Woodmouse (in Texas), White-footed mouse
The white-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus ) is a rodent native to North America from Ontario, Quebec, Labrador, and the Maritime Provinces (excluding the island of Newfoundland) to the southwestern United States and Mexico. In the Maritimes, its only location is a disjunct population in southern Nova Scotia. It is also known as the woodmouse, particularly in Texas.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Currently, the population of this species as a whole doesn’t face any serious threats.
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.
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.