Differences between Field Mice versus House Mice

So, you’ve just seen a little fury friend run across your floor or yard, and you’re pretty convinced it was a mouse.

The bad news is that you have mice. The good news? Now you know about the problem and can take steps to get rid of them!

However, it’s not enough to simply know that you have mice. You also need to know if your mice are either field mice of house mice.

What are field mice?

Now, what are field mice and what are house mice?

Most people automatically put all mice fall into one category: mice. And while this isn’t incorrect, it can be misleading because there are more than 1,000 species of mice. Field mice and house mice are two of the most common and known types of mice.

“Field mice” is actually not a very scientific term, for it can be used to refer to several types of mice, even including house mice. However, it is mostly commonly used a way to talk about deer mice, and throughout this article, the terms “field mice” and “deer mice” will be used interchangeably and will refer to the same species: deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus).

So, what exactly are field (deer) mice? Deer mice love the outdoors. Typically, they are found in rural areas, in backyards, lawns, sheds, barns, and around the premises of homes. However, they are also known to occasionally creep into our homes, usually when their outdoor space is not ideal, so keep in mind that they are not solely bound to the outdoors.

What are house mice?

Now, what are house mice?

House mice, also called Mus musculus, and sometimes also called field mice (I know, it’s confusing), are the kind of mice homeowners typically find themselves faced with (although not always).

The reason why all of the terminology is so confusing is because house mice can also live in fields. So there are two common types of mice that can both live in fields and both live inside our homes.

The major distinction between the two, other than behavioral and physical differences (more on this later), is that a house mouse prefers to live inside while a deer mouse (house mouse) does not.

Differences between field mice and house mice

So, field mouse vs house mouse…what’s the difference?

There are four important differences to take note of: differences in behavior, physical appearance, dangers posed to humans, and eating habits.

Behavior

A mouse mice is an excellent jumper (able to jump a foot straight up in the air), while a field mouse is an excellent climber.

Because a field mouse can climb up almost anything, it is very easy for them to get into your home if they want to—they can climb up a nearby tree and cross a skinny branch onto your roof, or they can climb up a drainage pipe and enter your roofline.

Physical appearance

  • A house mouse has light brown or gray fur and his coat is quite solid. A field mouse has brown or tan fur with white bellies, legs, and feet. The most noticeable characteristic of a field mouse is his white underbelly hair, which extends to the underneath of its tail.
  • A house mouse’s tail is basically hairless, while a field mouse’s tail is also dark on top and light underneath.
  • A house mouse is about five inches from nose to tail. A field mouse is about seven inches from nose to tail.

Danger (to humans)

Both house mice and deer mice pose very harmful risks to humans.

A house mouse spreads Lymphocytic choriomeningitis, rickettsialpox, and leptospirosis, while a field mouse spreads hantaviruses.

Hantaviruses are especially dangerous because when infected with it, hantavirus can cause hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, which is a severe, and sometimes fatal respiratory disease.

Also, keep in mind that both a house mouse and a field mouse can carry ticks, fleas, lice, and other ectoparasites in their fur, which can all carry diseases of their own, such as Lyme disease. However, deer mice are more prone to ectoparasites because they typically spend more time outside.

Eating habits

A deer mouse stores his food differently than a house mouse.

A deer mouse gathers his food, such as stolen crumbs and seeds, near his nest, while a house mouse typically does not. A house mouse generally likes to eat whatever he can find as soon as he finds it.

This is important to note because it means that using certain types of bait traps may be problematic if you are dealing with deer mice. For example, because a deer mouse likes to hoard his food, if you put out rodenticides, the deer mouse will most likely gather as much of it as he can and bring it to his nest, essentially wasting most, if not all, of the box of poison that you put out.

What do you do if you find a deer mouse in your home?

If you find a deer mouse in your home, don’t panic…there are effective ways to get rid of them!

Once you have identified the mouse to be a deer mouse, the next step you should take is assess your situation. Have you seen just one mouse or many? Are there mouse droppings all over your house? Are you noticing bad smells coming from your walls? These are questions to ask yourself to help you determine whether or not you have just one mouse or an infestation.

Once you have a better understanding of your situation, it’s time to actually get rid of them.

Best ways to get rid of field and deer mice

The two best ways to eliminate field and deer mice are to…

  • keep your home CLEAN and free of crumbs and unsealed/unpacked foods
  • implement trapping strategies

Keeping your home free of easily accessible food is essential to fixing your problem. If you do not get rid of your mice’s food source, they will continue to come back, even if your trapping methods work.

Once your home is up to the proper standards, you can then start capturing or killing the mice.

The best trapping methods that have proven the test of time are

Remember, it’s best to avoid using rodenticides, for a deer mouse will likely hoard the poison.

Lastly, it is vital to take the proper safety precautions. Mice spread diseases through their urine and droppings, and so a respirator, gloves, and eyewear should always be used when cleaning up a mouse related mess.

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