Date of this Version
Transactions of the Nebraska Academy of Sciences 39 (2019), 10–16.
In eastern Nebraska, current status of the Plains Harvest Mouse (Reithrodontomys montanus griseus) is not well understood. Infrequent captures during the last century have led to a paucity of information regarding this taxon, and some researchers postulate that its distribution has contracted in the state. In 2008, we conducted a field survey for R. m. griseus in eastern Nebraska, amassed prior specimen records, and examined most of the specimens for this subspecies from the state to better understand its distribution, natural history, and subspecific status. In our field efforts, we only captured a single individual despite > 8,000 trap nights in suitable habitats. Our literature review and queries for vouchers yielded 20 specimens of R. m. griseus from eastern Nebraska, based on published distributional limits for this subspecies. In eastern Nebraska, R. m. griseus has been captured in tallgrass prairies, short-grass upland pastures, roadside ditches, and open areas associated with salt flats. Observations across eastern Nebraska in the last 40 years demonstrate that this taxon still exists across the entire region and has been captured more frequently in cooler months. We suspect that some combination of low abundance, trap shyness, and trapping biases towards heavily vegetated habitats and warm seasons likely has led to infrequent captures of R. m. griseus in eastern Nebraska. After examination of many museum specimens of this species from across Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri, we questioned the delineations in distribution for the two subspecies in the region. On the basis of dorsal gray fur coloration, R. m. albescens appears limited to the Sandhill and Panhandle regions of Nebraska, whereas all of eastern and southern Nebraska as well as Kansas and western Missouri represent R. m. griseus, a subspecies with brown dorsal fur coloration. Based on our proposed distributional changes for these two subspecies in Nebraska, we do not find that either subspecies requires conservation efforts. Reithrodontomys montanus griseus likely will persist at low densities throughout eastern Nebraska in appropriate habitats and persist at higher densities farther westward in southern parts of the state. Reithrodontomys montanus albescens always has been more common in the Sandhill Region of Nebraska, as individuals still are observed and captured with regularity.