Jumping mice are very acrobatic

?In every family of living things, there are always oddballs.
In this one, the jumping mice, they are almost all oddballs.
These mice are small—some of the smallest mammals we have, except for the shrews.
Now all jumping mice have a few things in common. For one, they have elongated back feet, toes, and tail, but their front feet are quite short.
They have a tendency to sort of sit on their back legs, and eat with their front ones.
They really look a lot like tiny kangaroos. Their tails are very long and thin, and are a principal tool for balancing.
If they need to hurry for any reason, they jump.
We have two species of jumping mice here in the north—the woodland and meadow. There are others, but not anywhere near here.
These two are a lot alike, but they do have their differences. The meadow one, for instance, is distinguished by a broad olive-yellow band from front to back.
Its sides are quite bright yellowish with lots of black hairs. Underparts are buffy white.
The woodland one, on the other hand, has golden yellow on its sides and on its cheeks.
And this one has a special mark of its own—the end of its tail has a prominent white tip.
Jumping mice seem to prefer their own company, although, if they need to, they can mix with other species of mice.
They are quite gentle, they hardly ever bite, and they are easily tamed. They also don’t make a lot of noise (sometimes they squeak, and make a sort of rasping sound).
As well, they chatter their teeth and thump the ground with their tails. But mostly they are quite quiet.
They do make excellent pets, but you are not allowed to keep them any more anyway.
Why are they called jumping mice? Because they jump. Much like the kangaroo, jumping is the way they usually get around.
A meadow jumping mouse is about three inches long, with a four- to five-inch tail.
At a steady jumping pace, it can make leaps of about three feet. This would be the equivalent of a six-foot tall man jumping about 60 feet or more!
The woodland one, however, can do even better. He can jump at a steady rate of about five or six feet. That means our athlete would have to go at about 200 feet to just keep up!
Talk about an Olympic performance.
These little fellows have some other odd habits, too. They make very shallow burrows about a yard long, and only a few inches below the surface.
At the end of this is the nursery, where the young are born and raised.
When they are inside, the parents carefully plug up the hole with earth and leaves. They do the same thing whenever they go out for any reason.
These burrows are very, very hard to find, and you only come across one by accident. They usually use tunnels made by other species to get around.
Jumping mice eat a lot of grain, grasses, small fruit, and small insects. They will cut down grains and tall grasses to get at the good stuff on the top.
They are very prolific, and will sometimes outnumber the far more common deer mice and the like. But they never become numerous enough to become a problem for farmers or the environment.
One species (the meadow one) is found pretty much all across Canada, from the Yukon to Labrador, and into the eastern States and Alaska. The woodland, however, is found mainly in eastern Canada, from the Manitoba border.
Both of these little mice hibernate. And when they do, they roll themselves up into a snug little ball. The head is always between its hind feet, and that long tail is curled around it body.
So, if you are walking through a field some day, and there in front of you is a little animal making some big jumps, it is not a frog or a grasshopper—it is likely one of these fellows.
Incidentally, here are their scientific names: Zapus hudsonius (meadow) and Napoleozapus insignis (woodland).
I have no idea how these came about.

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