Depending on just where the line is drawn, there are about 30 small wild mammal species in Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks. A list would include shrews, bats, chipmunks, squirrels, gophers, mice and voles.
Next in size come muskrats, porcupines, raccoons, coyotes and weasels. We humans share this region with a splendid array of fellow creatures. Each deserves your notice and respect.
Among our small wildlife is the deer mouse. This animal is the house mouse of our region and so is not welcomed; it will eat people food, breaking into packages and nibbling fruits, and leave its small oblong feces everywhere and anywhere. Deer mice can carry the hantavirus, which is a respiratory disease that can be fatal in humans.
Despite all that, deer mice are maybe the most attractive and cutest of “our” small mammals. They occur over most of North America except in dense forests or marshes. They are brown to brownish above, white below, including white feet. Big ears, big eyes, about 6 inches long with a tail from 2 to 5 inches. The tail dark above, white below. Cute.
As cute as the larger pika. Cute enough to have its own stuffed toy image, too.
But there’s a but. Deer mice like to live with us in warm, dry shelter equipped with food on demand. And thus people (generally) kill deer mice and dispose of their little carcasses as so much detritus. Seldom a lingering look, let alone a burial.
Same here. Deer mice entered the house one wet chilly night. So far I’ve been the instrument of the demise of seven of these cute little creatures.
I’d prefer to live agreeably with the deer mice in the house, but they don’t limit their numbers and, well, since they won’t just learn …
Deer mice are widespread from far north to far south of North America, almost everywhere abundant. They are prey for many mammals and birds, plus some snakes. A favorite of study by biologists, many of whom prefer to call them by their family scientific name: Perosmyscus. After a while it slips easily from the lips.
If you must get rid of mice, do not use poison. Poisons kill indiscriminately, so scavenger animals can and will die. You don’t want that.
A note: Among the references I used in preparing the above remarks about deer mice was “A Pocket Guide to Wildlife of Yellowstone and Jackson Hole.” It’s truly a pocket guide in format and price, especially since it includes “descriptions, preferred habitats of mammals, reptiles and amphibians of the Yellowstone National Park region and Jackson Hole.”
The little pamphlet has sketches of each entry. Ya know, some of our regional small mammals are pretty dumpy and unattractive. But successful.
Field notes: It’s autumn. Except for a splash of color here and there, deciduous trees and shrubs have shed their leaves, and the remaining leaves look tired. Late October days can be quite delicious, with blue skies and warm sun, or they can be harbingers of winter. Pick your favorite.
Whichever, birds are going and coming, ungulates are wandering down to the valley floor and deer mice are looking longingly at houses like mine for winter digs.
Last week an Eastern blue jay showed up in Wilson (Cathy Harrington). This colorful blue and white relative of our region’s Stellar’s jay is not a frequent visitor here. Last year, though, a blue jay wintered in Jackson, mostly along or near Fall Creek. Same one? Blue jays are fairly common to our east, over the Divide.
Around Oct. 14 there was still a late hummingbird coming to a feeder in Jackson. You have to ponder the fate of a bird that should have migrated and for some reason didn’t. In any case, mid-October is a late record (Marlene Lang).
Tundra and trumpeter swans should soon begin to show up on Flat Creek in the National Elk Refuge. Tundras will be making a stopover on their migration. So will some trumpeters, some of which will winter here and on Henrys Fork in Idaho. Gorgeous birds in flight.