Cactus Mouse Working The Night Shift
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The desert in the daytime and the desert at night are two entirely different places exhibiting very different life forms. In fact, there are three distinct groups of animals, including birds and insects, that inhabit the Sonoran Desert with lifestyles that are attuned to the presence or absence of daylight. We have diurnal species, active when the sun is up, we have nocturnal species that are only active at night, and we have crepuscular species that specialize in being active at dusk and dawn (there is, obviously, some overlap among these groups). Take a walk in the desert at night, for example, and you’ll see creatures that you never see — or imagine are present — during the daylight hours.
The Cactus Mouse is an example of a nocturnal specialist. One never sees this little mouse, about three inches long not counting its very long tail, during daylight hours. Take a walk in darkness and these mice are a fairly common sight.
The Cactus Mouse is a desert specialist. It lives primarily in the Sonoran Desert and adjacent areas. It has adapted to our extremes of heat and dryness. Throughout much of the year it obtains its needed moisture from its food. It is an omnivore, eating seeds, fruits, succulent leaves, and insects. During the heat of the day it hides in a crevice or a burrow and estivates, going into a state of deep dormancy in which it slows its metabolism and lowers its body temperature.
Cactus Mice are excellent climbers. One sees them running up and down rock walls, cliffs, trees, and cacti. They are fast! At night when I catch one of these mice in my flashlight’s beam it invariably runs off, disappearing in an instant. I was very lucky to photograph this individual as it foraged at the base of a wall. It didn’t stay there for long.
I know that a lot of people find rodents to be repulsive, but this little mouse is kind of cute, with its huge ears and eyes. Mice are every predator’s favorite snack food so a Cactus Mouse needs superb senses to survive in the desert.
Image made with a Canon 5DS-R, 180mm f3.5L Macro Lens assisted by Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite, M setting, ISO 160, f14 @ 1/160.