Deer Mice

Deer Mouse Control in Your Home or Business

General Information

Generally reaching between three and four inches long, deer mice, or Peromyscus maniculatus, are sometimes confused with white-footed mice, as distributions of both types of mice overlap in the New England states. The deer mouse typically has a shorter, bicolor tail, which is sharply differentiated by the darker top half and lighter bottom. Although the small mammal helps in the dispersal of seeds and controlling of insect populations, it is also a known carrier of diseases that can adversely affect humans.

Additionally, the deer mouse may invade domestic dwellings looking for food/water, shelter/harborage, and warmth and, in turn, cause damage to stored foods, furniture, and other household materials used to build the animal’s nest. The name of the species derives from the ability of the mouse to leap and move agilely, like a deer.

Picture of Deer Mouse
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Appearance & Identification

What Do Deer Mice Look Like?
The deer mouse possesses a round, slender body typically no bigger than four inches long. The head tapers to a pointed nose with pronounced vibrissae, or whiskers. The species has beady black eyes, nearly hairless ears, and a furry tail that nearly doubles the length of the animal.

Body coloration typically appears dark on top and varies in shade from gray to reddish-brown and white on the bottom. The tail features two contrasting sides, as the top remains dark while the underside is lighter in color. The forelimbs generally are shorter than the hind legs.

Habits/Habitat

A wide-ranging rodent, the deer mouse survives and thrives in many different ecological regions and typically lives in both grassland and forested areas of New England. Deer mice are indiscriminate in the nature of forest homes, as both deciduous and coniferous forests serve as ideal nesting areas for the species. The small rodent constructs nests both underground in new or existing burrows and near the ground in:

  • Brush piles
  • Stumps
  • Tree cavities

The species primarily forages at night, spending most of the time on the ground but also demonstrating proficiency in climbing. Deer mice do not hibernate over the winter and continue to scavenge for food throughout colder months.

Diet

What Do Deer Mice Eat?
Omnivorous in nature, the deer mouse eats a wide variety of both animal and plant matter, based on availability. Focusing on seeds, fruits, nuts, and other plant products, the mammal also helps control insect populations by eating small insects, arthropods, invertebrates, and spiders. The rodent hoards food underground or in tree cavities.

Reproduction

Deer mice breed throughout the year, though prime propagation time normally occurs during the warmer months. The species reaches sexual maturity within 35 to 60 days of birth, and females may produce between two and four litters each season. Gestation periods typically last 24 days with litters ranging in size of up to 11 newborn mice.

The young are born hairless and with closed eyes, which open after about 14 days. Newborn deer mice are typically weaned by the third week and leave the nest to establish home boundaries of their own. The lifespan of an adult deer mouse is typically around two years.

Problems Caused by Deer Mice

One of the main problems presented by deer mice is their status as carriers of a strain of hantavirus called Sin Nombre virus, which can lead to hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) in humans. HPS is a severe respiratory disease that may prove fatal, though it is not known to be contagious.

The mouse sheds the virus in their droppings, saliva, and urine, which may contaminate dust particles inhaled by humans. Deer mice may also become destructive to property, as materials used for building nests when the species ventures indoors may include furniture, mattresses, clothing, or paper products. The rodent may also invade food stores. In nature, deer mice may become pests to both forested and agricultural lands, as seed predation slows the regeneration of plants, ruins planted crops, and hinders reforestation efforts.

Signs of Infestation

Signs of infestation include discovering gnawed objects in the home, droppings, movements in the walls, exposed nesting areas, or visibly seeing the mouse itself. Deer mice typically move indoors during the cold New England winters seeking shelter/warmth and new food supplies.

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Prevention

The best ways to prevent deer mice infestation range from permanent solutions, such as rodent-proof construction, to trapping. Rodent-proofing consists of closing off potential entry points/openings that allow mice to enter the home, sealing cracks in building foundations, and preventing entry around openings surrounding water pipes, vents, and utility cables.

Homeowners should also clear overgrown shrubs, wood piles, and weeds to eliminate potential cover for deer mice. In the home, keep areas near baseboards, storage areas, and kitchen cupboards clear and free from moisture, which allows rodents to nest and reach food stores easier.

Eventually, to fully eliminate a deer mice infestation, traps may be used. As the possibility of contracting the hantavirus exists because of the presence of deer mice, homeowners may wish to contact trained pest control professionals to properly handle (trapping) and remove the rodents.