|Peromyscus leucopus (Rafinesque)|
Don Linzey & Christy Brecht
Wytheville Community College
Wytheville, Virginia 24382
Last updated: 26 November, 2005
- Adult total length:
5 1/2 - 8 in. (140 - 205 mm)
2 1/4 - 4 in. (55 - 100 mm)
- Hind foot:
3/4 - 7/8 in. (19 - 22 mm)
1/2 - 1 oz. (14 - 28 g)
During the summer, the upperparts of the white-footed
mouse are grayish-brown to dull orange-brown, with the
mid-dorsum being darker. The underparts are white, and
the tail is dark brown above and white below, though
the line of demarcation is usually not as sharply marked
as in P. maniculatus. The eyes and ears are large.
In winter, the pelage is grayer. Immature mice are gray
above with a white belly and feet.
The white-footed mouse is similar in appearance to the
deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus). The main
distinguishing characteristic is that the tail of the
white-footed mouse is shorter (slightly less than half
the total length) and is indistinctly bicolored, whereas
the tail of the deer mouse is longer (slightly more than
half the total length) and sharply bicolored.
left lateral view of
skull and mandible
dorsal view of skull
ventral view of skull
The white-footed mouse ranges throughout most of the eastern and
central United States. Its range extends from southern Canada,
Montana, Michigan, and Maine south to central South Carolina,
central Georgia, central Alabama, and southwestern Mississippi.
The range extends westward to central Arizona and south through
eastern Mexico and Yucatan.
||Mice, rats, squirrels, etc.
||Murid rats and mice
Preferred habitat of the white-footed mouse consists of brushy areas
and mixed or hardwood upland forests. These mice are usually found in
and around stone walls, fallen logs, and buildings.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park:
The white-footed mouse is most abundant at the lower
elevations but has been recorded up to 6,500 feet.
Considerable overlap occurs with the deer mouse at an
elevation of about 3000 feet. (See discussion under
- Blount Co.:
Cades Cove (1,750 feet); Whiteoak Sink (1,750 feet).
- Cocke Co.:
Near Cosby Ranger Station (1,700 -2,500 feet);
Indian Camp Creek; Inadu Knob.
- Sevier Co.:
Roaring Fork near Gatlinburg (1,400 feet); Foothills
Parkway between Wear Valley and Gatlinburg (1,100 -
2,400 feet); Sugarlands (1,800 feet); Greenbrier (
2,050 -3,200 feet); Porters Flat (2,250 -2,400 feet);
Little River, 2 miles above Elkmont (2,700 feet); Fish
Camp Prong (2,730 feet); Ramsay Cascades; former
Chimneys Campground; Clingmans Dome (6,000 feet).
- Haywood Co.:
Big Creek; Cataloochee; Ledge Bald.
- Swain Co.:
Forney Creek; Jonas Creek Trail; Kephart Prong;
Black Camp Gap (4,500 feet); Thomas Divide; Moore
Springs Shelter; Clingmans Dome (6,500 feet).
Females produce several litters annually from early spring until fall.
Following a gestation period of approximately 23 days, females give
birth to an average of four or five blind, naked, and helpless young.
Young mice leave the nest when between 16 and 25 days of age and are
able to breed when approximately two months old.
A nest containing four half-grown young was found in a trail register
box at the former Chimneys Campground on October 31. From June to
September, numerous pregnant and nursing females and males in breeding
condition were recorded by Linzey in the Cosby area (
Linzey, 1995b). Three females, each containing four embryos, were
recorded on August 5 and 19, 1984 (Ambrose, 1986).
A nursing female and two males in breeding condition were noted by
Linzey September 8 and 9 at Cataloochee. A female gave birth to four
young in a live-trap August 22 in the spruce-fir zone (
Smith and Mouzon, 1985).
Wild deer mice rarely survive longer than one year, although
individuals in captivity may live for several years.
- Terrestrial Ecology
White-footed mice are most active at night during all seasons. They
may occasionally become torpid for several days at a time during
periods of low temperature or when food is scarce.
The senses of touch, hearing, sight, and smell are well developed in
white-footed mice. They are good climbers. When disturbed, these mice
often move their front paws up and down against some resonant object,
producing a "drumming" sound.
Major food items, by volume, found in the stomachs of 40 Peromyscus
leucopus taken during the summer were insects (42.3%), fruit skins
(17.5%), insect larvae (9.0%), and millipedes (5.9%) (
Linzey and Linzey, 1973). Seeds constituted only 2.2% of the total
volume, while animal foods amounted to 51.4 %. This is in marked contrast
to the summer food habits of Peromyscus maniculatus in which seeds
comprised 57.7% and animal foods comprised 22.2% of the total volume.
Further research may shed light on the possible ecological significance
of this apparent displacement, since the two species overlap considerably
in their habitats and altitudinal distributions (Komarek
and Komarek, 1938; Linzey and Linzey, 1968).
Home ranges average about 0.1 ha (0.2 acre). Homing behavior is well-
developed with individuals displaced as much as one mile returning to
their home territory in only a few days.
- Predators and Defense
All instances of predation involving Peromyscus sp. are
reported in this account of Peromyscus leucopus, since
remains of mice of this genus found in the stomachs of predators
have not been identified to species. Three timber rattlesnakes
(Crotalus horridus) taken near Laurel Creek, Trillium Gap,
and Gregory Bald had eaten Peromyscus sp. (
Stupka, 1945, 1947, 1954
). Peromyscus were recorded in the stomachs of 21 of
44 timber rattlesnakes examined by Savage (1967
). The stomachs of two screech owls (Otus asio) found
at the Townsend Y and near park headquarters also contained remains
of these mice (Stupka, 1938,
1949). A long-tailed weasel (Mustela frenata) seen on Mt.
LeConte near LeConte Lodge was carrying a Peromyscus. A
specimen was removed from the stomach of a bobcat (Lynx rufus)
killed along the Newfound Gap Road in Tennessee (
Single botfly larvae (Cuterebra sp.) were removed from two
specimens by Linzey on July 15 and August 12. A flea was taken
from a female in June (Linzey, 1995b).
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 purposes.
- Map development
- Web page design & coding
- Denise Lim, University of Georgia, Athens
- John Pickering, University of Georgia, Athens
Ambrose, J.P. 1986.
Dynamics of ecological boundary phenomena along the borders
of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Ph. D. dissertation,
University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia. (Also National Park
Service- Cooperative Studies Unit Technical Report 34. February, 1987).
Komarek, E. V. and R. Komarek. 1938.
Mammals of the Great Smoky Mountains. Bulletin of the Chicago
Academy of Sciences 5 (6): 137 - 162.
Lackey, J.A. 1999.
White-footed mouse. Pages 572 - 574. In: D.E. Wilson, and S.
Ruff (eds.). The Smithsonian Book of North American Mammals.
Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.
Lackey, J.A., D.G. Huckaby, and B.G. Ormiston. 1985.
Peromyscus leucopus. Mammalian Species No. 247: 1-10.
American Society of Mammalogists.
Linzey, D.W. 1968.
An ecological study of the golden mouse, Ochrotomys nuttalli,
in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. American Midland
Naturalist 79(2): 320-345.
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.
Linzey, D.W. and A.V. Linzey. 1968.
Mammals of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Journal of the
Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society 84 (3): 384-414.
Linzey, D.W. and A.V. Linzey. 1973.
Notes on food of small mammals from Great Smoky Mountains National
Park, Tennessee-North Carolina. Journal of the Elisha Mitchell
Scientific Society 89 (1 and 2): 6-14.
Savage, T. 1967.
The diet of rattlesnakes and copperheads in the Great Smoky
Mountains National Park. Copeia 1967 (1): 226-227.
Smith, T. R., and J. M. Mouzon. 1985.
Small mammal survey in the spruce-fir zone of Great Smoky
Mountains National Park. Typewritten final research report.
In library of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Stupka, A. 1935-63.
Nature Journal, Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 28 volumes
(years) each with index. (Typewritten copy in files of Great
Smoky Mountains National Park library).
Last modified: 8 May, 2002