Wild jumping meadow mice are part of a new project at Lincoln Park Zoo to restore the animal's populations in Northern Illinois.
Lake County Forest Preserve District found the potential decline of mice in grassland environments due to habitat loss and increased development. Zoo biologists have been collecting data on current numbers and survival rates by placing ear-tags on the small mammals.
So far this season eight breeding pairs have been taken out of the wild and back to the zoo to begin the reintroduction process, Allison Sacerdote-Velat, a reintroduction biologist at Lincoln Park Zoo, said.
“Small mammals are a very dynamic species with [population] rises and declines. Our main goal is to establish new populations,” Sacerdote-Velat said.
The mice born at the zoo will take 30 days to wean and approximately 60 to 90 days before they are ready to be released. Before leaving the zoo, the mice will be fitted with tiny radio collars that last 70 days so biologists can track their movements.
Sacerdote-Velat said the plan is to track the mice for the full life of the radio collars and then to use live traps to remove the devices.
They're hoping the mice will continue to breed naturally in their own habitat without interference and replenish the population.
There's another added benefit in the process. Jumping meadow mice relocate seeds of native plants in the grassland areas, providing an important function within the ecosystem. These small mammals are active during spring, summer and late fall remaining dormant the rest of the year.