New OC Digs for Pacific Pocket Mice

Mouse in the house? How about 50? That’s the number of endangered Pacific pocket mice that will soon be relocated into an area of Laguna Coast Wilderness Park in Orange County, the first ever relocation of the adorable little mammal that makes underground homes.

The Pacific pocket mouse recovery program is managed by staff at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The relocation comes four years after 30 Pacific pocket mice were brought in from their native habitat for a captive breeding program at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.  In addition to federal, state and regional partners, the program involved the U.S. Marine Corps and Center for Natural Lands Management which supported the breeding efforts.

Seed eaters and plant poopers, the small rodents dig burrows which helps the soil and native plants.  It’s the smallest mouse species in North America and was thought to be extinct in the 1980s but was rediscovered in 1993.

Pacific pocket mice typically live only within 4 miles of the coast; their historic range stretches from the El Segundo dunes near Los Angeles International Airport to the Mexico border. The area within Laguna Coast Wilderness Parks is part of the native habitat for this species.

Biologists are busy preparing the OC Park area for their new residents; creating fencing, acclimation cages above ground and an underground burrow that mimics the chambers and nests the mice build. The mice will live in the cages for a while, adjusting to their new surroundings and diet until the cages are removed. It’s hoped that in less than a month (gestation period for babies is a scant 23 days), new populations with be added to the original 50.

Go mice, go!