Mice and Rats of Crete
Rodents is the second largest group of mammals in Crete, after bats. Apart from the hedgehogs, the dormice, the Cretan spiny mice, which have beed described in different articles, Crete hosts the countryside wood mice (Apodemus sylvaticus), the broad-toothed field mice (Apodemus mystacinus), the cityside house mice (Mus musculus), the brown rat (Rattus norvegicus) and the black rat (Rattus rattus). Let’s look at them.
Wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus)
The wood mouse (scient. Apodemus sylvaticus) is a common rodent of Europe, also found in Crete island. In Crete, it lives mainly in forests, cultivated land and scrubland, while in harsh periods (cold winters) it can nest in houses.
The wood mice are nocturnal rodents that feed mainly on seeds, such as oak and lime trees, and fruit, roots, etc. Apart from these, they feed on snails and small insects.
When the food abounds, they often carry it at their nest for future consumption. When a predator catches their tail, they cut it escape easily, but the tail never regrows. Finally, a female mouse is pregnant for 25 days and gives birth to about 5 babies.
Broad-toothed Field Mouse (Apodemus mystacinus)
The Broad-toothed Field Mouse lives in rocky areas with low vegetation and shrubs. They are nocturnal animals and feed on seeds, pine nuts, acorns, beans, snails and insects.
The mountainous morphology of Crete makes it an ideal habitat for these mice. Indeed, although it is a not very widespread species, Crete's population is thriving and there are no particular problems.
House mouse (Mus musculus)
It is characteristic that it can bear 7-8 times per year with 5-6 pups at a time. If you see such a mouse in your house, you have to expect about 40 more somewhere close! The house mice consume 10-15% of their body weight every 24 hours. They are harmful for humans as they feed on paper, fabric and destroy electrical cables causing short circuits and fires.
The mouse is an excellent climber even in not very rough wall. Moreover it can swim and jump up to 30cm in height. It manages to pass through holes with opening of only 6 mm (!). Finally the mouse can survive very well at temperatures of -10°C.
Brown rat (Rattus norvegicus)
It lives in basements, warehouses and mostly in sewers, where it builds nests similar to those of birds. It gives birth up to 7 times a year and gesture lasts 21 days, with 8-12 offspring each time. At the age of three months, females are sexually mature.
It gets active after sunset and seeks for food up to 1km away from its base. It can destroy wood, walls, fences and cause considerable damage to agriculture.
Black Rat (Rattus rattus)
The black rat (scient. Rattus rattus) is a little rarer than the Norwegian rat and lives mainly in ports, without however being absent from houses. This is the best climber of the mice and, thus, we can find it nesting in walls, attics, roofs and trees, and very rarely in sewers. It is also known as ceiling or roof rat, ship rat and domestic rat.
It has a brownish black coloured coat and a white belly. The adult reaches 20cm in length and its ears are 2.5 cm long. Despite being omnivorous, it loves eating fruit, nuts, seeds and vegetables. The females give birth 6 times a year or more to 6-10 babies.