A little over a month ago, my cats "caught" a wood mouse inside our house. Her leg was pretty injured so I was not comfortable with releasing her. I have kept another wood mouse captured under similar circumstances a couple years ago. Today, I discovered that the more recent mouse was pregnant and there a 4 babies. I don't know exactly how old they are. They have grey fur (unlike their mother's brown) and are running around the aquarium, running on the wheel, climbing the water bottle, etc.. I think I see 4 nipples on the mother. Does this mean they are still nursing? I watched one of the babies start eating a sunflower seed but it seemed clumsy and I think it didn't finish it. They all seem to drink from the water bottle. Since it is summer, I am thinking about releasing the babies in a near-by woods away from the neighborhood houses. So, these are my questions: How can I determine if the babies are old enough to release? Will they be OK without their mother? (I've watched her run on the wheel and she doesn't seem to use the injured front leg at all so I would like to keep her.) Is there anything I can do to help the babies off to a better start when I release them? Any advice is much appreciated. Thanks!
mice are weaned on or around day 21 after birth, so depending on when they were born you can tell when they will no longer be dependent on the mother for milk. That said if they are running around and drinking from the water bottle they are likely to be close to or past weaning.
If the mice were born and reared in captivity with their mother then their chance of surviving alone in the wild especially without the mother are very slim. May advice would be offer them to friends as pets.
I agree with David although mice are quick learners so if you release them and they make it through the first few days their chances will probably be as good as their wild born counterparts. If you do release them choose a location with plenty of structure (rocks, cracks, roots etc) so they can find good hiding places straight away.
For info juvenile Apodemus are basically grey and turn brown as they mature so this is normal.
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