There exist a myriad of different mouse species that inhabit the United States. The most common type of mouse in the country at this juncture in time is the rodent commonly known as the house mouse. With that said, the deer mouse has started to garner increasing attention among people in the United States and in some other locations around the world. This is not due to its population, which is not as significant as the house mouse. Rather, the deer mouse continues to gain ever-increasing attention because of diseases the rodent has been confirmed to carry.
Deer mice are also commonly referred to as field mice. Their scientific name is Peromyscus.
Because of the health hazards associated with the deer mouse, it is important for people to be alert to its possible presence in a home, business, or other location. As part of being in tune to the presence of deer mice, you do need to have an essential understanding of what these rodents look like. Having said that, you also need to be aware of other signs that deer mice may have invaded your home, business, or the area surrounding these premises.
Physical Attributes of Deer Mice
As one might surmise, deer mice glean their name from the fact that their fur is rather like that of actual deer. Deer mice have fur on their bodies that is a grayish-brown color. The fur on the top of the deer mice gradually whitens around the belly and down to the legs.
The physical attribute that most sets deer mice apart from other mice is its tail. The tail of deer mice is bicolored. It dark and the top and is light in color at the bottom or tip.
Deer mice are between 4.7 inches to 11 inches in length, from the tip of their nose to the tip of their tail. They weigh between a third to two-thirds of a pound.
At birth, deer mice are hairless and pink. They are blind, with ears tucked in.
Deer mice begin to change color within about 24 hours of birth, although they do not immediately start to grow fur. The color of their bare skin darkens from the bright pink hue that existed at the time of and directly after birth.
On approximately the third day after birth, the ears of baby deer mice begin to unfold. The eyes of baby deer mice open at about the two-week mark. Baby deer are weaned at four weeks from birth.
When fur starts growing on baby deer mice, it has a slightly blue appearance. As deer mice head towards sexual maturity, at about five to eight weeks, the blueish hue disappears altogether and the deer mouse takes on the fur coloration discussed a moment ago.
The Health Hazards Associated with Deer Mice
As mentioned previously, it is important for you to recognize deer mice because of the diseases they potentially carry. There are two specific and potentially serious diseases for which deer mice are known to spread in the United States:
- Lyme disease
Hantavirus was first recognized in the United States about 20 years ago. One of the initial outbreaks of hantavirus infection was in the Four Corner’s region of the United States. This is an area populated with deer mice. Infectious disease researchers soon learned that the individuals who contracted hantavirus did so because of contact with deer mice, specifically with droppings of this rodent.
Hantavirus can survive in deer mice droppings for an extended period of time, even after the feces dry out. Deer mice droppings become especially hazardous when they dry. Dried deer mice droppings crumble very easily. This causes dust from the droppings to become airborne. If hantavirus is present in the droppings, that becomes airborne as well. This can lead to people inhaling the dust and contracting the hantavirus infection.
Hantavirus infection can result in a highly serious disease called hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. This syndrome results in the hemorrhaging of capillaries in an infected person’s lungs. This causes the lungs to fill with blood and other fluids, resulting in death in over 30 percent of cases. There is no treatment or cure for hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. If a person recovers, it occurs spontaneously.
Unlike hantavirus, Lyme disease is not caused by a virus but by bacteria. About 30 percent of deer mice in the United States are thought to carry the bacteria in their systems. In most cases, Lyme disease carried by deer mice is transmitted to humans via ticks that have fed both on deer mice and then on a person.
If left untreated, Lyme disease can spread to the joints, heart, and nervous system. Lyme disease remains an illness that is not always promptly diagnosed because it is confused for some other condition. This particularly was the case 20 years; however, in today’s world, a significantly larger number of cases of Lyme disease are more promptly diagnosed.
Signs of Deer Mice Infestation
As mentioned earlier in this article, deer mice can exist in a home, business, or other location and not be directly seen for an extended period of time. Thus, you also need to appreciate what some of the other signs of a deer mouse infestation are:
- Scratch marks
- Gnaw marks
- Squealing sounds
- Scratching sounds
- Scurrying sounds
- Urine odor
Keep in mind that deer mice are essentially nocturnal animals. This is one of the reasons why they are not easily seen when they infest a home or business. In addition, sounds associated with deer mice are not likely to be heard until after sunset and before dawn.