The Yellow-necked mouse was identified as a species in 1894. This animal closely resembles the more common Wood mouse, but is larger with more orange coloration in its fur. The Yellow-necked mouse is so called due to the yellow stripe that stretches between its forelegs and distinguishes this species from the Wood mouse. This rodent is an excellent climber. When foraging in trees, the animal takes long trips, collecting buds, seeds or small insects. The Yellow-necked mice are lively creatures, typically observed jumping around. When disturbed, they may bite the intruder.
Yellow-necked mice have a rather scattered range in Britain, limited to central and eastern Wales as well as southern and western England, except for Cornwall and Cheshire. These rodents are also known to occur from southern Europe to Scandinavia, and from Turkey to Israel. Preferred habitat of Yellow-necked mice is ancient or mature broadleaved woodlands. In addition, they are frequently found around arable farmlands and in buildings in rural areas. Other suitable habitats include orchards, field margins, wooded gardens, hedgerows.
Yellow-necked mice are generally solitary creatures, but they sometimes can be found nesting together in underground burrows or in indoor spaces during the cold winter months, although they don't hibernate. These nocturnal animals have only one period of activity during the night. They bare exceptionally good climbers and jumpers, moving between bushes and branches of trees with amazing agility. Due to continued construction, the burrows of these rodents gradually become longer and more complex throughout their lives. Their burrows are typically located 50cm into the ground, though burrows at depths of up to 150cm have been recorded. Each burrow has special areas for storing food and sleeping. Dwellings of Yellow-necked mice can be located by mounds of soil, found at the entrances. These rodents cache food in numerous tree holes, often located away from their burrows.
As omnivorous animals, Yellow-necked mice feed upon nearly any available food, generally preferring seeds, fruits and insects such as spiders, supplement this diet with occasional larvae.
Little is known about the mating system of Yellow-necked mice, because they are very rare, hence it is hard to see them and study their behavior. They breed between February and October with a peak period, occurring in July-August. Females are able to yield 2 - 3 litters per season. They can breed again while suckling offspring from the previous litter. Gestation period lasts 23 days, yielding a litter of 3 - 10 young. At 3 weeks old, the babies are fully weaned and active. Around two weeks after opening their eyes, young mice exhibit the characteristic yellow collar on their neck. They are ready to produce offspring of their own only by the following breeding season. However, those born in the beginning of the breeding season may begin to breed during the same season.
Classified as Least Concern, Yellow-necked mice currently don’t face any serious threats, although these animals are known to suffer from fragmentation of their original range due to conversion of ancient woodland habitat to agricultural land.
According to IUCN, the Yellow-necked mouse is common and widespread throughout its range but the total number of this species is unknown for today. However, according to the British Wildlife Center resource, this species’ population number in Great Britain is around 750,000 individuals. Overall, numbers of Yellow-necked mice remain stable today, and the animals are classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List.
Due to their habit of caching food, the Yellow-necked mice act as seed dispersers, thus sustaining the local ecosystem. For example, during the summer months, they often store beech nuts in tree holes, leaving them for long period of time. As a result, some of these nuts can germinate and help survive the parent tree. In addition, these rodents serve as a pray for owls, foxes, weasels and other predators.