White-Footed Mouse

What Are They?

Distributed throughout the North American continent, white-footed mice populations tend to occupy spaces of 1/2 to 1 1/2 acres in area. Excellent at climbing, the rodents are often found in attics or chimneys when they enter homes. Greatly beneficial to surrounding ecosystems because they feed on destructive species of insects, white-footed mice nevertheless earn their pest status by spreading diseases to humans and seriously impacting plant germination and dispersal.

What Do They Look Like?

white footed mouse

What Do They Look Like?

Size: Adult white-footed mice range in size from 6 to about 8 inches, with the tail accounting for roughly half of the total length.

Color: On the dorsal side of the body, the white-footed mouse appears anywhere from brown or reddish-brown to gray. The fur on the stomach, tail, and feet is white, hence the common name of the species.

Characteristics: Weighing less than an ounce, the white-footed mouse has a small body, large eyes and ears, and a tail that takes up about half a body length. The ears are covered with tufts of hair, while the tail is darker on top and lighter on the bottom.

Geographic Range

Native to the Nearctic region, white-footed mice live throughout the contiguous United States and parts of Canada and Mexico. The pests are most prominent in the eastern regions of the U.S. Their range does not extend west of the Rocky Mountains or the Sierra Madre.

What Do They Eat?

Able to eat about 30 percent of their body weight each day, white-footed mice primarily feed on a variety of seeds like acorns, hickory nuts, corn, and chestnuts. Other preferred food sources include beetles, caterpillars, crickets, flies, fruits, mushrooms, fungi, and berries. The pests will also make a meal of roadkill and other sources of carrion.

Problems Caused by White-Footed Mice

White-footed mice are pests because of their ability to spread Lyme disease and Hantavirus, which cause rashes, joint and muscle pain, neurological problems, and respiratory issues to develop in humans.

The rodents can also inflict unsightly, albeit minimal, damage to lawns, gardens, and household items. Additionally, large populations of the pest inhibit the spread of trees by feeding on their seeds.

Life Cycle & Life Span

Depending on the climate of the region, white-footed mice engage in mating at different times during the year. In the south, the pests can breed year-round, while spring and late summer are the ideal mating seasons in the north.

Females can produce up to four litters a year, with each litter yielding two to nine young. Blind and hairless, the newborns rely on and nurse from their mother for about three weeks after birth. Female white-footed mice achieve sexual maturity after 44 days.

Signs of White Footed Mice

As white-footed mice are nocturnal, humans rarely see the pests in action and must rely on other signs to determine whether an infestation is present.

Droppings

Finding mouse excrement, particularly in attics or basements, kitchen drawers, or under and behind appliances, indicates rodent activity.

Mouse droppings are small pellets about a quarter of an inch long with pointed ends. They are often deposited along areas of frequent activity, with the potential for thousands of droppings to accumulate over a short period of time, especially in the case of large infestations.

The pellets are generally dark brown or black, though the color may vary depending on individual mouse diets. Most droppings from house mice, deer mice, and white-footed mice share characteristics and become hard and dry after a few hours. The amount and frequency of new pellets can often be used to determine the size of mouse infestations.

Ripped, shredded, or damaged furniture, clothing, paper, and the like could also point to a white-footed mouse infestation. Lawns and gardens should be checked for signs of digging, as well.

Detection Tips

  • May notice considerable damage on upholstered furniture, mattresses, clothing, or other materials suitable to constructing or insulating a white-footed mouse nest.
  • The presence of droppings indicates some kind of mouse or rodent activity.
  • Uprooted plants and other evidence of digging in gardens may be the result of white-footed mice scavenging for seeds.

Prevention Tips

The best way to keep white-footed mice out of the house is to modify the surrounding environment to the point where it becomes unfavorable or even hostile towards the pests. Homeowners can achieve this by sealing any holes or other openings around the house with copper wire mesh or another material resistant to the gnawing of mice.

In addition to eliminating access to the home, store food items like dry pet food, grass seed, cereal, and other grains in rodent-proof containers. Maintain high levels of sanitation indoors and out. Trim shrubs and trees so the foliage does not touch or hang over the house, and remove unoccupied birds’ nests and other convenient nesting locations from the yard.

Learn how to get rid of mice in the home.