Deer Mouse Facts

The deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus) is a small North American rodent. It is not found in the southeast United States. The white-footed mouse is a close cousin of deer mouse. It is also called field mouse and vesper mouse. There are three subspecies of deer mouse; prairie deer mouse, woodland deer mouse, and cloudland deer mouse. Woodland mouse is the larger of the other two subspecies.

Deer Mouse

Anatomy

  • Adult deer mouse has large black eyes, whiskers, and a tail that is covered almost entirely with furs. The tail makes up one-third of the entire animal’s length.
  • They have 4 toes on their front feet. Deer mice are distinguished from the golden mouse not only by its color but also by the size of the foot-pad. The deer mouse has smaller median pad than that of the golden mouse.
  • Deer mice display reddish to greyish brown coat. There is a slight black area at the middle of its back. They have white feet.
  • The deer mouse is also recognized by its dark brown ears.
  • The total length of deer mouse is about 4 – 8 inches (111 – 203 mm) with a tail measuring 1 – 3 (152 mm) inches.
  • Deer mice have 12 – 22 mm long ears. Adult weighs 9 – 28 grams.
deer mouse
Deer Mouse ©greglasley.com

Range and Habitat

  • The deer mouse mainly lives in Pennsylvania where it makes homes in moist forests, mountains, plateaus, and cultivated fields. The mouse likes to live in cold habitats especially those that are abundant in maple forests.

Behavior

  • When a deer mouse reaches adulthood it may spend all its life in a specific range. It has a home range of 0.5 – 1.5 acres but it can be increased up to 10 acres. Males are thought to have greater range than those of females. Females prefer to stay close to each other during the breeding season.
  • Unique among its behavior is that deer mouse can get back to home after traveling 2 miles away. Scientists do not know how deer mice find their way back home. During winter, their range becomes smaller and they do not go more than 30 feet away from the nest. Sometimes deer mice must stay in their nest for days because of bad weather.
  • Deer mice are nocturnal animals but they come out to feed at evening and minutes before dawn.
  • They spend breeding season either alone or in pairs. The group consists of 15 individuals.
  • Deer mouse often travels in narrow tunnels just like shrews. They might not move through the clear vegetation.
  • They will eat marine organisms that live in half-inch deep water. Deer mice are good swimmers. They will swim as much as 10 feet across rough water.
  • The mouse’s tail prevents it from going off balance while moving in the trees.
  • Deer mice do not run. They just leap at the speed of 8 feet per second.
  • While they keep their nests dirty deer mice are pretty much concerned with cleaning themselves. They are often seen cleaning their coats.

Feeding Ecology and Diet

  • Deer mice rely on insects including butterflies, beetles, moths, and larvae. They also consume nuts, soybeans, corns, fruit pits, and wild seeds. They also eat seeds of sweet clover, cultivated grains, and
deer mouse
A deer mouse is caught by a great roadrunner ©mdc.mo.gov

Reproductive Biology

  • Females attain maturity when they are 46 – 51 days old. Males become mature at the age of 60 days.
  • In captivity the female produces as many as 11 litters. However the wild female gives birth to 4 young on average.
  • Young are blind and pink in color at birth. They weigh 1.1 – 2.3 grams.
  • The weaning period lasts 28 days.
  • The birth occurs in the early spring after the gestation period of 22 – 27 days. Both parents live together but if one of them dies the other one searches a new mating partner.
  • Deer mice have number of predators such as opossums, shrews, coyotes, badgers, short-tailed shrew, minks, botfly larvae, snakes, hawks, great roadrunner, domestic cats, and owls.
  • The captive deer mouse lives 5 – 8 years while the wild specimen averages 1 – 2 years in life expectancy.
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