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Rodents

Rodents are relatively small animals that have a single pair of constantly growing incisor teeth specialized for gnawing.  Because the incisors are enameled on the front only, the working of upper teeth against lower ones wears away the softer inner surfaces more rapidly, producing a sharp, beveled edge ideal for gnawing.  Incisors grow throughout the animals life (if they didn't they would be worn away), and rodents must gnaw enough to keep them from growing too long.

Rodents have bulbous eyes on the sides of the head, which enable them to see forward or behind, detecting danger over a wide arc.  Most, bu not all, have four toes on their forefeet and five on their hindfeet.  Most rodents are nocturnal and remain active throughout the year.

Squirrels - Family Sciuridae

Eastern Chipmunk Tamias striatus. Common. Found statewide, except for extreme southwestern and southeastern regions. Occupies wooded areas with dense canopy and sparsely covered forest floor, open brushy habitats, ravines, deciduous growth along streams, and urban areas. Gestation 31-32 days; two litters averaging four to five young produced each year. Seeds, nuts, insects, other invertebrates, and fungi are important foods. Lowest Conservation Concern.

Woodchuck Marmota monax. Poorly known. Distribution includes northern two-thirds of state. Occupies forest edges and open fields and pastures near brushy fencerows or other cover Breeding occurs upon emergence from hibernation in spring. Gestation 31-33 days; one litter averaging four to five young produced annually. Diet includes various weedy plants, but clover and alfalfa favored. Fruits and agricultural crops also consumed. Lowest Conservation Concern.

Gray Squirrel Sciurus carolinensis. Common. Found statewide in hardwood forests, mixed forests, and urban areas. An important game species, active throughout year. Two litters of two to four young born annually, one in late winter and another in summer; gestation about 44 days. Diet includes seeds, fruits, flowers, leaves, bark, and some insects, eggs, and young birds. Lowest Conservation Concern.

Fox Squirrel Sciurus niger. Found statewide, this large tree squirrel favors mature deciduous and pine-oak woodlands, but also occurs at forest edges and in riparian woodlands. Two reproductive peaks occur in late winter and mid-late summer. Gestation about 45 days, with an average of three young born. Diet is acorns, pine seeds, other nuts, and a wide variety of plant and animal material, including fruits, corn, and other grains. Low Conservation Concern.

Southern Flying Squirrel Glaucomys volans. Found statewide. Most common in mature, broad-leaved forests, but also found in coniferous-deciduous woodlands, and urban areas. Nocturnal existence belies its common occurrence. Breeds in mid-summer to early winter. Gestation about 40 days, with an average litter size of two to three. Foods are nuts of deciduous trees, such as oaks and hickories, but also consumes seeds, fruits, buds, bark, fungi, insects, eggs, and small vertebrates. Lowest Conservation Concern.

Pocket Gophers - Family Geomyidae

Southeastern Pocket Gopher Geomys pinetis. Poorly known. Seemingly less common now than previously; once occupied southern half of Alabama. Usually occurs in dry, sandy soils, but may inhabit well-drained, gravelly, upland sites. Peaks of reproductive activity occur February-March and June-August. Females produce two litters of about two young annually. HIGH CONSERVATION CONCERN.

Beavers - Family Castoridae

Beaver Castor canadensis. Once extirpated, or nearly so, now common. Found statewide in all habitats with open water. Considered a pest in some areas, because of flooding caused by construction of dams. In April-June, three to five young born after a gestation of about 107 days. Sexual maturity reached at two years. Diet includes leaves, branches, and bark of most kinds of woody plants that grow near water. Lowest Conservation Concern.

Rats and Mice - Family Muridae

Marsh Rice Rat Oryzomys palustris. Common and found statewide in wet meadows and dense vegetation near marshes, swamps, streams, ponds, and ditches. Probably breeds throughout year. Gestation 21-28 days, average litter size four to five, and sexual maturity attained at six to eight weeks. Diet includes seeds and green plants, but insects, snails, and other animal materials are consumed. Lowest Conservation concern.

Eastern Harvest Mouse Reithrodontomys humulis. Poorly known. Once common in old fields containing dense stands of weeds and grasses, but may be declining in Alabama. Breeds throughout year, gestation 21-22 days, and litter of two to three. Seeds comprise most of diet, but insects and green vegetation also eaten. MODERATE CONSERVATION CONCERN.

Oldfield Mouse Peromyscus polionotus. Poorly known. Primarily distributed in sandy-soiled habitats in eastern and southern Alabama, but also occurs in west-central and northwestern parts of state. Occurs in fallow fields with herbaceous vegetation, and along roadsides in agricultural areas. Breeds throughout year. Gestation about 22 days with an average of four young born. Diet mostly consists of seeds of grasses and herbs, but green plants and insects also consumed. MODERATE CONSERVATION CONCERN.

Alabama Beach Mouse P. polionotus ammobates. Known only from coastal dune areas of Baldwin County, Alabama. Distribution continues to shrink due to construction of beach-front buildings and associated destruction of habitat. Monogamous, with strong pair bonds; reproduction peaks in late autumn and early winter. Gestation about 28 days; litter size varies from two to eight. Diet includes sea oats, bluestems, and a variety of insects. Listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. HIGHEST CONSERVATION CONCERN.

Perdido Key Beach Mouse P. polionotus trissylepsis. Known only from Perdido Key, Baldwin County, Alabama. Storms and habitat destruction have reduced distribution from entire length of Perdido Key to a few remnant and reintroduced populations. Although there are distinct morphological and genetic differences, ecology and reproduction similar to the Alabama beach mouse. Listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. HIGHEST CONSERVATION CONCERN.

Cotton Mouse Peromyscus gossypinus. Common. Found statewide in dense underbrush, bottomland hardwood forests, and a variety of other habitats, including old fields, upland forests, hammocks, and swamps. Except for summer, breeds year-round. Gestation about 23 days; litter size averages four. This opportunistic omnivore consumes insects, spiders, slugs, and snails, but also eats seeds and fungi. Lowest Conservation concern.

White-footed Mouse Peromyscus leucopus. Poorly known. Occurs in northern two-thirds of state. Common in woodlands with fallen logs, brush piles, and rocks, and in shrubs along fencerows and streams. Breeds year-round, with reduced activity in summer. Several litters of three to four produced annually; gestation 22-23 days. Females may be pregnant and lactating simultaneously. Diet includes seeds, nuts, fruits, other plant materials, and small invertebrates. Lowest Conservation concern.

Golden Mouse Ochrotomys nuttalli. Common in a variety of habitats, including woodlands, floodplains, borders of fields, and thickets bordering swamps and dense woods. Highly social; up to eight have been found in same nest. Breeding occurs all year. Gestation 25-30 days; litter size usually two to three. Seeds and invertebrates form majority of diet. Lowest Conservation concern.

Hispid Cotton Rat Sigmodon hispidus. Found statewide, especially in grassy areas of fields and along roadways. Populations fluctuate greatly among years, but usually abundant in densely vegetated habitats. Active day and night. Prolific breeder; gestation about 27 days; one to 15 young per litter; and young mature in about eight weeks. Primarily herbivorous, but will consume invertebrates, small vertebrates, and bird eggs. Lowest Conservation Concern.

Eastern Woodrat Neotoma floridana. Poorly known. No recent surveys; populations may be declining. Occupies woodland and brushy habitats south of Tennessee River. Usually found associated with rocky outcrops, but also in areas with dense vegetation. Mating occurs throughout year with an average of two to three young born after a gestation of about 35 days. MODERATE CONSERVATION CONCERN.

Allegheny Woodrat Neotoma magister. Probably restricted to region north of Tennessee River. Possibly confined to areas with rocky outcrops, crevices, caves, and boulder fields, but also may occupy woodlands and brushy areas. Breeds throughout year; litter size of two to three; gestation about 35 days. Diet consists of plant materials. HIGH CONSERVATION CONCERN.

Prairie Vole Microtus ochrogaster. Poorly known. Occupies areas with dense grasses, such as pastures, roadsides, and edges of fields in north-central Alabama. Breeds throughout year with peaks in spring and autumn. After a gestation of about 21 days, three to five young are born. Green vegetation commonly eaten in summer, whereas roots, seeds, bark, and stems commonly eaten in winter. MODERATE CONSERVATION CONCERN.

Pine Vole Microtus pinetorum. Found statewide, except for southwestern section. Occu-pies a wide range of habitats, including leaf litter, grassy fields with brush and brambles, and beneath mats of dense vegetation. Breeds throughout year; gestation about three weeks; average litter size three; young fully mature at 10-12 weeks. Diet includes grasses, stems, roots, seeds, nuts, and bark, which are stored in burrows. Low Conservation Concern.

Muskrat Ondatra zibethicus. Found nearly statewide, except counties bordering Florida Panhandle. Habitats include saline, brackish, and freshwater streams; marshes; ponds; lakes; ditches; and rivers. Produces up to five to six litters of six to seven young annually. Gestation about 30 days. Feeds mostly on roots and basal parts of aquatic vegetation, but also crayfish, fishes, mollusks, turtles, and other animal matter. Lowest Conservation Concern.

Black Rat Rattus rattus. Exotic. Breeder. Also called “roof rat” because of its climbing capabilities. A commensal (“sharing the table”) rodent brought to the United States by early European colonists. Produces up to 12 litters of eight young annually. Gestation period about 24 days. Requires food, water, and harborage provided by humans. Often displaced by Norway rat, but when co-inhabiting same areas, usually spatially separated vertically. Often targeted for eradication because of potential economic damage and health concerns.

Norway Rat Rattus norvegicus. Exotic. Breeder. Also known as “sewer or wharf rat.” A commensal rodent brought to the United States by early European colonists, albeit considerably later (ca. 1775) than the black rat and house mouse. Produces up to 12 litters of eight or nine young annually. Gestation period about 24 days. Requires food, water, and harborage provided by humans. Often targeted for eradication because of potential economic damage and health concerns.

House Mouse Mus musculus. Exotic. Breeder. A commensal rodent brought to the United States by early European colonists. Produces up to 14 litters of five or six young annually. Gestation period about 20 days. Not nearly as dependent on food, water, and harborage provided by humans as black and Norway rats; often found in habitats associated with native rodents fairly distant from human habitation. Often targeted for eradication because of potential economic damage and health concerns.

Jumping Mice and Jerboas - Family Dipodidae

Meadow Jumping Mouse Zapus hudsonius. Poorly known. Populations may be declining, but no recent surveys. Found primarily in Piedmont region of northeastern Alabama. Occupies variety of habitats with dense vegetation, including overgrown fields and thick vegetation near ponds, marshes, and streams. Up to three litters of about five young may be produced April-August. Seeds, grasses, fruits of some woody shrubs, insects, and fungi are consumed. HIGH CONSERVATION CONCERN.

Nutrias - Family Myocastoridae

Nutria Myocaster coypus. Exotic. Breeder. A South American native introduced into the United States for fur farming and weed control. Occupies fresh and brackish wetlands in southern Alabama. Known to cause damage to crops, drainage systems, and natural plant communities.

References Cited:

Mirarchi. Ralph E., ed. 2004. Alabama Wildlife, Volume One.  A Checklist of Vertebrates and Selected Invertebrates: Aquatic Mollusks, Fishes, Amphibians, Reptiles, Birds and Mammals.  The University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa, AL. 209 pp.

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