Love them or hate them, mice are quite common in nature. In fact, there are over 1,100 species worldwide. Of those, 200 call North America home. Many of these have adapted to living among humans and may even be nesting somewhere in your home.
Don’t worry, these critters are far less likely to be hanging with you in your living room than a basement or attic. In fact, most mice do their best to avoid people unless there’s no alternative source of food, warmth, and shelter.
However, when they do move in, knowing the particular species of mouse can help you figure out what attracted them. Note that we will be only covering species found primarily in the United States, as an international list would require a small book.
Aw, Rats! Is it a Mouse or Not?
Mouse vs Rat
The only actual difference between rats and mice is the size. Members of the superfamily Muroidea that exceed a certain size are referred to as rats, while smaller species are referred to as mice. This means the terms are somewhat interchangeable.
In fact, so are their genes, and it’s not uncommon for mice and rats to have fertile offspring together. As a general rule, however, all members of the genus Mus are considered to be mice.
See Also: How to Get Rid of Rats
Some Common Threads
Before we get into some different common mice, it’s a good idea to cover some equally common ground between them. As a general rule, wild mice will only invade your home in search of food sources or winter shelter. The only truly domestic mouse are the house mouse, which is also the most common pet mouse.
No matter the species, mouse droppings tend to look the same, with rats having a larger version. Mice are very clean critters, but that doesn’t mean they can’t carry harmful diseases, such as hantavirus pulmonary syndrome.
They can also carry rat fleas, which are one of the known carriers of bubonic plague. Always use caution when handling a feral mouse or making contact with mouse excrement.
Agricultural settings tend to have a higher risk of mouse infestations than urban settings. However, the severity of the infestation and risk of structural damage can be higher in the latter.
Finally, mice can be mistaken for another species of rodent, the vole. As with most common mouse species, voles can be common pests. And much like female mice, they have a fast breeding rate. This is why any rodent intrusion into your home should be dealt with quickly.
Types of Mice
#1 – Coarse-Furred Pocket Mouse (Chaetodipus spp.)
These critters have tails generally between 4 and 4.75 inches long, often with crests and bodies ranging from 3 to 3.75 inches in length. Their elongated, narrow hind feet have bare soles and allow them to jump longer distances.
Native to desert climates, they tend to spend the winter hiding in their burrows and are excellent diggers. Coarse-furred pocket mice prefer rocky to sandy soil.
Select Coarse-Furred Pocket Mouse Breeds and Habitat:
- Bailey’s Pocket Mouse (Chaetodipus baileyi): Southern Arizona and Southwestern New Mexico to Northwestern Mexico
- Baja Pocket Mouse (Chaetodipus rudinoris): Southeastern California to Northwestern Mexico
- California Pocket Mouse (Chaetodipus californicus): California
- Desert Pocket Mouse (Chaetodipus penicillatus): Southeast California to Northwest New Mexico
- Hispid Pocket Mouse (Chaetodipus hispidus): North Dakota to Western Louisiana and Arizona
- Long-Tailed Pocket Mouse (Chaetodipus formosus): Nevada and Western Utah to East California
- Nelson’s Pocket Mouse (Chaetodipus nelsoni): Southwestern Texas and Southeastern New Mexico to Northern Mexico
- Rock Pocket Mouse (Chaetodipus intermedius): Southern Utah to Arizona and Southwestern Texas
- San Diego Pocket Mouse (Chaetodipus fallax): East California to Western Utah and Northwest Arizona
- Spiny Pocket Mouse (Chaetodipus spinatus): Southern California
See Also: 11 Types of Ants in California
#2 – Deer Mouse (Peromyscus spp.)
Very similar in size and shape to the common house mouse, deer mice are a little larger and strictly nocturnal. Their large eyes and ears are designed to give them superior sensitivity in low light conditions. They don’t like inclement weather and will normally hide in their nests when a storm approaches.
Average body lengths for deer mice and their subspecies range from 2.75 to 3.75 inches in body length with tails roughly the same length or slightly closer to 3 inches. The biggest exception to this is the pinion mouse, whose body and tail are each an impressive 4 to 4.75 long.
The tails are generally bicolored with light hair with the exception of the deer mouse whose tail has heavy fur. Some species also sport a tuft on the tip.
Deer Mouse Breeds and Ranges:
- Brush Mouse (Peromyscus boylii): Southwestern to West Coast US
- Cactus Mouse (Peromyscus eremicus): Southern California to Western Texas
- California Mouse (Peromyscus californicus): Native to California
- Canyon Mouse (Peromyscus crinitus): Southwestern US and Idaho
- Cotton Mouse (Peromyscus gossypinus): Southeastern US
- Eastern Deer Mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus)*: Most of North America with the exception of the southeastern seaboard
- Keen’s Mouse (Peromyscus keeni): Northwest Washington to Western Canada
- Northern Rock Mouse (Peromyscus nasutus): Colorado to Western Texas
- Oldfield AKA Beach Mouse (Peromyscus polionotus): Southeastern US
- Pinon Mouse (Peromyscus truei): Oregon and Colorado to New Mexico and Western Texas
- Texas Mouse (Peromyscus attwateri): Midwestern US
- White-Ankled Mouse (Peromyscus pectoralis): Texas and Mexican Plateau
- White-Footed Mouse (Peromyscus leucopus): South Canada to Central and Eastern US
(* There’s a lot of ongoing debate about this genus, with many different mouse species and subspecies being associated with it over the years. Therefore, its exact range should be considered variable as genetic-level classification efforts continue.)
#3 – Harvest Mouse (Reithrodontomys spp.)
This genus of mice have bodies generally ranging from 2 to 2.5 inches long (salt marsh and fulvous harvest mice grow up to 2.75 inches long) and tails that are furry and at least partially bicolor.
Most species have longer tail lengths measuring as long as 3.9 inches on the fulvous harvest mouse. What sets them apart, however, is the two-note call they make around dusk.
Harvest Mouse Breeds and Ranges:
- Eastern Harvest Mouse (Reithrodontomys humulis): Southwestern US to Northern Mexico
- Fulvous Harvest Mouse (Reithrodontomys fulvescens): South Central US
- Plains Harvest Mouse (Reithrodontomys montanus): East of Rocky Mountain range, Midwestern US
- Salt-Marsh Harvest Mouse (Reithrodontomys raviventris): San Francisco Bay (Endangered; call a professional for removal!)
- Western Harvest Mouse (Reithrodontomys megalotis): Southwest Canada to South Central Mexico and east as far as Indiana
#4 – Golden Mouse (Ochrotomys nuttalli)
Named for its attractive orange-brown back and pale sides, the golden mouse has a body and bicolored tail each measuring 2.75 to 3 inches.
They’re commonly seen throughout Southern US. While a different species, it’s often considered part of the deer mouse family.
#5 – Grasshopper Mouse (Onychomys)
Ranging 3.5 to 4.5 inches long with shorter hairless, multicolor tails measuring 1.5 to 2 inches long. These mice get their name from their more insect-oriented diets.
Grasshopper mouse breeds and Habitats:
- Mearn’s Grasshopper Mouse (Onychomys arenicola): Native to Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas
- Northern Grasshopper Mouse (Onychomys leucogaster): The largest breed, concentrated in Arizona, California, and Texas, but may be found throughout North America
- Southern Grasshopper Mouse (Onychomys leucogaster): Found in Southern California to Western Nevada.
#6 – House Mouse (Mus musculus)
Sometimes referred to as true mice, the house mouse gets its name because it’s most often found cohabiting with humans. In fact, it’s actually the second most common mammal in the world after Homo sapien. It’s a uniformly brown-grey mouse with surprising intelligence.
House mice are infamous for leaving women on chairs and brown cupcake sprinkles all over the countertops. This type is also often responsible for that dead mouse smell in the garage. However, despite their shy nature, these little guys can be quite friendly and tend to make great pets.
One subspecies, Mus musculus Disnicus, is a rare, highly developed breed that tends to walk on its hind legs and averages approximately 2 feet, 3 inches high and 23 to 30 pounds. The breed was first discovered in 1928. There are only a handful of known examples of this curious subspecies, however they are well cared for and at low risk of extinction.
Related: Can Mice Climb Walls?
A more unique category of mice, jumping mice are fairly large, with a general body length of 3.5 inches and bicolored tails ranging from 5.5 to 5.75 inches in length.
They have unusually long feet which allow them to hop distances as long as 10 feet.
Jumping Mouse Breeds and Habitats:
- Meadow Jumping Mouse (Zapus hudsonius): Northeastern US
- Pacific Jumping Mouse (Zapus trinotatus): Northwestern Coastal US
- Western Jumping Mouse (Zapus princeps): California to New Mexico
#8 – Kangaroo Mouse (Microdipodops spp.)
Sharing the family Heteromyidae with pocket mice and kangaroo rats, kangaroo mice have thick, hairy tails about 3.5 inches long which taper at both ends and are bicolored.
Both species have 2.75 inch long bodies, although the pale breed has a small tuft on the end of their tail.
Kangaroo Mouse Breeds and Habitat:
- Dark Kangaroo Mouse (Microdipodops megacephalus): Oregon to California and east to Nevadsa and Idaho
- Pale Kangaroo Mouse (Microdipodops pallidus): California and Nevada
#9 – Northern Pygmy Mouse (Baiomys taylori)
Located in the Southwestern US, these mice have shorter, nearly hairless tails. They have a dark grey-brown back and grey sides, making them fairly easy to spot. The body generally grows to between 2 and 2.5 inches with a tail length of 1.5 to 1.75 inches.
#10 – Silky Pocket Mouse (Perognathus spp.)
Boasting silky soft fur, these mice are a little smaller than their coarse-furred cousins, with bodies measuring 2.25 to 3.25 inches in length.
The tails vary greatly between breeds, ranging from 1.75 to 3.5 inches in length, sometimes nude, sometimes furry or tufted, and possibly bicolor. Their fur gets its softness from natural oils that can become greasy if they don’t take regular dust baths.
Silky Pocket Mouse Breeds and Habitat:
- Arizona Pocket Mouse (Perognathus amplus): Arizona to Northern Mexico
- Great Basin Pocket Mouse (Perognathus parvus): Arizona, California, and Montana (AKA the Great Basin)
- Little Pocket Mouse (Perognathus longimembris): Oregon to Northern Mexico, Arizona and Nevada
- Merriam’s Pocket Mouse (Perognathus merriami): Oklahoma, New Mexico, Texas, and writing travel-sized dictionaries
- Olive-Backed Pocket Mouse (Perognathus fasciatus): Colorado and Utah
- Plains Pocket Mouse (Perognathus flavescens): New Mexico, Minnesota, North Dakota, amd Texas
- San Joaquin Pocket Mouse (Perognathus inornatus): Western California
- Silky Pocket Mouse (Perognathus flavus): Mexican plateau and Great Plains areas
- White-Eared Pocket Mouse (Perognathus alticola): Southern California
Honorable Mention: Field Mouse
Known for their dark brown bodies and white feet, the field mouse is a common sight in the US – or is it? In reality, what Americans refer to as a field mouse is actually a vole. These hail from the subfamily Arvicolinae and come from the same family as most North American mice.
The real field mouse is actually from the genus Apodemus and is native to Asia, Europe, and Northern Africa. The wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus) is an excellent example of the kinds of field mice you may encounter when travelling.