With a species name like Micromys minutus, you’re pretty much guaranteed the animal is going to be the smallest of the small. The Wildlife Conservation Society’s Prospect Park Zoo is known for the diversity of small creatures it features in the 12-acre park, but this new exhibit just might feature the tiniest.
A colony of Eurasian harvest mice has taken residence in the Animals in Art area of the Animals in Our Lives building. These tiny mice – the smallest of European mice – average around two inches in length. They feature light tan fur coats with a cream colored underbelly. One of their most interesting features is their prehensile tail – an appendage that has been adapted to allow them to grasp. This, combined with their specially adapted hind feet, allows the harvest mouse to easily climb the thin stalks where it builds its nests.
In their Prospect Park Zoo exhibit, the harvest mice are busily climbing tall grasses and foraging. Since the mice are relatively new to the exhibit, their nests have not yet been completed. Visitors should stop by the exhibit often and see if they can observe progress on the spherical nests these little animals build.
The harvest mouse is not an endangered species. It lives across a broad range which extends across Europe and extends through Siberia into Mongolia and with some pockets in China. In Britain it has seen population reductions due to modern farming methods that reduce hedgerows which provide shelter for the mice. Pesticide use, field burning, and predators also take their toll on this little mouse.
The Animals in Art area is appropriate for this little mouse. We can imagine Britain’s beloved children’s author Beatrix Potter sitting near a field with her watercolors, observing and painting the harvest mouse.
Next time you visit Prospect Park Zoo, try your hand at observing and drawing these interesting animals.