Steppe Mouse, Mound-building Mouse
Value of species
Mus spicilegus is endemic to Europe, occuring from Lake Neusiedl on the Austro-Hungarian border through Slovakia, Hungary, Serbia (Serbia and Montenegro), Bulgaria, Moldova, and Ukraine, reaching as far as Rostov in the exteme south-west of Russia. An isolated population occurs in Montenegro, Greece and Albania. This population has a fragmented range within a very narrow strip of habitat, and there are only three known localities (B. Kryštufek pers. comm. 2006). It typically occurs from sea level to 200 m (Macholán 1999).
It remains common in suitable habitats, but is suspected to be undergoing population decline in some areas. Densities of 1-20 mounds per hectare are typical, but densities of up to 60-100 mounds per hectare may be reached in particularly favourable habitat. On average, each mound is inhabited by five to six individuals (Macholán 1999). In Slovakia the range appears to be expanding.
It occurs in a variety of open habitats including natural steppe grasslands, pastures and cereal fields, orchards, open woodland, woodland edges and clearings. It avoids forests and human settlements. It feeds on grain and seeds, which it hoards in the winter in a soil-covered mound built above its nest chamber; a single mound may be up to 400 cm in diameter (although 100-200 cm is more typical) and contain up to 10 kg of grain (Macdonald and Barrett 1993, Sokolov et al. 1998). Groups of 4-14 mice cooperate to build these mounds (Sokolov et al. 1998).