White-Footed Mouse

White-Footed Mouse

Woodmouse (in Texas)

Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Order
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Peromyscus leucopus
Population size
Unknown
Life Span
1-3 yrs
WEIGHT
20-30 g
LENGTH
90-100 mm

The White-footed mouse is very similar to the deer mouse, although the former has less soft and luxuriant fur with reddish or orange back and sides instead of grayish or brown, as common in deer mouse. This species inhabits nearly all brushy or wooded habitats from southern Canada to much of the continental United States. Within their range, these rodents are quite abundant and about 4 - 15 individuals may be found in a single acre. Hence, the white-footed mice are truly called the “most successful mammals in Pennsylvania” due to their large natural range and diversity of habitats, where these rodents live.

Distibution

Endemic to North America, these rodents occur over a vast territory, from Ontario, Quebec, Labrador to the southwestern United States and Mexico. White-footed mice also inhabit the Maritime Provinces (except for Newfoundland), where they live in scattered population, mainly in southern part of Nova Scotia. These animals can be found in different environments, although they generally prefer warm, dry forests or brushlands, found at middle elevations. They construct their nests in dry areas, typically around old stone works and fallen trees. Those in southern Mexico prefer living in agricultural areas.

White-Footed Mouse habitat map

Geography

Habits and Lifestyle

White-footed mice are generally solitary animals. Each individual has its own home range, which often overlaps with these of conspecifics. These rodents are highly territorial. They are excellent climbers and swimmers. In addition, white-footed mice possess well-developed homing instincts, which allow them to find their way home from a distance of more than 2 miles. These nocturnal rodents don't hibernate, although they undergo periods of torpor, which is a deep sleep. This occasionally occurs during cold winter nights. Before the coming of winter, these animals fill their nests with large amounts of food supplies, which help them to survive. During warmer nights they come out of their nests to bring food from their numerous faraway caches. Along with good vision, hearing and sense of smell, white-footed mice sense their environment through their whiskers that act as touch receptors. White-footed mice can often be observed producing a long buzzing sound by drumming on a hollow reed or a dry leaf with their front paws, although the purpose of this behavior is unknown. Females of this species are very careful mothers. When young are threatened, the mother will move them to a safe place by carrying them one by one by the neck with her teeth.

Diet and Nutrition

As omnivorous animals, white-footed mice feed upon a wide variety of food. Although their diet depends on season and location, they generally eat seeds, berries, nuts, insects, grains, fruit and fungi.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
March-October, year-round in southern parts of the range
PREGNANCY DURATION
22-28 days
INDEPENDENT AGE
3 weeks
FEMALE NAME
doe
MALE NAME
buck
BABY NAME
pup, pinkie, kit

White-footed mice are polygynandrous (promiscuous), which means that both males and females have multiple mates. The home range of each male overlaps with these of multiple females, increasing mating opportunities of the male. Breeding usually occurs between March and October, whereas populations in southern parts of their range breed year-round. The gestation period lasts from 22 to 28 days. Females are capable of producing 2 - 4 litters each year. Meanwhile, the litter size of each female increases until the 5th or 6th litter and then begins decreasing. At 2 weeks old, their eyes open. Weaning occurs at about 3 weeks old. The age of sexual maturity is 44 days old in northern populations and 38 days old in southern populations.

Population

Population threats

Currently, the population of this species as a whole doesn’t face any serious threats.

Population number

According to IUCN, the White-footed mouse is extremely abundant, and widespread throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. Today, this species’ numbers are stable and it is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List.

Ecological niche

White-footed mice are an important link in the food chain of their range. Firstly, they control population numbers of various pests such as spruce sawfly, the gypsy moth and other insects by consuming these species. Secondly, these rodents contribute to loosening and aeration of soil within their range due to digging nests and food stores. Furthermore, due to their habit of collecting and leaving seeds, they act as key seed dispersers of various plants as well as fungi spores. In addition, white-footed mice are important source of food and suitable replacement for more desirable game animals. Due to the large number of their population and very high reproductive rate, these animals are the main prey species for numerous predators of their habitat.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • They store nuts and seeds in secluded places near their nests, typically under logs, in bird nests or in abandoned burrows of small mammals.
  • Mickey Mouse, created by Walt Disney, was the first mouse character, used in children cartoons and animation. It first appeared in 1928 and since then have remained very popular along with Speedy Gonzales, Jerry from 'Tom and Jerry', Stuart Little and other famous mouse characters.
  • Mice are able to display their mood through facial expressions.
  • Mice are believed to empathize and feel compassion, sharing feelings of one another, which directly affects the way they themselves feel.
  • These rodents are accomplished explorers. These extremely curious animals investigate the environment by squeezing objects through tight gaps and biting them with their solid teeth.
  • Mice are known to be very clean, neat and highly organized animals. The burrow of each individual has separate places, used as shelter, toilet and food storage.

References

1. White-Footed Mouse Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White-footed_mouse
2. White-Footed Mouse on The IUCN Red List site - http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/16669/0

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