Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Mound City, Missouri
Mammals are much more difficult to see than birds because of their nocturnal habits and the dense habitats they choose. However, an interested person may see gray and fox squirrels in the woodlands along the loess bluffs, while in the evening and at night he may observe whitetail deer, raccoons, opossums, and coyotes along the roads, and bats hawking for insects or drinking from ponds and streams.
One of the best ways to detect the presence of mammals is to look for their tracks in snow, dust, or mud. The drama of their lives may be read in these - how they raise their young, catch their food, and in turn may be caught for food. Signs of beaver and muskrat are easily found along creeks and drains. Field mice leave narrow winding runs under thick vegetation. Pocket gophers push up large mounds of obvious dirt along rights-of-way and in cultivated fields. Smaller mounds and linear ridges indicate the presence of moles.
Although quiet and usually inconspicuous, mammals are important in the ecology of the refuge. Herbivores such as mice and rabbits convert plant food energy into animal protein which then becomes available to predators - coyotes, mink, hawks, and owls. Larger mammals including foxes, coyotes, raccoons, and opossums often play the role of scavenger as well as that of predator.
The following 34 mammals have been observed on the refuge since 1935 by refuge personnel and by mammalogists from educational institutions. Common and scientific names provided here follow the respective arrangements of Burt and Grossenheider, A Field Guide to the Mammals, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1962; and Miller and Lellogg, List of North American Recent Mammals, U.S. National Museum Bulletin No. 205, Information concerning specific ranges and life histories may be found in Schwartz and Schwartz, The Wild Mammals of Missouri, University of Missouri Press, 1959. Information on related mammal distribution can be obtained from Handbook of Mammals of Kansas by E.R. Hall, University of Kansas Museum of Natural History Misc. Publ. No. 7 (1955), and Distribution and Taxonomy of Mammals of Nebraska by J.K. Jones, UKMNH Publ., Vol. 16, No. 1 (1964).
Virginia Opossum (Didelphis marsupialis). A common mammal of the refuge and the only one in which the mother carries the young in an abdominal pouch. Its omnivorous diet includes everything from fruit to carrion.
Shorttail Shrew (Blarina brevicauda). This mouse-sized animal is relatively common in dense vegetation where it uses some of the same trails and runs as mice. It feeds on any animal it can subdue, including insects and mice.
Least Shrew (Cryptotis parva). A tiny mammal whose weight approximates that of a penny. It is found infrequently in old fields and grassy areas, and often around or under rocks, boards, and piles of grass. Its diet is similar to the Shorttail shrew.
Eastern Mole (Scalopus aquaticus). An abundant insectivore that spends most of its life underground burrowing for insects, worms, etc. Molehills may be confused with gopher mounds, but the latter are larger and are carefully and tightly plugged with dirt.
Little Brown Myotis (Myotis lucifugus). This bat has not been found on the refuge, but one was caught in nearby Mound City. Little brown myotis bats develop nursery colonies in buildings during the summer, but spend the winter in mines and caves.
Red Bat (Lasiurus borealis). One of the more handsome North American bats. It is swift-flying, often seen late in the evening hawking near a woodlot or group of trees. Females give birth to three or four young in a tree and are often preyed upon by blue jays and small hawks.
Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus). Found throughout the refuge, this prolific animal is an important prey of the larger predators like coyote, great horned owl and hawks.
Woodchuck (Marmota monax). An important mammal because of its dens which serve as shelters for other mammals. This species has declined drastically in number and none have been sighted in recent years.
Franklin Ground Squirrel (Citellus franklinii). This ground squirrel is found in Missouri only in prairie regions north of the Missouri River. It is occasionally seen sitting in the short vegetation along refuge roads. It hibernates from early autumn to mid-spring.
Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis). This animal is smaller and less obvious than the fox squirrel because of its swift movements and its preference for dense woods. It is common in the oak-hickory woods along the loess bluffs.
Eastern Fox Squirrel (Sciurus niger). A larger squirrel, often found in fence rows and isolated clusters of trees. It is frequently killed on the highway because it spends so much time on the ground. Leaf nests constructed in late spring and early summer become easily visible in the fall and winter. The black phase is occasionally observed on the refuge.
Plains Pocket Gopher (Geomys bursarius). Colonies of this burrowing mammal are found in the refuge's loess soils, and often in fields of deep-rooted legumes.
Beaver (Castor canadensis). The first were seen on the refuge in 1941. They have since become a common animal of the waterways. Beaver cuttings, including those of cottonwoods and willows, may be seen in many parts of the refuge. Lodges are seldom constructed; homes are dug into ditch banks instead.
Western Harvest Mouse (Reithrodontomys megalotis). A small seed-eating mouse that, judging from the number of skeletons found in pellets cast by the small saw-whet owls, may be more common than trapping records indicate.
Deer Mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus). An abundant mouse of grasslands throughout the refuge. Although a seed eater, it takes quantities of insects. It is food for many predators.
White-footed Mouse (Peromyscus leucopus). A common mouse quite similar to the preceding form, but restricted to woodlots and old fields being invaded by trees.
Southern Bog Lemming (Synaptomys cooperi). The only lemming of Missouri. It looks like the prairie vole and occupies a more moist habitat. Few have been caught in traps, but the occurrence of their bones in pellets of long-eared owls indicates that they may be common.
Prairie Vole (Microtus ochrogaster). An abundant short-tailed mouse found in grass on the loess bluffs as well as in marsh areas. An important prey species of nearly all predators.
Muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus). The largest "mouse" and the most important furbearer of the refuge. Its burrows and holes often cause severe damage to dikes and levees. Muskrats build lodges in the water each fall and spend the winter in them.
Norway Rat (Rattus norvegicus). Like the house mouse, the Norway rat was introduced to North America from Asia via Europe. Its preference for the habitat of man causes extensive damage to buildings and grain.
House Mouse (Mus musculus). Another alien invader, the house mouse is common in the area, and most people are very familiar with this pest. Those living in the field are often brighter colored than those in buildings and develop deep brown and red-brown pelages.
Meadow Jumping Mouse (Zapus hudsonius). Only one record for the refuge exists, indicating that it is one of the rarest mammals of the refuge. Its long tail, large hind feet, and ability to hop cause it to be confused with kangaroo mice and kangaroo rats which are not found in Missouri. It hibernates.
Coyote (Canis latrans). Now the most common of the "wild dogs" of the refuge. It is often seen in early morning on refuge roads. It is an omnivorous opportunist eating anything that is available. This makes the coyote a very successful predator.
Red Fox (Vulpes fulva). A grassland species that preys heavily on mice. Its numbers are inversely related to those of the coyote. When coyotes are numerous, red fox are uncommon, and vice versa.
Gray Fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus). A rare denizen of woodlands seldom seen on the refuge. Like the red fox, it is omnivorous.
Raccoon (Procyon lotor). Abundant throughout the refuge. Omnivorous, it can be a serious predator of nesting birds.
Longtail Weasel (Mustela frenata). Formerly common; now rarely seen. No apparent reason for the decline.
Mink (Mustela vison). A large member of the weasel family, it is the most important predator of the muskrat and is relatively common.
Badger (Taxidea taxus). The largest weasel of the area. These are prairie mammals that live on mice and ground squirrels, but are rare on the refuge.
Spotted Skunk (Spilogale putorius). Formerly common; now rarely observed.
Striped Skunk (Mephitis mephitis). Common in the more brushy areas. Skunks are slow and methodical and usually take much provocation before spraying.
Mountain Lion (Felis concolor). Several reliable persons have reported sightings of this animal. These recent sightings indicate the mountain lion may be returning to Missouri.
Bobcat (Lynx rufus). A wary cat infrequently seen. Tracks have been observed on the refuge boundary and there is one reported sighting.
Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus). A straggler from the west. A buck was shot in the immediate vicinity of the refuge several years ago.
Whitetail Deer (Odocoileus virginianus). Most deer had disappeared from northwestern Missouri by 1910. The first deer reappeared on the refuge in 1946, and deer now number between 100 and 300.
The following 13 mammals are documented as occurring in nearby counties:
Masked Shrew (Sorex cinereus)
Silver-haired Bat (Lasionycteris noctivagans)
Eastern Pipistrel (Pipistrellus subflavus)
Big Brown Bat (Eptesicus fuscus)
Hoary Bat (Lasiurus cinereus)
Evening Bat (Nycticeius humeralis)
Whitetail Jackrabbit (Lepus townsendii)
Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrel (Citellus tridecemlineatus)
Southern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys volans)
Plains Pocket Mouse (Perognathus flavescens)
Plains Harvest Mouse (Reithrodontomys montanus)
Meadow Vole (Microtus pennsylvanicus)
Pine Vole (Pitymys pinetorum)
Refuge Manager Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge PO Box 101 Mound City, Missouri 64470 Telephone: 660/442-3187This resource is based on the following source:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1982. Mammals of Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Unpaginated.This resource should be cited as:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1982. Mammals of Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Unpaginated. Jamestown, ND: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Online. http://www.npwrc.usgs.govsquawmam.htm (Version 22MAY98).