Four-striped Field Mouse

Scientific name:  Rhabdomys pumilo

Common names:  Four-striped Field Mouse; Striped Field Mouse; Streepmuis (Afr)

The body length is 18 - 21 cm; weight range 30 -55 g. 

As its common name suggests the four-striped grass mouse is easily identified by the 4 distinct dark longitudinal stripes running the length of the back. Colour varies from dark grizzled russet brown to a grey-white. The sides and underparts are lighter but vary from off-white to pale grey-brown. The backs of the ears and the snout are russet to yellowish brown. The upper surfaces of the feet are usually lighter in colour than the body. Research has shown that the average body size does vary in different geographical areas, and that tails can be shorter or equal to the body length.

Distribution

Widely distributed in South Africa and Namibia, with patchy occurrence in Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

Habitat

It has a wide habitat tolerance, from desert fringe to high-rainfall mountain areas, but does require the presence of grass.

Habits

Striped mouse are active during the day, but are seldom active at night as they cannot maintain their body temperature if the environment is below 5 degrees C. They excavate a burrow system with the entrances well concealed in clumps of grass and create a radiating system of runways with their regular excursions to the feeding grounds. They are common around houses. 

Food

The four-striped grass mouse is an omnivore, eating seeds, other plant material, and insects. Its diet varies seasonally. It builds up fat stores that assist it to survive in times of limited food supply. Green plant material forms the largest portion of the diet with seed consumption higher in the summer months. The insect component of the diet seems to be fairly consistent.

Reproduction

During the breeding season the adult females appear to be territorial and have a reduced home range. Litters are usually born in summer after a 25 day gestation period. Average litter size is 5-6 altricial (helpless and blind) young. At birth the four dark stripes are visible as deeply pigmented lines in the skin. The young are born in grass nests either within the burrow system or above ground. They only begin to wander from the nest after 14 days. Life span: 18 months.