Don Linzey & Christy Brecht
Wytheville Community College
Wytheville, Virginia 24382
Last updated: 26 November, 2005
- Adult total length:
5 3/4 - 7 1/2 in. (150 - 185 mm)
2 4/5 - 4 in. (74 - 100 mm)
- Hind foot:
1/2 - 3/4 in. (15 - 20 mm)
1/2 - 1 oz. (14 - 28 g)
The house mouse is a small brownish-gray mouse with a long, slender,
tapering, indistinctly bicolored tail. The tail is sparsely haired and
scaly. The belly is grayish.
left lateral view of
skull and mandible
dorsal view of skull
ventral view of skull
The house mouse is native to Eurasia, but it now has a worldwide distribution because of accidental
introductions. This species was not known in the United States until about the time of the American
Revolution when it is believed to have arrived as a stowaway aboard transatlantic ships. It is
believed originally to have been transported to the southern United States along shipping lanes
from the Iberian peninsula (Schwarz and Schwarz, 1943).
||Mice, Rats, etc.
||Murid Rats and Mice
These mice are often common in cultivated fields and in and around cabins and barns.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park:
The house mouse is the only non-native mouse occurring in the park. The
Komareks frequently took this species around cabins and barns. Individuals
have been found at elevations as high as 2,700 feet. The house mouse is
probably less common now than in pre-park days due to a more limited supply of
food and shelter.
- Blount Co.:
Cades Cove (1,750 feet).
- Cocke Co.:
near Low Gap (2,700 feet).
- Sevier Co.:
Park headquarters (1,500 feet); Greenbrier Cove (1,700 - 2,000
feet); Elkmont (2,500 feet).
- Swain Co.:
House mice are very prolific. They breed throughout the year in portions of their
range and may have as many as 12 or 13 young per litter, although 4 to 7 is the
average. Gestation is 18 to 20 days with an average of eight litters being produced annually.
Newborn young are blind and naked and have their eyes and ears sealed. The eyes open at
about 14 days of age. The young grow rapidly and are normally weaned by three weeks of
age. Most individuals are sexually mature at two months, although some may begin breeding
at five weeks.
An indoor nest may be concealed in a hole, in the woodwork, or beneath some sort of
shelter. The nest may be composd of cloth, rags, paper, or any other soft material.
Outdoor nests may be located in corn shocks, beneath debris, or in burrows of other
animals. Where nesting sites and material are scarce, house mice have been reported
to occupy communal nests.
Palmer (1954) reported that some captive house mice have lived six
years, although the normal life span of this species is probably less than two years.
- Terrestrial Ecology
House mice are usually associated with human habitations, but in many regions feral
populations exist. They are often the most abundant mammal in cultivated fields.
House mice tend to be nocturnal, but they may be active day or night during every
month of the year. They do not hibernate. Signs of their presence include gnawings and
small, black droppings.
House mice can climb well and readily jump from high places. They are also good swimmers
for short distances. Their sense of sight is poor, and they are colorblind, but their
senses of smell, taste, touch, and hearing are excellent (Jackson, 1982).
These mice are omnivorous and feed on a wide range of items including grains, seeds,
green vegetation, insects, and other invertebrates.
- Predators and Defense
Snakes, owls, hawks, cats, foxes, weasels, and skunks comprise the major predators.
None recorded from the park.
Links to Other Sites
- Special Protection Status
- In Park:
All plants and animals are protected within Great Smoky
Mountains National Park. Collection requires a permit
which is usually granted only for research or educational
- Map development
- Web page design & coding
- Denise Lim, University of Georgia, Athens
- John Pickering, University of Georgia, Athens
Jackson, W. B. 1982.
Norway rat and allies. Pages 1077-1088. In: J.A. Chapman and G.A.
Feldhamer (eds.). Wild Mammals of North America. Baltimore: The
Johns Hopkins University Press.
Linzey, D. W. 1995a.
Mammals of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Blacksburg, Virginia: The McDonald & Woodward Publishing Company, Inc.
Linzey, D. W. 1995b.
Mammals of Great Smoky Mountains National Park-1995 Update.
Journal of the Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society 111(1):1-81.
Linzey, D. W. 1998.
The Mammals of Virginia. Blacksburg, Virginia: The
McDonald & Woodward Publishing Company, Inc.
Palmer, R. S. 1954.
The Mammal Guide. Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company.
Schwarz, E. and H. K. Schwarz. 1943.
The wild and commensal stocks of the house mouse, Mus musculus Linnaeus.
Journal of Mammalogy 24 (1): 59-72.
Last modified: 10 April, 2002