This section is from the book "The Balance Of Nature And Modern Conditions Of Cultivation", by George Abbey. Also available from Amazon: The Balance Of Nature And Modern Conditions Of Cultivation.
House Mouse (Mus musculus), Fig. 14, is generally of a dusky brown colour, and its mouth, like the rat, is provided with organs adapted for the mastication of a mixed dietary, or one not confined solely to vegetable matters. From six to ten young are produced in a litter, and brought forth several times in a year. In about a fortnight the young are able to shift for themselves, although they are born in a helpless condition. "Albino" or so-called "white mice" are not uncommon. They are whitish or yellowish-hite in colour and possess pink eyes. A "piebald" variety is also bred from the house mouse, and, like the albino, is readily tamed and frequently kept as a pet. The house mouse frequents dwellings, buildings, barns, granaries, cornstacks and other places where foodstuffs are stored or used, and at times is very troublesome in gardens, unearthing peas and beans, also crocuses and other roots, and destroys young trees and vines by gnawing the bark round the stems just beneath or at the surface of the ground, and it is very fond of ripe fruit, particularly forced strawberries and late grapes. The chief food, however, of this animal consists of grain, seeds, roots, breadstuffs, lard, flesh, cheese, and, if opportunity offers, confectionery and even honey.
Long-tailed Field Mouse (Mus sylvaticus), Fig. 15, is of a brown or chestnut colour, with a darker stripe along the middle of the back, whilst the body and tail is of a whitish colour beneath. It frequents woods, fields, nurseries and gardens, and feeds upon seeds, roots, conifer seeds, acorns, beech-mast, hazel nuts and other products of hedgerow and woodland shrubs and trees. It also turns up and devours seed-grain, peas and beans," rot-heap " and seedbed seeds, nibbles off buds of seedlings and "transplants," and sometimes the bark and wood of small trees in young plantations, peeling and nibbling the stems at a height of 1 to 3 feet, while damaging seed-beds by its burrowing.
Fig. 14. - The House Mouse.
Fig. 15. - The Long-tailed Field Mouse.
The long-tailed field mouse has a particular penchant for barking trees in young plantations up to ten or twelve years of age, especially on warm sunny exposures with a tangled soil-covering of grass and weeds, beech, ash, maple, sycamore, and willow being most attractive, although in hard winters the animal will attack almost any young ligneous plant. Even in orchards young stems up to 2 inches in diameter may be gnawed round at from 1 to 3 feet above the soil. This is the more remarkable as the long-tailed field mouse lays up a store of food for the winter, an excavation being made in the ground and stored with such provisions as chestnuts, acorns, hazel nuts and seeds of various kinds, hence much of the damage done to young trees is often that of voles, not of the wood-mouse. It produces from four to six young twice or thrice in a year.
The Harvest Mouse (Mus minutus), Fig. 16, is the smallest British mammal, and constructs a beautiful and elegant nest about the size of a cricket ball of the blades of grass or corn, entwined round and supported by the stalks of the corn or wheat.
Fig. 16. - The Harvest Mouse and Nest.
The harvest mouse frequents grassy glades and fields, and its food consists of grain, various seeds, and vegetables, sometimes gnawing the young growths of trees in plantations. Like the long-tailed field mouse it hibernates during the winter, and lays up a store of provisions in its nest during the autumn.