Peromyscus leucopus, more commonly known as the “white footed mouse,” is a common rodent species found in most of the eastern US, eastern Canada, and some midwestern states, but this species’ western distribution does not extend beyond the Rocky Mountains. These mice are around 3.5 inches long and their coat is reddish-brown with the exception of their white belly. The white-footed mouse is the most abundant mouse species in forested areas in the eastern US where acorns serve as their primary food source. However, white-footed mice eat many types of food, and they are capable of thriving in a variety of different environments, including suburban and urban environments.
It is often said that the white-footed mouse is the second most common mouse pest species in the US after the house mouse, and they often invade homes to seek shelter during the winter season in Maine. As indoor pests, white-footed mice are similar to house mice, as they cause significant damage to furniture upholstery, clothing, paper, mattresses and other valued materials in order to gather material for nest building. White-footed mice establish nests in wall voids, and their droppings and urine are often found within infested homes. Since white-footed mice thrive in forested areas in the northeast, they share a habitat with deer ticks, also known as black-legged ticks. In fact, white-footed mice are the primary carriers of Borrelia burgdorferi, which is the bacteria that causes lyme disease.
The white-footed mouse is the most common host of blood-feeding deer ticks, and deer ticks are considered the most dangerous tick species in the US due to the frequency with which they spread lyme disease. Since ticks acquire lyme by feeding on infected white-footed mice, the mice are considered the main culprit in the spread of lyme. In some regions, very few white-footed mice in a population carry lyme bacteria, but experts state that up to 90 percent of white-footed mice from Virginia to Maine carry lyme bacteria. Obviously, unusually high white-footed mouse populations in the northeast will ultimately result in an unusually high rate of lyme infections among residents in the region. Unfortunately, warmer winters and an abundance of acorns during recent winters has caused white-footed mouse populations to skyrocket in the northeast. Increasing temperatures are making more northern areas in Maine more hospitable to white-footed mice, and they are already becoming more common than usual in the state.
Have you ever experienced pest issues involving white-footed mice?