40            White-footed Mouse

                           MUS LEUCOPUS.--RAFINESQUE
                             [Peromyscus leucopus]

                          AMERICAN WHITE-FOOTED MOUSE.
                              [White-footed Mouse]

                      PLATE XL.--MALE, FEMALE, AND YOUNG.

     Cauda elongata, villosa; auribus magnis; supra fulvo-fuscescens subtus
albus; pedibus albis.

     Tail, long and hairy; ears, large; yellowish brown above; feet and lower
parts of the body, white.


     MUS SYLVATICUS, Forster, Phil. Trans., vol. lxii., p. 380.
     FIELD-RAT, Penn., Hist. Quad., vol. ii., p. 185.
     FIELD-RAT, Arctic Zool., vol. i., p. 131.
     MUSCULUS LEUCOPUS, Rafinesque, Amer. Month. Review, Oct. 1818, p. 444.
     MUS LEUCOPUS, Desmar. Mamm., esp. 493.
     MUS SYLVATICUS, Harlan, Fauna, p. 151.
     MUS AGRARIUS, Godm., Nat. Hist., vol. ii., p. 88.
     MUS LEUCOPUS, Richardson, F. B. A., p. 142.
     ARVICOLA NUTTALLII, Harlan, variety.
     ARVICOLA EMMONSII, Emm., Mass. Report, p. 61.
     MUS LEUCOPUS, Dekay, Nat. Hist. N. Y., pl. 1, p. 82.


     Head, of moderate size; muzzle, sharp pointed; eyes, large; ears, large,
membranous, rounded above, nearly naked.  There are a few short hairs on the
margins, on both surfaces, not sufficient to conceal the integument.  Whiskers,
longer than the head.
     The form of this species is delicate and of fine proportions; the fur
(which is not very long) is soft and fine, but not lustrous.
     Feet, slender, and clothed with short adpressed hairs, covering the toes
and nails; there are four toes on the fore-feet, with six tubercles on each
palm; the thumb is rudimentary, and covered by a very small blunt nail.  The
nails are small, sharp, and hooked; the hind-feet are long, especially the
tarsal bones; the toes are longer than on the fore-feet.  The tail is round,
slender, tapering, and thickly clothed with short hairs; no scales being visible
like those on the common mouse, (Mus musculus.)


     Fur, from the roots to near the extremity, dark bluish-gray; on the upper
parts, brownish yellow; being a little darker on the crown and back, and lighter
on the sides; the colour of the cheeks and hips approaches reddish-brown.  The
above is the colour of this species through the winter and until it sheds its
hair late in spring, when it assumes a bluish-gray tint, a little lighter than
that of the common Mouse.  Whiskers, white and black; upper surface of the tail,
the colour of the back.  The lips, chin, throat, feet, legs, and the whole under
surface of the body and tail, are pure white.  On the sides, this colour extends
high up along the flanks; there is a very distinct line of demarcation between
the colours of the back and sides.
     There are some varieties in this species; specimens which we examined, from
Labrador, Hudson's Bay, and Oregon, were lighter in colour, and the white on the
under surface extended farther toward the back, than on those from the Atlantic
States; we also observed a striking difference in the length of their tails,
some being longer than the body, whilst others were not much more than half the
length.  In size they also differ widely; we have seen some that are scarcely
larger than the common mouse, whilst others are nearly double that size; they
are considerably larger in Carolina than in the Eastern States.



     Length of head and body.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  2 1/4
     Length of tail.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  2 1/2

Another specimen.                                       Inches.

     Length of head and body.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  3 1/2
     Length of tail.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  3 1/4


     Next to the common mouse, this is the most abundant and widely diffused
species of mouse in North America.  We have received it (under various names)
from every State in the Union, and from Labrador, Hudson's Bay, and the Columbia
River.  Being nocturnal in its habits, it is far more common than is generally
supposed.  In familiar localities, where we had never known of its existence, we
found it almost the only species taken in traps at night.
     The White-footed Mouse is an exceedingly active species.  It runs, leaps,
and climbs, with great facility.  We have observed it taking up its abode in a
deserted squirrel's nest, thirty feet from the earth; we have seen a family of
five or six scamper from a hollow in an oak that had just been cut down; we have
frequently found them in the loft of a corn-house or stable in Carolina; and at
times have discovered their nests under stone-heaps or old logs, or in the
     In New-Jersey their favourite resorts are isolated cedars growing on the
margins of damp places, where green briars (Smilax rotundifolio and S. herbacea)
connect the branches with the ground, and along the stems of which they climb
     When started from their nests in these trees, they descend along the vines
in safety to the earth.  When thus disturbed, however, if the nest is at some
distance from the ground, they hesitate before they come down, and go out on a
branch perhaps, to scrutinize the vicinity, and, if not farther molested, appear
satisfied, and again retreat to their nests.  They have been known to take
possession of deserted bird's nests--such as those of the cat-bird, red-winged
starling, song thrush, or red-eyed flycatcher.
     In the northern part of New-York we could always obtain specimens from
under the sheaves of wheat that were usually stacked in the harvest fields for a
few days before they were carried into the barn.  We have also occasionally
found their nests on bushes, from five to fifteen feet from the ground.  They
are in these cases constructed with nearly as much art and ingenuity as the
nests of the Baltimore Oriole.  There are several nests now lying before us,
that were found near Fort Lee, New-Jersey.  They are seven inches in length and
four in breadth, the circumference measuring thirteen inches; they are of an
oval shape and are outwardly composed of dried moss and a few slips of the inner
bark of some wild grape-vine; other nests are more rounded, and are composed of
dried leaves and moss.  We have sometimes thought that two pair of these Mice
might occupy the same nest, as we possess one, nine niches in length and eight
inches in diameter, which has two entrances, six inches apart, so that in such a
case the little tenants need not have interfered with each other.  The entrance
in all the nests is from below, and about the size of the animal.
     When we first discovered this kind of nest we were at a loss to decide
whether it belonged to a bird or a quadruped; on touching the bush, however, we
saw the little tenant of this airy domicile escape.  At our next visit she left
the nest so clumsily and made her way along the ground so slowly, that we took
her up in our hand, when we discovered that she had four young about a fourth
grown, adhering so firmly to the teats that she dragged them along in the manner
of the jumping mouse (Meriones Americanus), or of the Florida rat.  We preserved
this little family alive for eighteen months, during which time the female
produced several broods of young.  During the day they usually concealed
themselves in their nests, but as soon as it was dark they became very active
and playful, running up and down the wires of their cages, robbing each other's
little store-houses of various grains that had been carried to them, and
occasionally emitting the only sound we ever heard them utter--a low squeak
resembling that of the common mouse.  We have been informed by WILLIAM COOPER,
Esq., of Weehawken, New-Jersey, an intelligent and close observer, to whom
science is indebted for many excellent papers on various branches of natural
history, that this species, when running off with its young to a place of
safety, presses its tail closely under its abdomen to assist in holding them on
to the teats--a remarkable instance of the love of offspring.
     The White-footed Mouse seems less carnivorous than most of its kindred
species.  We found it when in confinement always dragging to its nest any kind
of meat we placed in the cage, but it was generally left there unconsumed.  We
have often caught it in traps set for larger animals and baited with meat.  Its
first object is to drag the meat to its little store-house of provisions; the
bait, however, being tied with a string to the pan of the steel-trap is not so
easily carried off; but without much loss of time the Mouse gnaws the string in
two, and if not caught in the attempt, drags off the meat.  Our friend, the late
Dr. JOHN WRIGHT, of Troy, furnished us with information confirming the above; he
says, "In trapping for a weasel last summer I tied bits of beef above each trap
with twine.  On my first visit to the traps I found the twine at one, cut, and
the meat in the jaws of the trap.  The next day the same thing was observed at
one of the traps, but another held fast a specimen of the Mus leucopus.  I am
informed that the trapper is not unfrequently troubled in this manner."
     We have known this Mouse to cut into pieces snares set for the ruffed
grouse, placed in gaps left for the purpose in fences of brushwood.
     In its wild state it is continually laying up little stores of grain and
grass seeds.  We have seen it carrying in its mouth acorns and chinquepins.  In
the Northern States, these little hoards are often composed wholly of wheat; in
the South, of rice.  This species, like all rats and mice, is fond of
Indian-corn, from which it only extracts the choicest sweetest portions, eating
the heart and leaving the rest untouched.
     In thickly settled parts of the United States this Mouse avoids dwellings,
and even outhouses, and either confines itself to the woods, or keeps near
fences, stone-heaps, &c.; but in partially deserted houses, or in newly formed
settlements, it seems to take the place of the common mouse.  RICHARDSON states
that in the fur countries it becomes an inmate of the dwelling houses.  Dr.
LEITNER, an eminent botanist, who, whilst acting as surgeon in the army, was
unfortunately killed in the Florida war, informed us that whilst on a botanizing
tour through Florida a few years ago, he was frequently kept awake during a
portion of the night by the White-footed Mice which had taken possession of the
huts of the Indians and the log cabins of the early white settlers.  We are
under an impression that in these localities the common cat, and the Norway rat,
were both absent; as we have reason to believe that this species deserts
premises whenever they are frequented by either of the above animals.  We kept a
pair of white Norway rats (Albino variety) separated by a partition from an
interesting family of white-footed mice, but before we were aware of it, the
rats gnawed through the partition and devoured all our little pets.
     This is a timid and very gentle species; we have seldom known it to bite
when taken into the hand, and have observed that in a state of confinement it
suffered itself to be killed by the very carnivorous cotton-rat (Sigmodon
hispidum) without making any resistance.
     We are disposed to believe that this species produces at least two litters
of young in a season, in the Northern States, and three, in the Southern.  In
the State of New-York we have seen the young every month from May to September;
and in Carolina a female that was kept in confinement had young three times,
first having three, at a second litter five, and having six at a third.
     The White-footed Mouse has many enemies.  Foxes, wild-cats, and owls,
destroy it frequently; the house-cat strays into the fields and along fences in
search of it.  In Carolina some domesticated cats live in the fields and woods
in a partially wild state, avoiding houses altogether; these subsist on birds
and the smaller rodentia, and this species furnishes a considerable portion of
their food; but we are disposed to regard the ermine (common weasel) as its most
formidable and voracious persecutor.  We believe that the White-footed Mouse
does not always dig a burrow of its own, but that it takes possession of one dug
by some other small species; in the Northern States, generally that of the
chipping squirrel.  Be this as it may, it is certain, that wherever the
White-footed Mouse can enter, the ermine can follow, and he not only feeds upon
it, but destroys whole families.  An ermine at one time made its escape from us,
carrying with it a small portion of a chain fastened around its neck:  it was
traced by a servant over the snow a mile into the woods, to a spot where it
entered a very small hole.  It was dug out, and the man brought us five or six
Mice, of this species, that he found dead in the hole, having been killed,
doubtless, by the ermine.  From appearances, two only had been devoured; the
remainder we observed had not been seized by the throat in the manner of the
cat, but had the marks of the ermine's teeth in their skulls.
     We do not regard this species as doing very extensive injury either to the
garden or farm, in any of the Atlantic States of America.  We suspect that its
reputation in this respect, as well as that of the shrew-mole, has been made to
suffer very unjustly, when in reality the author of the mischief is the little
pine-mouse (Arvicola pinetorum, LE CONTE), or perhaps WILSON's meadow-mouse,
Arvicola Pennsylvanica, ORD, A. hirsutus, EMMONS, and DEKAY).  The farmers and
gardeners of the Northern and Eastern States, however, complain that this Mouse,
which they generally call the "Deer-mouse," destroys many of their
cabbage-plants and other young and tender vegetables, and gnaws the bark from
young fruit trees; and if they have made no mistake in regard to the species, it
must be much more destructive than we have heretofore considered it.

                           GEOGRAPHICAL DISTRIBUTION.

     According to RICHARDSON, this species is found as far north as Great Bear
Lake.  We saw in the London museums several specimens from Hudson's Bay; it
extends across the continent to the Columbia River on the Pacific, from whence
Mr. TOWNSEND brought us several skins.  We received specimens from Florida by
Dr. LEITNER; We found it west of the Mississippi at Fort Union, where it commits
depredations in the garden attached to the Fort, and we have received specimens
from Arkansas and Texas.

                             GENERAL REMARKS.

     That a species so widely distributed, and subject to so many varieties in
size, length of tail, and colour, should have been often described under
different names, is not surprising.  We have ourselves often been in a state of
doubt on obtaining some striking variety.  The name Hypudaeus gossipinus of our
friend, Major LE CONTE, (See Appendix to MCMURTRIE's translation of Cuv. An.
Kingd., vol. i., p. 434,) was intended for this species, as it is found in the
Southern States.  We were for several years disposed to regard it as distinct,
and have, not without much hesitation, and after an examination of many hundred
specimens, been induced to set it down as a variety only.
     We have adopted the name given to it by RAFINESQUE, in deference to the
opinions of RICHARDSON, who supposed that it applied to this species.
RICHARDSON himself, however,--not RAFINESQUE,--gave a true description of it.
     GODMAN, in describing Mus agrarius, we feel confident, had reference to
this species.  He had, however, never seen the European Mus agrarius Of PALLAS,
else he would not have made so great a mistake; we have on several occasions in
Denmark and Germany compared them, and found that they scarcely bear any
resemblance to each other.  Mus agrarius has a short tail and short hairy ears.
FORSTER, and HARLAN, refer this species to Mus sylvaticus of Europe.  FORSTER's
specimens came from Hudson's Bay at an early period, when it was customary to
consider American species of Quadrupeds and Birds as mere varieties of those of
Europe.  HARLAN, instead of describing from an American specimen, literally
translated DESMAREST's description of the European Mus sylvaticus and applied it
to our species, (see Mam. p. 301,) in doing which, by neglecting to institute a
comparison, he committed a great error.
     We were favoured with the privilege of comparing specimens of Mus
sylvaticus and M. leucopus, through the kindness of Prof. LICHTENSTEIN at the
Berlin museum.  Although there is a general resemblance, a moment's examination
will enable the naturalist to discover sufficient marks of difference to induce
him to separate the species.  Mus leucopus has a little longer tail.  Its ears
are longer, but not so broad.  The under surface of the tail of Mus sylvaticus
is less white, and the white on the under surface of the body does not extend as
high on the sides, nor is there any distinct line of separation between the
colours of the back and under surface, which is a striking characteristic in the
American species.  But they may always be distinguished from each other at a
glance by the following mark:  in more than twenty specimens we examined of Mus
sylvaticus we have always found a yellowish line edged with dark-brown on the
breast.  In many hundred specimens of Mus leucopus we have without a single
exception found this yellow line entirely wanting, all of them being pure white
on the breast, as well as on the whole under surface.  We have no hesitation in
pronouncing the species distinct.