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The variety of species of mice around the world demonstrates the creatures' remarkable ability to adapt to different climates, altitudes and food sources. Some prefer the comforts of indoor living, while others like to brave the elements. But they are flexible enough to survive in areas outside their comfort zones when preferred shelter and food aren't available.
Mice don't always live long in the wild, often as briefly as five months. This doesn't give them much time to reproduce, so they've adapted the ability to keep the species alive with frequency. Most female mice can mate as early as 2 months old and can have up to 10 litters. Each litter has up to six babies, helping the population increase dramatically in a short period of time.
Where They Live
Mice survive the elements by creating nests within chosen home territories. Many live in family groups, but each female makes her own nest within the group's living area. Some mice prefer to live outside and dig burrows for nesting, while others prefer conditions similar to those people do. They try to live in buildings, making nests out of shredded paper and other soft items. Others seek out protected areas in the hollows of trees or under logs in the forest. The environment tends to lead to other adaptations, such as their coats: Those in cold areas have thicker, denser coats than house mice, for example, and they can grow these thicker coats quickly if forced to relocate to colder areas.
Mice tend to find strength in numbers. Most create small family groups consisting of one or two males and a few females, although some, such as striped field mice, develop much larger groups When these groups form, then tend to stay together -- although they may take on new members as existing ones die. They pick a territory and stick to it unless forced to move. The groups forage for food near their nests nightly, with members exploring their territories for changes; they become familiar with their areas and are quick to spot differences. When babies are born, they stay with their mothers for about three weeks, but by the time they're 2 months old, they leave their parents' family group to find one of their own.
What They Eat
Mice can eat a variety of food, often tailoring their diets to their family group areas. As omnivores, they've adapted to survive on what's readily available rather than on seeking out specific foods. Deer mice, which often live in forests, eat mainly insects, for example. Field mice prefer grains, seeds and plants, although easy-to-find insects might make it on the menu. Those with access to human habitats often seek high-fat foods that are left out, such as bacon and sweets.
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