The Meadow jumping mouse is the mouse in the subfamily Zapodinae with the widest distribution. They are recognized by their very long tails and their long hind feet. They are small and slender and contrast with Woodland jumping mice because their tail is not white-tipped tail and they are typically duller in color. These animals undergo an annual molt which lasts for around three weeks, usually commencing for adults after mid-June and in August for juveniles. Most Meadow jumping mice living in the wild will die before they are one year old; about 9% live as long as their 3rd year. The maximum lifespan for a captive animal is 5 years.
Meadow jumping mice occur throughout northern North America, from the Atlantic Coast to the Great Plains, throughout the north central and north eastern states as far as the arctic tree-line in Canada and Alaska, down to Georgia, Arizona, Alabama, and New Mexico. They live in a range of habitats that have herbaceous cover, but they favor moist grassland, avoid heavily wooded areas, and are numerous in grassy fields and thick areas of vegetation bordering streams, marshes or ponds. They seem to prefer habitats that have high humidity.
Meadow jumping mice are a solitary species, but individuals are not aggressive towards their own kind. They are usually nocturnal (although sometimes diurnal). They can climb and are great diggers and swimmers. These mice are fairly nomadic, and will travel as far as 1 km seeking moist habitat. They make their summer nests of grass and are usually placed underground or in or under a protective structure. Nests for hibernation are made of leaves or grass and are usually in underground burrows at a depth of 0.3 to 0.9 m. The mice begin to hibernate from late September to early October. Hibernation is thought to be dependent upon fat reserves. Adults usually start hibernating earlier than juveniles, and they all reemerge from mid to late spring.
Little is known about the mating system of these mice. The breeding season takes place soon after hibernation, late in April or in May. Males come out of hibernation a little earlier than females and are active reproductively when females emerge, and within two weeks after this, most of the females are pregnant. Gestation is usually around 18 days, and may be longer for females which are lactating. A mother may produce 2 to 3 litters each year, numbering 2 to 9 young, with the average litter size being 5. When born the mice are pink, naked, blind, deaf and clawless, but their squeaks can be heard. By four weeks old they have an adult coat and their eyes are open. The mice are independent between 28 and 33 days old.
There are no current threats to Meadow jumping mice. Three recognized subspecies, however, are considered threatened due to overgrazing and habitat destruction.
According to IUCN, Meadow jumping mouse is common and widespread throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. Currently this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) and their numbers today remain stable.
Meadow jumping mice are an important source of food for many predators, and may also play a role in dispersing the seeds of a number of the plants they eat.