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White-footed Mouse

White-footed Mouse (Peromyscus leucopus Fischer) The White-footed Mouse has a very wide distribution. It is the most abundant rodent in mixed deciduous and coniferous forests in the eastern United States, and is probably equally abundant near farms. Its habitat preferences are very different in southern Mexico, however, as it prospers in semi-desert vegetation.

White Footed Mouse

White-footed Mouse

White-footed Mice are excellent swimmers, and so are able to colonize islands in lakes with relative ease. They are not agricultural pests, and they are important ecologically because owls, weasels, snakes, and many other predators eat them. Individuals may live several years in captivity, but an almost complete turnover occurs annually in wild populations. In some places they carry the tick that transmits Lyme disease.

Diet: nuts, seed and fruit, but may also eat seeds, insects, and fungi

Range and Habitat: This species is not as widespread as the deer mouse, and occurs throughout much of the eastern two-thirds of the U.S. The range of the white-footed mouse barely extends into Canada in a few provinces. White-footed mice are most abundant in the Adirondack lowlands along the periphery of the Park in brushy, grassy fields, and especially in the drier forests and woodlands which support oaks and hickories.

However, they are also found in other habitats such as coniferous, and mixed forests, bogs, and swamp edges, to elevations of at least 1484 m (4867 ft). While the deer mouse is more abundant at higher elevations, and the white-footed mouse at lower, both coexist at intermediate altitudes which offer the greatest variety of tree species. The white-footed mouse appears to use underground nest sites more than the deer mouse.

Life Cycle: In northern regions, breeding peaks in the spring and again in the fall. In the southern regions, breeding is year round. A white footed mouse is sexually mature at eight or ten weeks of age. The gestation period is between twenty-one and twenty-seven days.

Typical brood sizes are three to five young and females have three to four litters per year. The female cares extensively for the young and the males may also play a role in rearing and nurturing the litter. The potential life span of the white footed mouse is eighteen months to two years in the wild, but the actual rate of predation on the mice is so intense that nearly the entire population of a site is replaced every year.

The white footed mouse does not hibernate but, instead, enters a state of deep sleep in its food-filled nest especially on the coldest winter nights. It is able, though, to leave its nest on warmer nights to gather food from its scattered caches.

Damage and Damage Identification The principal problem caused by white-footed and deer mice is their tendency to enter homes, cabins, and other structures that are not rodent-proof. Here they build nests, store food, and can cause considerable damage to upholstered furniture, mattresses, clothing, paper, or other materials that they find suitable for their nest-building activities. Nests, droppings, and other signs left by these mice are similar to those of house mice. White-footed and deer mice have a greater tendency to cache food supplies, such as acorns, seeds, or nuts, than do house mice. White-footed and deer mice are uncommon in urban or suburban residential areas unless there is considerable open space (fields, parks) nearby.

White Footed Mouse

White Footed Mouse

Control: Damage by both white-footed and deer mice is usually a nuisance. When mice destroy furniture or stored materials, the cost of such damage depends upon the particular circumstances. The greatest economic impact of deer mice is their destruction of conifer seed in forest reseeding operations. In west coast forest areas, Peromyscus seed predation has resulted in millions of dollars worth of damage and has been documented to have been a serious problem since the early 1900s. New efficacious, cost-effective methods of reducing this seed predation are needed.

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