White-footed mice range from 150 to 205 mm in total length, with their tail making up about one-third of that length. They weight from 15 to 25 grams. The fur on their back ranges from light brown to a more reddish brown, while the fur on their stomach and feet is white, their tails tend to be darker on the top and lighter on the bottom.
White-footed mice are native only to the Nearctic region. They are found from the Atlantic coast of North America as far north as Nova Scotia, west to Montana and south into southern Mexico. They do not occur west of the Rocky Mountains or the Sierra Madre, in Florida, or on the coastal plains of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama.
White-footed mice are most often found at low to mid-elevations throughout their range and especially in warm, dry forests. They occur in a variety of habitats, though, from higher elevation forests to semi-desert. This adaptability has meant that they do well in suburban and agricultural settings as well. White-footed mice are usually the most abundant rodent in mixed forests of eastern North America. They make their nests in places that are warm and dry, for example, a hollow tree or an empty bird's nest.
Males have home ranges that overlap with multiple females, providing access to multiple mating opportunities. Pups in a single litter often have different fathers.
White-footed mice have different breeding seasons depending on where they live. In the northern parts of their range they breed in spring and late summer, in southern parts of their range they can breed year round. Females can begin to have babies when they are 44 days old. Females are pregnant for 21 to 28 days and have litters of 2 to 9 babies.
Young are born blind, naked, and helpless. Their eyes open at about 12 days old and their ears open at about 10 days old. Females care for and nurse their young in the nest until they are weaned. Soon after that the young disperse from their mother's range. If the young or the nest are endangered, female white-footed mice will carry their young one at a time to a safer location.
Most white-footed mice live for one year in the wild. This means that there is an almost complete replacement of all mice in the population from one year to the next. Most mortality occurs in the spring and early summer.
Females are territorial during the breeding season. Males do not care for their young. The home ranges of males overlap with those of the females.
White-footed mice have keen eyesight, hearing, and sense of smell. They use their vibrissae (whiskers) as touch receptors. A distinctive behavior of white-footed mice is drumming on a hollow reed or a dry leaf with their front paws. This produces a long musical buzzing. It is unclear why white-footed mice do this.
White-footed mice are omnivorous. They mostly eat seeds, berries, nuts, insects, grains, fruits, and fungi. In order to prepare for the winter, white-footed mice gather and store seeds and nuts in the fall.
White-footed mice are active primarily at night and are secretive and alert, thus avoiding many predators. They are abundant in many habitats and are the major diet item of many small predators.
White-footed mice are often abundant where they occur and are important as prey items for many small predators.
White-footed mice play a role in the transmission of Lyme disease. They carry the bacteria that causes the disease and pass it to larval deer ticks when they are bitten. These deer ticks can then pass the disease to humans or other mammals. They also may be carriers of hantavirus, or Four Corners disease, through their feces. Where they are abundant white-footed mice may prevent the growth of trees such as acorns and pines, whose seeds they eat.
White-footed mice eat various types of fungi and help to disperse the spores of these fungi through their droppings. This helps to spread spores of fungi, such as mycorhizzal fungi, which help trees to gain nutrients through their roots. White footed mice may also eat harmful insect pests, such as gypsy moths. White-footed mice are not significant crop pests.
White-footed mice are not endangered or threatened. They are common and abundant.
White footed mice have a very good sense of direction. In experiments in which they were captured and let go 2 miles away, they found their way back to where they were captured.
Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.
Shaina Aguilar (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.
uses sound to communicate
young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends.
mid-altitude coastal areas with mild, rainy winters and long, dry summers. Dominant plant types are dense, evergreen shrubs.
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.
animals that generate their own body heat through metabolic processes.
union of egg and spermatozoan
forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.
fertilization takes place within the female's body
offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
active during the night
an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals
the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.
scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.
breeding is confined to a particular season
remains in the same area
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
places a food item in a special place to be eaten later. Also called "hoarding"
uses touch to communicate
that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).
Living on the ground.
defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement
uses sight to communicate
reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.
breeding takes place throughout the year
Sevilleta Long-Term Ecological Research Project. 1995. http://sevilleta.unm.edu/animal/mammal/white-footed_mouse.html
Collier's Encyclopedia. Vol 8. " deer mouse." 1993. N.Y.
Lackey, James Alden; Huckaby, David G.; Ormiston, Brian G. Mammalian Species. "Peromyscus leucopus." No. 247, pp. 1-10. December 13, 1985. The American Society of Mammalogists.
"Animal Life History Database" (On-line).