A Look at the Similarities and Differences Between Field Mice and House Mice

The reality is that there exist a tremendous number of different individual species of mice in the United States and around the world. In the U.S.A., the most common types of mice found infesting homes are what commonly are classified as field mice and house mice. Because these do tend to be the most common types of mice seen in communities in the United States, including Southern California, there are some specific bits of information you are wise to know when it comes to the similarities and differences between field mice and house mice.

Field Mouse is Something of a Misnomer

The use of the term field mouse is something of a misnomer. This term leads a person to logically conclude that there is a single species of mouse that has been assigned this moniker. Such a conclusion is false.

In fact, the term field mouse is applied broadly to a number of different types of mice as well as other small rodents that technically are not part of the mouse biological family. In the United States, even house mice sometimes are included within the overall field mouse identifier. With that noted, when reference is made to a field mouse in the United States, more often than not mention is being made to the deer mouse species.

The Importance of Identifying a Mouse Species

As will be discussed in detail in a moment, a person needs to understand as best as possible the type of mouse infesting a residence, business, or other location. This is necessary because of the two common types of mice that invade residences in the U.S.A., the field or deer mouse is the common carrier of a virus known as the hantavirus; the house mouse (at this juncture in time) is not.

Primary Physical Differences Between a Field Mouse (Deer Mouse) and a House Mouse

There are some obvious physical differences between a field mouse and a house mouse:

  • Field mice (deer mice) have tan or brown fur on the top of their bodies, with white bellies, legs, and feet.
  • House mice have solid coats of gray or light brown fur all over their bodies.
  • Field mice have tails with dark fur on top and light fur underneath.
  • House mice have virtually hairless tails.

Nesting Difference Between a Field Mouse and a House Mouse

Field and house mice do display one key difference when it comes to their nesting habits. Field mice store gathered food near their nests. House mice are far less likely to store food in this manner. Thus, absent seeing the type of mouse that has infested a property, a key to ascertaining whether a person faces a field or house mouse is the appearance of the area surrounding a nest.

Natural Habitats of a Field Mouse and a House Mouse

Both types of mice are “at home” living in the out of doors and inside a home or business. Both of these types of mice can be found in forests, meadows, fields, and similar expanses. With that said, house mice are also comfortable in living in outdoor settings that are found in crowded urban or suburban areas. Field mice (deer mice) are not. In fact, field mice are not likely to be found in urban or suburban settings unless there are parks or open fields in close proximity.

Health Risks of the Field Mouse or Deer Mouse

As mentioned a moment ago, the field mouse or deer mouse is the most common rodent carrier of what is known as the hantavirus in the United States at this juncture in time. Historically, individuals who have contracted the hantavirus were nearly always infected by field mouse or deer mouse droppings. There are three other species of rodent which are known to carry the hantavirus in the United States:

  • White-footed mouse
  • Cotton rat
  • Rice rat

As was also noted, as of this time, the common house mouse has yet to be identified as a carrier of hantavirus. But – this does not mean that the common house mouse has not become a carrier of this virus and simply has yet to have been identified as having infected a human. In the alternative, it is entirely possible that a house mouse might become a carrier of hantavirus at a future time.

A field mouse carrying the hantavirus is particularly dangerous for a pair of primary reasons. First, the hantavirus is found in field mouse droppings, including fresh and dried one. Because the virus can survive for an extended period of time in dried field mouse droppings, humans are particularly at risk.

Mouse droppings of all types are highly susceptible to crumbling with even the slightest touch. Indeed, they can crumble without any external contact. When mouse feces crumble, dust from the droppings becomes airborne. In the case of field mouse droppings that crumble, if the rodent is infected with the hantavirus, the virus itself becomes airborne along with the dust. A human can breath in the contaminated dust and become infected with the hantavirus.

Second, a field mouse infected with the hantavirus is dangerous because of an illness that an infected human can suffer. The virus causes what is known as hantavirus pulmonary syndrome in some cases. This is an illness that causes the capillaries (or smallest blood vessels) in an infected person’s lungs to rupture or hemorrhage. When this occurs, a patient’s lungs will fill with blood and fluid. If the condition continues unabated, a person will die.

About 30 percent of all people diagnosed with hantavirus pulmonary syndrome die. There is no treatment for the illness. Those people who do recover are said to have done so “spontaneously.” Physicians currently have no solid explanation for why some people do recover from hantavirus pulmonary syndrome and some do not.

Eradicating Mouse Droppings

Because of the potential health risks associated with mouse droppings, professional assistance is recommended when it comes to remediating or removing this type of biohazard from a residence, business, or other location. A mouse droppings cleanup specialist has the background to safely and thoroughly eliminate potentially dangerous mice feces from a home or business.