The Great Horned Owl – Fighter or Lover?

It’s mesmerizing to fall asleep, or awaken, to a soft hooting in
the early evening, or in the wee morning hours. Such is a common occurrence at
our house. These love calls begin in late fall and result in the laying of four
eggs in late winter. Incubation is started at once and results in separate
hatching times for each egg. This situation is known as a “stairstep” family and
whether all, or part, of the young are raised depends on the food supply. The
biggest baby is always fed first and it will survive even if the others don’t.
When the young fledge, they are ½ again larger than the adults. This allows for
an adjustment period when they are learning to fend for themselves.

The GREAT HORNED OWL is not only “tender” with its own but is very formidable
with others. They can take prey as large as a skunk and I have seen young cats
(in our yard) that have been torn in half. A smack on your head with their
talons could be very injurious.

They are identified by size (22”), a white throat, and ear-like feather
projections. They are quite adaptable and wide spread across North America and
are important rodent controllers. Mice and voles make up the lion’s share of
their diet. Other bird species will often “mob” them during daylight hours. Our
yard and lower tree plots are to their liking and we get to witness the raising
and fledging of young each year.

 

The Deer Mouse: Food for Many

by Dave Hanks

You have probably seen a Coyote stalking along in the tall grass, pausing, and then leaping skyward in an exaggerated pounce. The canine is catching rodents and Deer Mice are among the most plentiful. This white-bellied, white-pawed, and white-tailed mouse is eaten by owls, hawks, snakes, and other small meat eaters. The mouse does not hibernate and a Great Horned Owl can hear the mouse running under the snow and correctly gage where to pounce to make the kill.

Because it is preyed upon so heavily, reproduction at a rapid rate is essential.The female mouse will produce up to seven litters or more when feeding conditions are favorable. Her gestation lasts from 21 to 24 days and she comes back into estrus immediately (postpartum) upon giving birth. You could say that she is continually pregnant. The nest is a hollow ball of grass on the ground, and the new born in it are hairless, wrinkled, pink, and with their eyes not opened. The mother will transport the young to new locations, either in her mouth, or by the babies clinging to her nipples.

Deer Mice are poor climbers and so their life is spent on the ground where they dine on seeds and insects. They especially prefer weedy or tall grassy areas and the resulting seeds and cover. There is a danger that can come to humans from contact with this mouse’s droppings. They may contain a deadly virus which causes HPS (Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome).

There are over 100 sub-species of this rodent. Their white-colored undersides will differentiate them from the mouse we are most familiar with – the House Mouse. Deer Mice are nocturnal. The one pictured alerted us to its presence – we could hear it chewing away just outside our camper door.

A Deer Mouse gnawing on our birdseed in the middle of the night

A Deer Mouse gnawing on our birdseed in the middle of the night