The Miccosukee gooseberry (Ribes echinellum Coville), a federally threatened shrub, has a restricted distribution at single sites in north Florida and South Carolina. The Florida population is apparently stable overall, but one subpopulation has declined over the past decade. This decline spurred resumption of long-term monitoring and research into potential causes of the plant's rarity. In 2010 distinctive evidence of fruit predation inspired the title question. Using a time-lapse infrared camera we discovered a cotton mouse (Peromyscus gossypinus LeConte) eating fruit of the gooseberry. This type of fruit predation is apparently pervasive based on observations of plants scattered throughout the population. Cotton mouse scat is smaller than gooseberry seeds indicating that the seeds were probably destroyed during ingestion. Seed predation by the cotton mouse could have a significant negative effect on seed dispersal of the Miccosukee gooseberry.
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Vol. 79 • No. 1