The Deer Mouse from New Mexico Game and Fish
From Alaska to Florida and from California to Labrador, deer mice are more widely distributed than any other member of their genus. Often the local species of deer mouse is the most common mammal you will find.
That also means they are a food base for birds of prey, coyotes, and other predators. Nine species of Peromyscus range from alpine regions to the driest desert areas of New Mexico. Deer Mouse (P. maniculatus) numbers fluctuate throughout the year, with a peak in late summer or fall and a low point in winter or spring.
When conditions are favorable, deer mice are prolific at procreation. They breed most of the year (except in winter), and females can bear young at the age of five or six weeks - up to four litters a year. Gestation takes 21 to 28 days, with three or four young usually being born. (However, the litter size may vary from one to 10.) When the babies are still helpless, the mother transports them while they cling to her nipples. They will stay with their mother for some time after weaning.
Deer mice are three to five inches long and have tails from two to five inches long. They weigh about an ounce. Color ranges from pale gray to reddish brown. The tail is dark above and light below.
Each adult animal occupies a home range of one-tenth of an acre to 1O acres. Deer mice may share a nest, particularly in winter to conserve heat. Nests may be in ground burrows, tree trunks, or buildings.
These mice forage for insects, seeds and nuts, both on the ground and in shrubs. They are most active at night, and they store food in their dens.
In a 1975 study, workers from the Museum of Southwestern Biology examined 7,422 specimens of Peromyscus. The deer mouse comprised 45 percent of the sample, followed by the brush mouse (P. boylii) at 20 percent and the pinon mouse (P. truei) at 10 percent.
The next time you see a mouse in the wild, or see a hawk swoop to gab a small four-legged meal, the chances are good youre seeing one of the many hazards in a deer mouses short life. A wild deer mouse more than two years old would be a rare deer mouse.
Recent evidence has linked the urine, saliva, and feces of deer mice to the potentially lethal hantavirus in humans. People should avoid breathing deer mouse particles, spreading mouse excretions by rubbing a cut or the eyes with contaminated hands, eating contaminated food, or being bitten by a deer mouse.
You can reduce contact with rodents by getting rid of food and water near buildings, using closed containers for animal food and for garbage, storing food properly, and blocking entrances into your home. Dont disturb rodent dens either.
For more information on rodent control, cleanup of buildings or hantavirus, write to the New Mexico Department of Health at P.O. Box 26110, Santa Fe, NM 87502-6110, or call the hantavirus hotline at 1-800-879-3421.