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white-footed mouse

Peromyscus leucopus

What do they look like?

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.

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range mass
    15.0 to 25.0 g
    0.53 to 0.88 oz
  • Average mass
    23 g
    0.81 oz
  • Range length
    150.0 to 205.0 mm
    5.91 to 8.07 in
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    0.213 W

Where do they live?

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.

What kind of habitat do they need?

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.

How do they reproduce?

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.

  • How often does reproduction occur?
    White-footed mice can have 2 to 4 litters per year.
  • Breeding season
    White-footed mice breed from March to October, or throughout the year in the southern parts of their range.
  • Range number of offspring
    2.0 to 9.0
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average number of offspring
  • Range gestation period
    28.0 (high) days
  • Average gestation period
    22.0 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    44.0 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    73 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    44.0 days

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.

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female

How long do they live?

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.

  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    1.0 years
  • Range lifespan
    Status: captivity
    3.0 (high) years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: captivity
    1.5 (high) years

How do they behave?

Home Range

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.

How do they communicate with each other?

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.

What do they eat?

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.

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • wood, bark, or stems
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit
  • flowers
  • Other Foods
  • fungus

What eats them and how do they avoid being eaten?

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.

  • These animal colors help protect them
  • cryptic

What roles do they have in the ecosystem?

White-footed mice are often abundant where they occur and are important as prey items for many small predators.

Do they cause problems?

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.

  • Ways that these animals might be a problem for humans
  • injures humans
    • carries human disease

How do they interact with us?

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.

  • Ways that people benefit from these animals:
  • controls pest population

Are they endangered?

White-footed mice are not endangered or threatened. They are common and abundant.

Some more information...

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.

World Map


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.

bilateral symmetry

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.

internal fertilization

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.

native range

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 forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

seasonal breeding

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


lives alone

stores or caches food

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.

year-round breeding

breeding takes place throughout the year


Sevilleta Long-Term Ecological Research Project. 1995.

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).

University of Michigan Museum of ZoologyNational Science Foundation

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Aguilar, S. 2002. "Peromyscus leucopus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 16, 2014 at

BioKIDS is sponsored in part by the Interagency Education Research Initiative. It is a partnership of the University of Michigan School of Education, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, and the Detroit Public Schools. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant DRL-0628151.
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