rabbits. Nocturnal in nature, they are cautious and only venture outside after having fully-assessed the situation at hand. Field mice use their coats as camouflage, blending in with rocks or dried leaves. Despite this, these mice are rarely successful at eluding their predators. Most field mice are eaten before they reach their second year.

Field mice mate more often than other mice. Females tend to be pregnant at least once a month. During the pregnancy, only the male goes out in search of food. Baby field mice are born blind, bald and deaf. However, within three weeks, they will have reached maturity and begun mating.
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Norway Rat

The Norway Rat is a large rodent, growing up to 18 inches long, including the tail. Males are larger than females. The rat’s color is grayish-brown with a pale gray belly. Ears and tail are bald.

Norway Rats are found anywhere there are people. This rat, originally from Asia, has followed people around the world, and it is now found throughout the United States. Common places Norway Rats live are ditches, basements, sewers, old buildings, barns, dumps, woods, fields, ponds, and marshes.

Norway Rats are almost always found near water. They are very good swimmers and climbers.

Norway Rats always live in large groups in burrows. Rat burrows are actually a large network of passageways, runways, and chambers.

A rat pack hunts together, breeds together, and defends the burrow together.

Rats breed often and each female may have seven litters in a year. Each litter has 2 to 14 young. A rat is full grown in about four weeks. Rat nests are made of leaves, twigs, and trash.

Norway Rats only live two or three years.

Norway Rats will eat just about anything. Natural foods include seeds, grains, fruits, stems, leaves, nectar, flowers, roots, bark, wood, sap, insects, spiders, crayfish, earthworms, frogs, salamanders, fish, lizards, birds, eggs, and fungus.

Rats are very good at catching fish with their paws. They will also eat carrion (dead animals).

The main food of rats, though, is supplied by people. Norway Rats will eat anything that is edible from human garbage. They often build their burrows where they know there is a reliable human trash source nearby. This is why places with lots of people, especially cities, also have lots of rats.

Like most rodents, these rats cache their food. This means they store it in piles in some of the chambers in their burrows.

Norway Rats will swim, climb, and even crawl across telephone wires to get to food. Rats use their very strong sense of smell to find food. They do most of their hunting at night.
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Gopher

Pocket gophers, often called gophers, Thomomys species, are burrowing rodents that get their name from the fur-lined, external cheek pouches, or pockets, they use for carrying food and nesting materials. Pocket gophers are well equipped for a digging, tunneling lifestyle with their powerfully built forequarters; large-clawed front paws; fine, short fur that doesn’t cake in wet soils; small eyes and ears; and highly sensitive facial whiskers that assist with moving about in the dark. A gopher’s lips also are unusually adapted for their lifestyle; they can close them behind their four large incisor teeth to keep dirt out of their mouths when using their teeth for digging.

Five species of pocket gophers are found in California, with Botta’s pocket gopher, T. bottae, being most widespread. Depending on the species, they are 6 to 10 inches long. For the most part, gophers remain underground in their burrow system, although you’ll sometimes see them feeding at the edge of an open burrow, pushing dirt out of a burrow, or moving to a new area.

Mounds of fresh soil are the best sign of a gopher’s presence. Gophers form mounds as they dig tunnels and push the loose dirt to the surface. Typically mounds are crescent or horseshoe shaped when viewed from above. The hole, which is off to one side of the mound, usually is plugged. Mole mounds are sometimes mistaken for gopher mounds. Mole mounds, however, are more circular and have a plug in the middle that might not be distinct; in profile they are volcano-shaped. Unlike gophers, moles commonly burrow just beneath the surface, leaving a raised ridge to mark their path.

One gopher can create several mounds in a day. In nonirrigated areas, mound building is most pronounced during spring or fall when the soil is moist and easy to dig. In irrigated areas such as lawns, flower beds, and gardens, digging conditions usually are optimal year round, and mounds can appear at any time.

Pocket gophers live in a burrow system that can cover an area that is 200 to 2,000 square feet. The burrows are about 2–1/2 to 3–1/2 inches in diameter. Feeding burrows usually are 6 to 12 inches below ground, and the nest and food storage chamber can be as deep as 6 feet. Gophers seal the openings to the burrow system with earthen plugs. Short, sloping lateral tunnels connect the main burrow system to the surface; gophers create these while pushing dirt to the surface to construct the main tunnel.

Gophers don’t hibernate and are active year-round, although you might not see any fresh mounding. They also can be active at all hours of the day.

Gophers usually live alone within their burrow system, except when females are caring for their young or during breeding season. Gopher densities can be as high as 60 or more per acre in irrigated alfalfa fields or in vineyards. Gophers reach sexual maturity about 1 year of age and can live up to 3 years. In nonirrigated areas, breeding usually occurs in late winter and early spring, resulting in 1 litter per year; in irrigated sites, gophers can produce up to 3 litters per year. Litters usually average 5 to 6 young.
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