Deer and White-footed Mice

Identification | Biology | Damage ID | Management | Handling


Fifteen species of native mice of the genus Peromyscus may be found in the United States. The two most common and widely distributed species are the deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus) and the white-footed mouse (P. leucopus). This chapter will deal primarily with these species. Collectively, all species of Peromyscus are often referred to as “white-footed mice” or “deer mice.” Other species include the brush mouse (P. boylei), cactus mouse (P. eremicus), canyon mouse (P. crinitus), cotton mouse (P. gossypinus), golden mouse (P. nuttalli), piñon mouse (P. truei), rock mouse (P. difficilis), white-ankled mouse (P. pectoralis), Merriam mouse (P. merriami), California mouse (P. californicus), Sitka mouse (P. sitkensis), oldfield mouse (P. polionotus), and the Florida mouse (P. floridanus).

Legal Status

White-footed and deer mice are considered native, nongame mammals and receive whatever protection may be afforded such species under state or local laws. It is usually permissible to control them when necessary, but first check with your state wildlife agency.

Physical Description

Deer mice are about 3 to 4 inches long, in addition to the tail. White-footed mice are about 3.5 inches to 4 inches long, not including the tail. All of the Peromyscus species have white feet, usually white undersides, and brownish upper surfaces. Their tails are relatively long, sometimes as long as the head and body. The deer mouse and some other species have a distinct separation between the brownish back and white belly. Their tails are also sharply bicolored. It is difficult even for an expert to tell all of the species apart.

In comparison to house mice, white-footed and deer mice have larger eyes and ears. They are considered by most people to be more “attractive” than house mice, and they do not have the characteristic mousy odor of house mice. All species of Peromyscus cause similar problems and require similar solutions.

Species Range

The deer mouse is found throughout most of North America. Thewhite-footed mouse is found throughout the US east of the Rocky Mountains except in parts of the Southeast.

The brush mouse is found from southwestern Missouri and northwestern Arkansas through Oklahoma, central and western Texas, New Mexico, southwestern Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and California. The cactus mouse is limited to western Texas, southern New Mexico, Arizona (except the northeast portion), and southern California. The canyon mouse occurs in western Colorado, northwestern New Mexico, northern and western Arizona, Utah, Nevada, southern California, southeast Oregon, and southwestern Idaho.

The cotton mouse is found only in the southeastern US from east Texas and Arkansas through southeastern Virginia. The golden mouse occupies a similar range but it extendsslightly farther north.

The piñon mouse is found from southwestern California through the southwestern United States to the Texas panhandle. The rock mouse is limited to Colorado, southeastern Utah, eastern Arizona, New Mexico, and the far western portion of Texas. The white-ankled mouse is found only in parts of Texas and small areas in southern New Mexico, southern Oklahoma, and southern Arizona.

The Merriam mouse is limited to areas within southern Arizona. The California mouse ranges from San Francisco Bay to northern Baja California, including parts of the southern San Joaquin Valley. The Sitka mouse is found only on certain islands of Alaska and British Columbia.

The oldfield mouse is distributed across eastern Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida. The Florida mouse, as its name indicates, is found only in Florida.

Voice and Sounds

Deer mouse vocalizations include squeaks, shrieks, trills, and sharp buzzing. White-footed mice make a humming or buzzing noise by drumming its front paws against a hollow reed or dry reed.

Tracks and Sign

Nests, droppings, and other signs left by these mice are similar to those of house mice. See House Mouse Identification.


Information on this species is based on the chapter in Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage (Hygnstrom, Larson, Timm, ed. 1994), written by Robert Timm (Wildlife Extension Specialist, Hopland Research and Extension Center, University of California) and Walter Howard (Emeritus Professor, Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Conservation Biology, University of California Davis).