Long-tailed field mouse, Field mouse, Common field mouse, European wood mouse, Wood mouse
The wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus ) is a murid rodent native to Europe and northwestern Africa. It is closely related to the yellow-necked mouse (Apodemus flavicollis ) but differs in that it has no band of yellow fur around the neck, has slightly smaller ears, and is usually slightly smaller overall: around 90 mm (3.54 in) in length and 23 g in weight. It is found across most of Europe and is a very common and widespread species, is commensal with people and is sometimes considered a pest. Other common names are long-tailed field mouse, field mouse, common field mouse, and European wood mouse. This species is a known potential carrier of the Dobrava sequence of hantavirus which affects humans and may pose serious risks to human health.
The Wood mouse is quite similar to the yellow-necked mouse, although differs from latter by absence of yellow collar, resembling a bib on the animal's chest. The Wood mouse is otherwise known as 'the Long-tailed field mouse' due to its long tail that is approximately the same size as the total length of the head and body. It's the most widespread and abundant rodent, native to the British Isles. The overall coloration of its fur is reddish-brown. The belly of the animal is either white or greyish.
The Wood mouse has a rather large area of distribution, stretching from Britain and nearby islands to continental Europe (except for northern Scandinavia and Finland) through northwestern Africa and southwestern Asia to the Altai and Himalayan mountains. This rodent is capable of living in any environment with suitable sheltering sites, but will generally prefer grassy fields, cultivated areas, woodlands and forests.
Individuals are normally nocturnal, except for lactating females that may have short periods of activity during the daytime hours. In addition, some males may also be active by day. Instead of hibernating, these rodents gather in communal nests during the cold winter months. By spring, females move to their own territories to nest solitarily. There have been known cases of two females within a single territory. Dwellings of these rodents are underground burrows, typically located under the roots of shrubs or trees, in tree holes, buildings as well as in nest boxes of birds and dormice. Each burrow has nest chambers and food stores. These burrows are often used by following generations and may sometimes be enlarged or modified if necessary. Wood mice are excellent climbers. They are known to use abandoned bird nests, located high in trees and providing them with secluded places, where they can enjoy berries and other type of food that they have cached. They rarely move and usually live in the same area. Wood mice are known to take night trips of quarter of a mile (400m).
Wood mice are omnivores, they generally feed upon roots, grains, seeds, berries, nuts, grasses, grain kernels and fruits, supplementing this diet with occasional insects and snails.
Wood mice have a polygynous mating system. They breed between February and October. During this period, individuals compete for their mating rights. Female wood mice are able to produce up to 4 litters per year. Gestation period lasts 21 - 26 days, yielding 4 - 7 young, which are born in a nest chamber in their mother's burrow that is lined with soft underlay of leaves, moss and grass. The eyes of newborn babies are closed, opening at 6 days old, by which time they have attained their fur, which is darker than that of mature individuals. At 3 weeks old, young are driven out of the nest by their mother, after which they begin living independently. Within two months, young Wood mice become reproductively mature.
Although classified as Least Concern, Wood mice suffer from hedgerows and loss of their woodland habitat. They are also potentially threatened from agricultural modifications in a form of chemicals, which can be a serious concern both directly and through food contamination.
The Wood mouse is abundant and widespread throughout its range but there are no estimates of population numbers for this species. However, according to the British Wildlife Center resource, this species’ population number in Great Britain is around 38 million individuals. Overall, Wood mice’s numbers remain stable today, and the animals are currently classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List.
The Wood mouse is an important seed disperser of its range. Also this animal is the major prey species for local predators (owls, foxes, cats).