Not the average house mouse: Topsail rangers protect Choctawhatchee Beach Mouse

beach mouse
Special to The Sun
Published: Thursday, October 31, 2013 at 02:37 PM.

The term "beach mouse" may seem a little weird — maybe it's because they're nocturnal and aren't around when you're soaking in the sun or maybe it's because they're endangered and not as prevalent as other wildlife. Whatever the case may be, you're missing out on some cute critters.

Two weeks ago, Topsail State Park Ranger Chris Roberts led an informative discussion on the beach mouse, detailing what makes the endangered animal special and how park rangers monitor and track them.

"They're amazing creatures," Roberts said.

Topsail State Park has one of the largest populations of beach mice in the panhandle. The last time experts counted, there were 242 of them. Using sea oats — a favorite food among beach mice — park rangers monitor the numbers of mice by luring them through tubing placed along the length of local beaches, with carefully placed ink and paper on the ground. The papers are then sent to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation (FWC) who count the footprints.

Rangers regularly visit the beach mice habitat to monitor their well-being and to make sure predatory animals, such as the cotton rat, are not encroaching on their territory.

"We put them back in the woods where they belong," Roberts said of the cotton rat. "So there's no competition."

There are eight subspecies of beach mice, but the discussion was more focused on the Choctawhatchee Beach Mouse, which is the type that lives at Topsail. Of  the eight species, five inhabit the Gulf Coast and one, the Pallid Beach Mouse, is already extinct.

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