85 Jumping Mouse
MERIONES HUDSONICUS.--Zimmerman. [Zapus hudsonius] JUMPING MOUSE. [Meadow Jumping Mouse] PLATE LXXXV.--MALE and FEMALE. M. Supra saturate fuscus, infra albus, linea laterali flava inter colorem fuscom albumque intermedia; cauda corpore longiore.
CHARACTERS Dark reddish-brown above, with white underneath; sides yellow, separating the colours of the back from the white beneath; tail much longer than the body. SYNONYMES. DIPUS HUDSONICUS. Zimmerman. Geogr. Geschich., II. p. DIPUS AMERICANUS. Barton, Am. Phil. Trans., 4. vol. p. 358-202. A.D. 1782. DIPUS CANADENSIS. Davies' Linn. Trans., 4. 155. GERBILLE DU CANADA. Desm. Mammal., p. 132. GERBILLE DU CANADA. Fr. Cuvier in Dict. des Sc. Nat., 18. p. 464. MERIONES LABRADORIUS. Sabine, Franklin's Journ., p. 155 and 157. G. CANADENSIS ET LABRADORIUS. Harlan, Fauna, p. 155 and 157. G. CANADENSIS ET LABRADORIUS. Godman, vol. 2. p. 94 and 97. MERIONES LABRADORIUS. Richardson, Fau. Bore. Am., p. 144. MERIONES AMERICANUS. De Kay. Nat. Hist. N. Y., p. 71. pl. XXIV., fig. 2d. DESCRIPTION. Head, narrow and conical. Nose, tolerably sharp, with an obtuse tip projecting a little beyond the incisors. Nostrils small, facing sideways and protected anteriorly by a slight ventricose arching of their naked inner margins. The mouth is small and far back. Whiskers, long, extending to the shoulder; eyes, small; ears, semi-oval, rounded at the tips, clothed on both surfaces with short hair. Fore feet small, nail in place of a thumb; hind legs long and slender; there are five hind-toes, each with a long slender tarsal bone; the toes, when expanded, resembling those of some species of birds. The soles are naked to the heels; upper surface of hind-feet covered with short adpressed hairs; tail, long, scaly, has a velvety appearance, soft to the touch, is thinly covered with such soft short hairs, that without a close examination it would appear naked. The hair on the body is of moderate fineness, and lies smooth and compact. COLOUR. Upper surface of nose, forehead, neck, ears, and a broad line on the back, dark-brown; the hairs being plumbeous at their roots, tipped with yellowish-brown and black; under the nose, along the sides of the face, outer surface of the legs, and along the sides, yellowish; lips, chin, and all the under surface white; as is also the under surface of the tail in some specimens, though in others brownish-white. The colours between the back and sides, as well as between the sides and belly, are in most specimens separated by a distinct line of demarcation. This species is subject to considerable variations in colour. We have seen some young animals, in which the dark reddish-brown stripe along the back was wholly wanting; others where the line of demarcation between the colours was very indistinct; nearly all are pure white on the under surface; but we possess two specimens that are tinged on those parts with a yellowish hue. DIMENSIONS. Inches. Length of head and body . . . . . . . . . . . 2 3/8 Length of tail . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 3/4 Height of ear posteriorly. . . . . . . . . . . 1/4 From heel to longest nail. . . . . . . . . . . 1 7/8 HABITS. This species was familar to us in early life, and we possessed many opportunities of studying its peculiar and very interesting habits. We doubt whether there is any quadruped in the world of its size, that can make its way over the ground as rapidly, or one that can in an open space so quickly evade the grasp of its pursuers. The ploughman in the Northern and Middle States, sometimes turns up this species from under a clod of earth, when it immediately commences its long leaps. He drops his reins and hurries after it; whilst the little creature darts off with great agility, pursuing an irregular zig-zag direction, and it requires an active runner to keep pace with it, as it alternately rises and sinks like the flying-fish at sea, and ere the pursuer is aware, is out of sight, hidden probably behind some clod, or concealed under a tuft of grass. We have frequently seen these mice start from small stacks of wheat, where the bundles had been temporarily collected previous to their being removed to the barn. In such cases they usually effect their escape among the grass and stubble. A rapid movement seems natural to this animal, and is often exhibited when it is not under the influence of fear, and apparently for mere amusement. Our kind friend Maj. LE CONTE, now of New-York, informs us, that he has seen it in former times, near the northern end of the Island of New-York; springing from the ground and passing with the velocity of a bird, until its momentum being exhausted it disappeared in the tall grass, apparently with ease and grace, again springing forth in the same manner. It must not, however, from hence be believed that the Jumping Mouse walks on its hind feet only, and progresses at all times by leaps, without using its fore-feet. We have frequently seen it walking leisurely on all its feet, in the manner of the white-footed mouse. It is chiefly when alarmed, or on special occasions, that it makes these unusual leaps; the construction of the body proves that this species could not for any length of time be sustained on its tarsi. In its leaps we have always observed that it falls on all its four feet. We experienced no difficulty in capturing this species in box-traps, and preserved a female in a cage from spring to autumn; she produced two young a few days after being caught; she reared both of them, and they had become nearly of full size before autumn, when by some accident our pets escaped. We placed a foot of earth at the bottom of the cage, in this they formed a burrow with two outlets. They used their feet and nails to advantage, as we observed them bury themselves in the earth, in a very short time. They were usually very silent, but when we placed a common mouse in the cage, squeaked with a loud chattering noise, like some young bird in pain. They skipped about the cage, were anxious to make their escape from the mouse, and convinced us that this species is very timid. They were in their habits strictly nocturnal, scarcely ever coming out of their holes during the day, but rattling about the wires of the cage throughout the night. We observed that every thing that was put into their cage, however great might be the quantity, was stored away in their holes before the next morning. We fed them on wheat, maize, and buckwheat. They gave the preference to the latter, and we observed that when they had filled their store-house with a quart of buckwheat, they immediately formed a new burrow in which they deposited the surplus. We are inclined to believe that this species produces several times during the summer, as we have seen the young on several occasions in May and August; They are from two to four; we have usually found three. The fact of the females being frequently seen with the young attached to their teats, carrying them along in their flight when disturbed, is well ascertained. We have also observed this in several other species; in the white-footed mouse, the Florida rat, and even the common flying squirrel. We are not, however, to argue from this that the young immediately after birth become attached to the teats in the manner of the young opossoms, and are incapable of relaxing their hold; on the contrary the female we had in confinement, only dragged her young along with her, when she was suddenly disturbed, and when in the act of giving suck; but when she came out, of her own accord, we observed that she had relieved herself from this incumbrance. This was also the case with the other species referred to. Dr. DEKAY, regards it as a matter of course that in its long leaps, it is aided by the tail. We doubt whether the tail is used in the manner of the kangaru; the under surface of it is never worn in the slightest manner, and exhibits no evidence of its having been used as a propeller. Its long heel and peculiarly long slender tarsal bones on each toe, seem in themselves sufficient to produce those very long leaps. We have often watched this species, and although it moves with such celerity as to render an examination very difficult, we have been able to decide, as we think, that the tail is not used by the animal in its surprising leaps and rapid movements. The domicil of the Jumping Mouse in summer, in which her young are produced, we have always found near the surface, seldom more than six inches under ground, sometimes under fences and brushwood, but more generally under clods of earth, where the sward had been turned over in early spring, leaving hollow spaces beneath, convenient for the summer residence of the animal. The nest is composed of fine grass, mixed with which we have sometimes seen feathers, wool, and hair. We are, however, under an impression that the Jumping Mouse in winter resorts to a burrow situated much deeper in the earth, and beyond the influence of severe frosts, as when fields were ploughed late in autumn, we could never obtain any of this species. It may be stated as a general observation, that this animal is a resident of fields and cultivated grounds; we have, however, witnessed two or three exceptions to this habit, having caught some in traps set at night in the woods, and once having found a nest under the roots of a tree in the forest, occupied by an old female of this species with three young two-thirds grown; this nest contained about a handful of chestnuts, which had fallen from the surrounding trees. It is generally believed, that the Jumping Mouse, like the Hampster of Europe, (Cricetus vulgaris), and the Marmots, (Arctomys), hibernates, and passes the winter in a profound lethargy. Although we made some efforts many years ago, to place this matter beyond a doubt by personal observation, we regret that our residence, being in a region where this species does not exist, no favourable opportunity has since been afforded us. Naturalists residing in the Northern and Middle States could easily solve the whole matter, by preserving the animal in confinement through the winter. To us the Jumping Mouse has not been an abundant species in any part of our country. Being, however, a nocturnal animal, rarely seen during the day unless disturbed, it is in reality more numerous than is generally supposed. We have frequently caught it in traps at night in localities where its existence was scarcely known. This species, feeding on small seeds, does very little injury to the farmer; it serves, like the sparrow, to lessen the superabundance of grass seeds, which are injurious to the growth of wheat and other grains; it is fond of the seeds of several species of Amaranthus, the pigweed, (Ambrosia), burr-marygold, beggar or sheep ticks, (Bidens), all of which are regarded as pests, he therefore should not grumble at the loss of a few grains of wheat or buckwheat. Its enemies are cats, owls, weasels, and foxes, which all devour it. GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION. If there is no mistake in regarding all the varieties of Jumping Mice in the northern parts of America as one species, this little animal has a range nearly as extensive as that of the white-footed Mouse. It exists, according to RICHARDSON, as far to the North as great Slave Lake, Lat. 62 degrees. It is found in Labrador and Nova Scotia, and in Upper and Lower Canada. We have seen it in the Eastern and Middle States, and obtained a specimen on the mountains of Virginia, but have not traced it farther to the South; although we are pretty sure that it may, like the Sciurus Hudsonius be found on the whole range of the Alleghanies. SAY observed it on the base of the Rocky Mountains, and Mr. TOWNSEND brought specimens from Oregon, near the mouth of the Columbia River. We can scarcely doubt, that it will yet be discovered on both sides of the mountains in California and New-Mexico. GENERAL REMARKS. On looking at our synonymes our readers will discover that this species has been described under an endless variety of names. We have omitted a reference to RAFINESQUE, who indicated several new species in the American Monthly Magazine. We have concluded, that a writer exhibiting such a want of accuracy, who gives no characters by which the species can be known, and who has involved the science in great confusion, and given such infinite trouble to his successors, does not deserve to be quoted. We had attached to our plate the specific name given by Dr. BARTON, (M. Americanus), this we would have preferred to either of the others, especially as it now seems probable, that this is the only species in North America. The names Hudsonius, Labradorius, and Canadensis, are, all exceptionable, as it appears to be as abundant in the Northern and Eastern States, as it is in Hudson's Bay, Labrador, or Canada. There is an evident impropriety, although we confess when hard pressed for a name we have often committed the error ourselves, in naming species after localities where they have been found. The Meles Labradoria of SABINE, and the Lepus Virginianus of HARLAN, are both familiar examples. Having recently had an opportunity of consulting the original description of ZIMMERMAN, published between the years 1778 and 1783, we are convinced that he was the first scientific describer, and we have accordingly adopted his name. BARTON, at a little later period, published a good description with a figure. DAVIES shortly afterwards published it under the name of Dipus Canadensis. SABINE published a specimen with a mutilated tail, which he named M. Labradorius, and RICHARDSON a specimen from the North, which he referred to the northern species, under the name of M. Labradorius, supposing there was still another species, which had been described as G. Canadensis. We have compared many specimens from all the localities indicated by authors. There is a considerable variety in colour, young animals being paler and having the lines of demarcation between the colours less distinct. There is also a great difference between the colour of the coat of hair in the spring, before it is shed, and that of the young hair which replaces the winter pelage. The tail varies a little, but is always long in all the specimens. The ears, size, and habits of all are similar. We have thus far seen no specimen that would warrant us in admitting more than one species into our American Fauna.