|Peromyscus gossypinus (LeConte)|
Don Linzey & Christy Brecht
Wytheville Community College
Wytheville, Virginia 24382
Last updated: 26 November, 2005
- Adult total length:
7 - 8 in. (175 - 200 mm)
2 3/4 - 3 1/2 in. (70 - 90 mm)
- Hind foot:
7/8 - 1 1/8 in. (21 - 26 mm)
1 - 2 oz. (28 - 56 g)
The cotton mouse is the largest and heaviest of the three
species of Peromyscus found in the park. In
appearance, it is very similar to the white-footed mouse
(Peromyscus leucopus). Color ranges from dark sooty
to tawny brown above and whitish below. The middorsal area
is darker than the sides. The feet are white. The indistinctly
bicolored tail is sparsely haired and is less than half the
total length. Like all Peromyscus, cotton mice have
large eyes and ears.
Adult cotton mice can frequently be distinguished from
white-footed mice by hind foot size. The white-footed mouse
seldom has a hind foot larger than 23 mm (range 19-24 mm),
whereas the hind foot of the cotton mouse is seldom shorter
than 23 mm (range 23-26 mm). Thus, the cotton mouse differs
from the white-footed mouse in its slightly larger size, its
larger hind foot, and its slightly darker color.
left lateral view of
skull and mandible
dorsal view of skull
ventral view of skull
The cotton mouse is a species of the southeastern states. It is
found from southeastern Virginia to southern Florida and west
to southeastern Oklahoma and eastern Texas. Although found
principally on the Coastal Plain, this species does extend into
the Piedmont region and into the foothills of the mountains.
||Mice, rats, squirrels, etc.
||Murid rats and mice
Cotton mice are most commonly found in timbered swampland along
the floodplains of streams and rivers and in brushy areas near
water. They are found around logs, stumps, hollow trees, stone
walls, and piles of rocks.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park:
The Komareks stated that cotton mice were frequently
found "in the open woodlands and field margins at low
elevations where farming activity has produced brush
growth and open forest situations." Linzey (1995b) has frequently taken this species
in a floodplain along Cosby Creek. Cotton mice have
been recorded in the park at elevations ranging from
1442 to 2800 feet.
- Blount Co.:
Cades Cove (1,750 feet).
- Cocke Co.:
Cosby Campground (2,050 feet); Cosby Creek (1,720 feet).
- Sevier Co.:
Roaring Fork near Gatlinburg (1,400 feet); near
park headquarters (1,500 feet); Fighting Creek
near Gatlinburg; The Sinks (1,565 feet); Laurel
Creek (1,800 feet); Greenbrier (1,700 - 2,800 feet).
- Haywood Co.:
Big Creek (1,700 feet).
Breeding usually extends from early spring into fall. The
Komareks recorded two females, each containing three embyos,
on March 14. Linzey recorded a nursing female (plac. scars
1R, 2L) on August 26, and males in breeding condition in
August, September, and October. Gestation requires approximately
23 days. Litters average 3 to 4 young (range 1-7). Young
cotton mice are naked, blind, and helpless. The incisors
erupt about the seventh day, the young are fully haired by
day 10, and the eyes open between days 12 and 14. Weaning
occurs between the third and fourth weeks.
The average wild cotton mouse survives for four to five
months. Few live longer than one year.
- Terrestrial Ecology
Cotton mice are nocturnal and are active all year. Their
senses of smell, sight, and hearing are well developed.
Drumming similar to that described for the white-footed
mouse (Peromyscus leucopus) has been observed in
this species. Food consists primarily of seeds, fruits,
nuts, and invertebrates.
- Predators and Defense
All instances of predation involving Peromyscus sp. are
reported in this account of Peromyscus gossypinus, since
remains of mice of this genus found in the stomachs of predators
have not been identified to species. Three timber rattlesnakes
(Crotalus horridus) taken near Laurel Creek, Trillium Gap,
and Gregory Bald had eaten Peromyscus sp. (
Stupka, 1945, 1947, 1954
). Peromyscus were recorded in the stomachs of 21 of
44 timber rattlesnakes examined by Savage (1967
). The stomachs of two screech owls (Otus asio) found
at the Townsend Y and near park headquarters also contained remains
of these mice (Stupka, 1938, 1949). A long-tailed weasel (
Mustela frenata) seen on Mt. LeConte near LeConte Lodge was
carrying a Peromyscus. A specimen was removed from the
stomach of a bobcat (Lynx rufus) killed along the Newfound
Gap Road in Tennessee (Stupka, 1952).
Komarek and Komarek (1938) found roundworms
in the stomachs of several individuals. Linzey (
1995b) removed a flea, Peromyscopsylla hesperomys,
from one specimen.
Links to Other Sites
- Special Protection Status
- In Park:
All plants and animals are protected within
Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Collection requires a permit which is usually
granted only for research or educational
- Map development
- Web page design & coding
- Denise Lim, University of Georgia, Athens
- John Pickering, University of Georgia, Athens
Komarek, E. V. and R. Komarek. 1938.
Mammals of the Great Smoky Mountains. Bulletin of the Chicago
Academy of Sciences 5 (6): 137 - 162.
Linzey, A.V. 1999.
Cotton mouse. Pages 569 - 570. In: D.E. Wilson, and S. Ruff (eds.).
The Smithsonian Book of North American Mammals. Washington,
D. C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.
Linzey, D.W. 1968.
An ecological study of the golden mouse, Ochrotomys nuttalli,
in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. American Midland
Naturalist 79(2): 320-345.
Linzey, D. W. 1995a.
Mammals of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Blacksburg,
Virginia: The McDonald & Woodward Publishing Company, Inc.
Linzey, D. W. 1995b.
Mammals of Great Smoky Mountains National Park-1995 Update.
Journal of the Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society 111(1):1-81.
Linzey, D. W. 1998.
The Mammals of Virginia. Blacksburg, Virginia: The
McDonald & Woodward Publishing Company, Inc.
Savage, T. 1967.
The diet of rattlesnakes and copperheads in the Great Smoky Mountains
National Park. Copeia 1967 (1): 226-227.
Stupka, A. 1935-63.
Nature Journal, Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 28 volumes
(years) each with index. (Typewritten copy in files of Great Smoky
Mountains National Park library).
Wolfe, J. L. and A. V. Linzey. 1977.
Peromyscus gossypinus. Mammalian Species No. 70: 1-5.
American Society of Mammalogists.
Last modified: 8 May, 2002