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Monday - March 14, 2011

From: Dallas, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Wildlife Gardens
Title: Plants for field mice in habitat restoration in Dallas County, Texas
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

For grassland and bottomland habitat restoration projects in North Central Texas (Dallas), what native plants would be beneficial as food sources for field mice. Thanks.

ANSWER:

David J. Schmidly in The Mammals of Texas (6th ed., University of Texas Press, 2004) gives information  about the various mice, including their food preferences and their distribution in Texas.  There is also an online edition of this book.  The following are the mice that are shown as occurring in Dallas County. 

Chaetodipus hispidus (Hispid pocket mouse) whose diet is made up "almost entirely of vegetation, principally seeds."

Seeds that were found in their caches were:

They also eat insects such as grasshoppers, caterpillars and beetles.

Reithrodontomys fulvescens (Fulvous harvest mouse), according to Schmidly, feeds almost entirely on "vegetable matter, including seeds and the green blades of grasses and sedges, but may include invertebrates."  No specific plants were listed as their food.  They also use plant material for nests and bluestem  (Andropogon sp.) was mentioned.  For Dallas County the bluestems would be Andropogon gerardii (Big bluestem) and Andropogon glomeratus (Bushy bluestem).  The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History's North American Mammals says that where invertebrates are readily available, they will be the dominant item in their diet. Otherwise, they find invertebrates in the spring and summer and switch to seeds in the fall and winter.

Rheithrodontomys montanus (Plains harvest mouse) is found in grassy areas and feeds on "green parts and seeds of a variety of plants, including grains."  No specific plants were mentioned.

Peromyscus leucopus (White-footed mouse), prefer woodlands and, consequently, in the western part of their range they occur most frequently along creeks and river bottoms.  Schmidly says:

"The food of white-footed mice is varied, but their chief reliance is seeds and such nuts as acorns and pecans."

Peromyscus maniculatus (Deer mouse) lives in a variety of habitats. Their food is principally seeds but they will also eat fruits, bark, roots and herbage.

Baiomys taylori (Northern pygmy mouse) are found in grassy areas, such as pastures and along railroad and highway rights-of-way.  They feed on vegetation, especially seeds.  The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History's North American Mammals also lists prickly pear cactus fruits and stems and, also, beans of Prosopis glandulosa (Honey mesquite).

Peromyscus gossypinus (Cotton mouse) is shown on the distribution maps to occur only in the eastern half of Dallas County.  Little is known of their food, but it is thought they more than 50% of their diet is animal matter.  The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History's North American Mammals says:  "It is an omnivore, eating most anything available."

From this information it is clear that abundant native grasses will be important, not only for their food value but also for their use in constructing nests.  Listed below are several native grasses (in addition to the two bluestems above) that are native to Dallas County.  You can check the GROWING CONDITIONS on the webpage for each species to see that they match the conditions of the area you want to restore.

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats) particularly for bottomland shade and part shade

Bouteloua curtipendula (Sideoats grama)

Bouteloua dactyloides (Buffalograss) requires full sun

Tripsacum dactyloides (Eastern gamagrass) for bottomland with adequate water

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)

Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem)

Elymus virginicus (Virginia wildrye)

Tridens albescens (White tridens)

Tridens flavus (Purpletop tridens)

Aristida purpurea (Purple threeawn)

Sporobolus cryptandrus (Sand dropseed)

Panicum virgatum (Switchgrass) especially good for wet places in the bottomlands

Seeds of all of these grasses, as well as many others, are available at Native American Seeds in Junction, Texas.  Most, but not all, the grasses that they carry grow in Dallas County.  They also have native seed mixes for various areas of Texas that include a mix of grasses and wildflowers. 

You can find wildflowers and other plants on our Texas-North Central Recommended list.  Many of the wildflowers recommended on that page might produce seeds the mice would eat and/or could attract insects that mice might feed on.

For your project you might be interested in reading the Texas Parks and Wildlife "Guidelines for Native Grassland Restoration Projects" by Jim Dillard.  You might also be interested in the Native Prairies Association of Texas.  They have available the articles, Tallgrass Restoration Manual and Planting a Tallgrass Prairie: What to Plant, that could be very useful to you.

 

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