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Distribution: Europe and Asia, Japan and Korea. In Britain they are most common in the South and South-east but have been sighted in Cheshire, Wales, Yorkshire and even Edinburgh. Absent from Ireland.
Habitat: areas of tall grasses such as cereal crops (particularly wheat and oats), roadside verges, hedgerows, reedbeds, dykes and salt-marshes.
Description: reddish-brown fur with white underparts (darker brown in winter); naked, prehensile tail.
Size: length:- head & body, 5-7cm; tail 5-7cm
weight:- adult, about 6g.
Life-span: up to 18 months in the wild, but usually 6 months. Can live up to 5 years in captivity.
Food: mainly seeds and insects; also nectar and fruit.
Winter. When the cereal crops have been harvested in the late summer and most tall plant stems have died back, the harvest mice are left exposed and they look for shelter. In a severe winter they sometimes go into barns and outbuildings, but they usually find a nearby hedgerow. Here they build a winter nest of grass near ground level. They do not hibernate but sleep for long periods in their nest, waking up during milder spells to eat a little previously stored food or venture out on a foraging trip. They are more active during the day in winter. Many mice die of cold.
Breeding. Harvest mice are busy breeding from May to October, often producing 3 litters a year. A courting male chases a female who is often very aggressive and turns round to bite him! Eventually she usually relents, and when they have mated she chases him away.