Bringing in the Pacific Pocket Mouse

An adult Pacific pocket mouse easily fits in a human hand (or pocket!).

Well, it’s finally here. After nearly five years of proposals and planning, tonight we begin our trapping effort to bring the first Pacific pocket mouse (PPM) founders into managed care for conservation breeding. I am both exhausted and excited! There are many unknowns in the immediate future of the project. Will animals from the three remaining populations interbreed? Will the young of the year develop effective survival skills in the absence of experience in the wild? How quickly and easily will they breed?

This first year we will be relying on my expertise at captive breeding PPM’s larger relatives, kangaroo rats (see post Protecting Kangaroo Rats). But what we learn this year will be critical to the program’s success. I am lucky to have Maryke Swartz by my side on this project. Maryke did her master’s research with pocket mice and kangaroo rats and has a lot of small-mammal experience. Also working on the project is Rachel Chock, a graduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles, who will be studying interspecific competition and the effects of interspecific competition on release success (see post Getting Started with Pacific Pocket Mice).

The new facility is located in an off-exhibit area of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Wish us luck!

Debra Shier is the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research Brown Endowed Scientist. Read her previous post, Marching to My Own Foot Drummers.

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