Centennial Museum gecko logo

Desert Diary
Mammals/Grasshopper Mice


A snout lifted to the sky, a drawn-out howl drifting across the darkness of the Chihuahuan Desert night. The call of the wild—miniaturized version. In this case, it's not a wolf proclaiming its kingdom, but a grasshopper mouse.

Mice howling like wolves? Yes, but you have to scale it down to mouse size, resulting in a mouse-sized volume and a pitch almost too high to hear. Now, we usually don't think of mice as flesh-eaters, though if the truth be known, most will be so if given an opportunity. The grasshopper mice, though, are much more predatory than most, and a snack of insect parts or mouse brain is right down their alley.

Mammalogists sometimes use snap traps laid across the countryside to collect specimens for scientific study. Many a mammalogist has given way to inappropriate language upon finding his trap line has already been run and his captured specimens in perfect condition—except for chewed-away craniums devoid of brains. Well might the mighty mouse howl, filled to satisfaction with bounty twice appreciated because unearned.
pen and ink


Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

<<p class="three"> Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.

painting of Onychomys

Painting of Onychomys leucogaster by Louis Agassiz Fuertes. After Nelson, 1918.



Web Resources

The Mammals of Texas Online