White-footed mice are found throughout most of the eastern United States. The easternmost part of their range extends from Nova Scotia in the north to Virginia in the south. They occur as far west as Saskatchewan and throughout the plains states, extending through eastern Mexico to southern Mexico and the Yucatan peninsula.
(Wilson and Ruff, 1999)
White-footed mice live in a wide variety of habitats but are most abundant in warm, dry forests and brushlands at middle elevations. They are the most abundant small rodent in mixed forests in the eastern United States and in brushy areas bordering agricultural lands. In the southern and western portions of their range they are more restricted in distribution, occurring mainly in wooded areas and semi-desert scrub near waterways. In southern Mexico they occur mainly in agricultural areas. They build nests in places that are warm and dry, such as a hollow tree or vacated bird's nest. Their home ranges vary from 1/2 to 1 1/2 acres with 4 to 12 mice per acre.
Total length ranges from 150 to 205 mm and tail length from 65 to 95 mm. Weight ranges from 15 to 25 g. The upperparts of the body are pale to rich reddish brown and the belly and feet are white. In some parts of the range it is difficult to distinguish P. leucopus from other, closely related species, such as P. maniculatus, P. eremicus, P. polionotus, and P. gossypinus. They differ from P. eremicus by being larger and the soles of its hind feet are furred in the heel region. P. maniculatus has a generally longer tail that is distinctly bicolored, rather than indistinctly bicolored in P. leucopus. P. gossypinus can usually be distinguished by their longer hindfoot, greater than 22 mm, whereas P. leucopus is generally less than 22mm. P. polionotus is generally smaller than P. leucopus. Other North American species of Peromyscus can generally be distinguished from P. leucopus by tail length. ( http://sevilleta.unm.edu/animal/mammal/white-fotted_mouse.html, 1995; Lackey, et. al. 1985, Wilson and Ruff, 1999).
Males have home ranges that overlap with multiple females, providing access to multiple mating opportunities. Pups in a single litter often have different fathers.
In northern populations of this mouse, breeding is seasonal, mostly occurring in spring and late summer or fall but extends from March through October. In southern populations breeding seasons are longer and in southern Mexico breeding occurs year round. The gestation period is from 22 to 28 days. Longer gestation periods may result from delayed implantation in females still nursing their young from a previous litter. Young are blind when born. Their eyes usually open about 2 weeks after birth, and the young are weaned about 1 week later. They are ready to mate at an average age of 44 days in northern populations and 38 days in southern populations. They can have 2 to 4 litters a year, each containing 2 to 9 young. The litter size increases with each birth, peaks at the fifth or sixth litter, then decreases. White-footed mice may live several years in captivity but in the wild there is almost complete population replacement each year. ( http:// sevilleta.unm.edu/animal/mammal/white-footed_mouse.html,1995, Wilson and Ruff, 1999).
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.
White-footed mice are primarily nocturnal. They are mainly solitary and are territorial, though adjacent home ranges do overlap. White-footed mice climb and swim well. Peromyscus leucopus individuals have keen homing instincts. In experiments in which they were captured and let go 2 miles away, they found their way back to where they were captured. When the young are threatened, the mother carries them to safety one at a time by holding them by the neck with her teeth.
A distinctive behavior of P. leucopus is drumming on a hollow reed or a dry leaf with its fore paws. This produces a prolonged musical buzzing, the meaning of which is unclear.
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.
Peromyscus leucopus is omnivorous. Diet varies seasonally as well as geographically and may include seeds, berries, nuts, insects, grains, fruits, and fungi. Since they do not hibernate, even in cold weather, in the fall they store seeds and nuts for the winter.
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 help spread various kinds of fungi by eating the sporing bodies and excreting spores. Forest trees' ability to take up nutrients is enhanced by the " mycorrhizal" associations formed by these fungi. For many temperate forest trees, these fungi have been shown to be an essential element in order for trees to prosper. White-footed mice also help control populations of some harmful insect pests, such as gypsy moths.
These mice carry deer ticks, which spread Lyme disease. They also may be a reservoir of Four-Corners disease. Their fecal matter contains hantavirus, the organism that causes this disease.
They also hinder the growth of trees such as oaks and pines because they eat so many of the seeds.
White-footed mice are not endangered or threatened. They are abundant throughout their range.
There are fossils in North America of the ancestors of P. leucopus from the Oligocene Epoch, about 40 million years ago.
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. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.
Found in coastal areas between 30 and 40 degrees latitude, in areas with a Mediterranean climate. Vegetation is dominated by stands of dense, spiny shrubs with tough (hard or waxy) evergreen leaves. May be maintained by periodic fire. In South America it includes the scrub ecotone between forest and paramo.
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 use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.
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).