Peromyscus maniculatus

Peromyscus maniculatus

Peromyscus maniculatus is a rodent native to North America. It is most commonly called the Deer Mouse, although that name is common to most species of Peromyscus and is fairly widespread across the continent, with the major exception being the southeast United States and the far north.

This mouse is a known carrier of Hantavirus, which can be transmitted to humans.

It is closely related to Peromyscus leucopus, the White-footed Mouse.


The scientific name for a deer mouse is Peromyscus maniculatus. The Peromyscus maniculatus has 66 subspecies. They are all tiny mammals that are plentiful in number. The deer mouse is described as a small rodent that lives in the Americas and is closely related to the white-footed mouse, Peromyscus leucopus. Because the two species are extremely similar in appearance, they can be distinguished through red blood cell agglutination tests or karyotype techniques. The deer mouse can then be distinguished physically by its long and multicolored tail. Deer mice are very often used for laboratory experimentation due to their self cleanliness and easy care.

Physical description

The deer mouse is small in size, only 3 to 6.5 inches long, but can become longer with the length of their tail. They have large beady eyes and ears to increase their ability of sight and hearing. Their soft fur ranges in many colors, from white to black, but all deer mice have a distinguishable white underside and white feet.


Deer mice are nocturnal creatures who spend the day time in areas such as trees or burrows where they have nests made of plants. The individual litters of deer mice are contained by the female mother in an individual home range. The deer mice do not mingle in groups with their litters. During the development stages, the mice within one litter interact much more than mice of two different litters. Although deer mice live in individual home ranges, they do tend to overlap. When overlapping of home ranges occures, it is more likely to be with opposite sexes compared to the overlapping of the same sex. Deer mice that live within overlapping home ranges tend to recongnize one another and interact a lot.


In a study, less than half of both male and female deer mice left their original home range to reproduce. This means that there is intrafamilial mating and that the gene flow among deer mice as a whole is limited. The female deer mouse can reproduce at all times of the year. Deer mice reproduce profusely and are highest in numbers among their species compared to other local mammals. Each litter contains about four mice that develop in the mother for approximately one month. The male deer mice are allowed by the female to help nest the litter and keep them together and warm for survival.


Peromyscus maniculatus are found in places including Alaska, Canada, and parts of South America. The majority of deer mice nest in large hollow trees up high. The deer mouse will nest alone on most occasions but will sometimes nest with a deer mouse of the opposite sex. They are popular in the western mountains and live in wooded areas and areas that were at one point previously wooded. The deer mouse is generally a nocturnal creature. Deer mice can be found active on top of snow or underneath logs during the winter seasons.


It has been reported that the deer mouse can carry a virus that is deadly to humans through their feces and urine. The deer mouse is known to carry diseases that are able to pass on to many other animals. One disease is the Sin Nombre virus (SNV). This virus is part of the Hantavirus genus. The deer mouse can be infected and is a primary reservoir host to SNV. This virus in a deer mouse contain viral antigens in the organ of the lungs, liver, kidneys, and spleen. The transmission on the virus is said to occur through urine and it is thought that transmission during the early stages is highest in the infection. A recent study in British Columbia, of 218 Deer mice showed that 30% (66) were seropositive for B. burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme Disease.


The deer mice feed on seeds, fruits, arthropods, leaves, and fungi; fungi has the least amount of intake. Through out the year, the deer mouse will change it's eating habbits to reflect on what is available to eat during that season. During winter months, the arthropods compose of one-fifth of the deer mouse's food. These include spiders, caterpillars, and heteropterans. During the spring months, seeds become available to eat along with insects which are consumed in large quantities. Leaves are also found in the stomachs of deer mice in the spring seasons. During summer months, the mouse consumes seeds and fruits. During the fall season, the deer mice will slowly change it's eating habits to resemble the winter's diet.


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