Discover Nature: The Value of a Rodent
November 6 - 12
Discover Nature this week and the value of a rodent.
Though some folks scream and climb the highest point possible when they see a rodent, there isn't a reason to avoid native rodent species according to the Missouri Department of Conservation.
The term "rodent" may raise images of disease-infested vermin living in garbage-strewn alleys. Actually, most of the negative images arise from two unwelcome imports -- the house mouse and the Norway rat. These old-world immigrants are not typical of native rodents, though.
Rodents make up the largest group of mammals. Besides rats and mice, they include: squirrels, chipmunks, gophers, groundhogs, muskrats, and the largest rodent in North America -- the beaver. Household pets like hamsters, gerbils and guinea pigs are also classified as rodents.
The word "rodent" comes from a Latin term and means "gnawing" -- something that all rodents do.
Rodents have special front teeth, or incisors. We use our incisors when we eat corn on the cob! But unlike our teeth, a rodent's front teeth never stop growing. So gnawing is not just a habit to a rodent, it's necessary to keep their teeth worn down.
Rubbish-drawn rats and mice are undesirable, but most rodents are harmless and beneficial. Although they sometimes choose the wrong things to gnaw on. When a squirrel gnaws on your bird-feeder or on your deck, it's not trying to be destructive -- it's practicing good rodent dental care.
Rodents provide a natural length in their environment through seed dispersal, providing food for predators, and other benefits.
For more information about native rodents in Missouri, go online to MissouriConservation.org.