Fact vs. Fiction: Deer Mouse


June 12, 2014

Fiction: Deer mice are just outdoor versions of House mice.

Fact: House Mouse (Mus musculus) and all its fancy domesticated cousins are commonly found in houses and other structures, in addition to urban settings, living in close proximity to people. Deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus) belongs to an entirely different family and is larger with a preference for living in cool forest environments and higher elevations. They’re also abundant in pastures, crops, grasslands and brush. They can invade a house, but will hide from human activity in a remote attic corner, crawlspace or basement. Deer mice also tend to hoard and are less stinky than house mice.


Photo courtesy of, and copyrighted by, Gene White

Photo courtesy of, and copyrighted by, Gene White, pmimages@earthlink.net

Fiction: Deer mice only eat fruits and grains.

Fact: Deer mice eat some seeds and berries, but they’d rather dine on bugs. Among their favorites: beetles, grasshoppers, caterpillars and leafhoppers. They eat 15 to 20 times a day, so it’s important to keep spills and storage areas clean so kitchen and pantry areas aren’t visited at night. Keeping areas tidy also makes it easier to spot rodent activity.


Fiction: Deer mice are cute and make adorable pets.

Fact: Deer mice are not aggressive and have big cute ears (kind of like Mickey), but are linked to the spread of the deadly Hantavirus. Unlike other rodent disease threats caused by parasites they carry on their body, the Hantavirus is spread by deer mouse RNA through their feces, urine and saliva. The most common way the virus is spread is by aerosolization (the virus becomes airborne) as the urine and feces dry out. This is why it’s important to wear gloves and a respirator when cleaning out a deer mouse infestation. Not every deer mouse carries the virus, but you don’t want to be inhaling the air around the droppings of the one that does.


You can reach the McGoverns at jeffreymcgovern@mindspring.com.

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