Just a few weeks into the New Year, Brevard Zoo, in Melbourne, Florida, welcomed two endangered Perdido Key Beach Mouse pups.
The pups’ parents, known among keepers as Hillary and Donald, were first paired in the heat of election season. The exact date of birth is unknown as Beach Mouse pups emerge from their underground burrows at 13-16 days of age, but staff speculates they were born in early January. The sex of each pup has not yet been identified.
“These mice are really important because they store seeds inside dunes. The seeds they don’t eat sometimes grow into large plants that help maintain the dune’s structure,” said conservation coordinator Amanda Sanford. “Stronger dunes mean more protection for nearby buildings during hurricanes.”
The Perdido Key Beach mouse (Peromyscus polionotus trissyllepsis) is a subspecies of the oldfield mouse. An oldfield mouse or beach mouse (Peromyscus polionotus) is a nocturnal species of rodent in the family Cricetidae.
This subspecies is only found on Perdido Key, a small island off the Florida Panhandle. They are classified as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List. Habitat loss, feral cats, and a population decline caused by 2004’s Hurricane Ivan are the main threats to them.
They are nocturnal, spending most of their daylight hours in their burrows. Unlike many species, Beach Mice are monogamous, with mated pairs tending to remain together as long as both live. A typical mouse pair averages 3-4 offspring per litter and has roughly 3 litters per year.
As part of a conservation program that aims to maintain a healthy captive population, many Beach Mice born at Brevard Zoo have been released in their natural habitat.
The breeding and reintroduction program is a collaboration between the Zoo, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida Park Service, Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division, Palm Beach Zoo and Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo.