Mouse and Rat Species of New York (Upstate)

<< Back to New York Wildlife < Mammals

About Mice and Rats

Mice and rats are rodents, often considered pests, many of which are native wild species that lived in this region long before home and farms existed to infest. Today, many of them, including non-native species, have adapted to life alongside humans. Their presence does not necessarily equal infestation or squalor conditions, rather that food, water, and nesting sites are adequate.

Rodents have the typical large, broad, and yellow incisors, adapted for constant gnawing. These teeth continuously grow, replacing what is worn away by the gnawing of wood, plastic, and even metal. The teeth are well adapted for grains and fruits, although some rodents supplement their diet with insects and worms. With long tails, large snouts, and large external ears, these small rodents are very adaptable and prolific and can be found pretty much everywhere around the world. In New York we have 3 rat and 5 mouse species, with one invasive (but established) rat, and one native species presumed to be eliminated from the state.

Mouse / Rat Books and Field Guides

 

Humane Capture / Control for Mice and Rats

 

New York State Mouse / Rat Species Identification Guide

Allegheny woodrat
Allegheny woodrat
Find more images

Allegheny woodrat
(Neotoma magister)

AKA: Packrat

Identifying characteristics: A medium-sized rodent similar in appearance to the Norway Rat, but has larger, near-naked ears and a sparsely haired tail (with dark gray hair on the top and cream on the bottom). The hair is brownish-gray in color with a lighter shade along the sides. The under parts and feet are a cream color. They have 4 toes on the front feet and five on the hind feet.

Size: Averaging 15 inches in length (including their 6-8 in. tail) and weigh from 7-12 oz.

Habitat: Wooded or open areas with piles of large boulders in such numbers where their positioning forms deep and complex tunnel systems. Overhangs with ledges. Rocky cliff and caves. Sparse vegetation. Nests are made out of shredded bark or grasses surrounded by large quantities of twigs and sticks.

Food: Herbivore. Fruits, nuts, berries and green plants. Preference for red oak acorns. They will collect large quantities of food and store them in rock crevices for the winter.

Vocalization: Squeaks. May also thump its feet on the ground or chatter its teeth to warn others.

Predators: Owls and other birds of prey, bobcats, foxes, skunks, raccoons, weasels.

Reproduction: Litter size average 2 with 2 to 3 litters a year. Mating season is from spring to fall.

Other Info.: Primarily nocturnal and solitary, with frequent disputes between neighbors. Due to a limited habitat of rocky outcrops, large populations are usually condensed into small spaces. Woodrats tend to collect oddities, such as bones, coins, shiny objects or human trash and pile it around their homes (hence the nickname “Packrat.”) They also have designated latrines – shared by multiple individuals. They do not hibernate and are active year-round.

Distribution

Assumed to be eliminated from NY state, but found in regions of the Appalachian mountains to the south. Some populations may still exist, confirmed by the discovery of latrine areas, but specimens have not been found.

Status: Endangered / Extirpated in NY state.

The decline of the species is most likely due to the raccoon roundworm parasite, but other factors may include loss of habitat, decline of chestnut production (due to Gypsy Moth infestation) and severe winters.

Tracks

Tracks

Look for 1 inch long, 5-toed hind prints and smaller 4-toed foreprints. Prominent toe pads. Prints will be in groups of 4.

Black RatBlack Rat
Find more images

Black Rat
(Rattus rattus)

AKA: House rat, Domestic rat, Ship rat, Roof rat.

Identifying characteristics: A relatively large member of the mouse family and a medium-sized rat. It has fine black hair that is lighter underneath. Color patterns may exist in isolated populations or within those bred as pets. The ears are large (larger than the Norway rat), rounded and naked. The tail is naked and longer than the length of the body.

Size: Averaging 7 inches in length (not including their tail, which is always longer than their body) and weighs roughly 7 ounces. Males are larger than females. They are generally smaller than the Norway rat.

Habitat: Black rats inhabit the same spaces humans do and pretty much anywhere that offers food and shelter. High reaching places are often preferred, such as trees, attics, roofs and top floors. In the wild, they will generally stick to wooded areas. Nests are made from grass, leaves, twigs, paper, or anything they can find. Usually within walls, in trees, or sometimes in burrows.

Food: Omnivorous. Rats are opportunistic foragers. Fruits, grain and other plant material. They will also feed on insects and their larvae when available. Those that live with humans tend to feed on human food and trash as well as livestock feed.

Vocalization: Squeaks, chirps, clucks.

Predators: Humans, owls and other birds of prey, cats, dogs, snakes, foxes, weasels.

Reproduction: Litter size averages 8 with roughly 5 litters a year. The young stay with the family for about 3-4 weeks. Mating occurs year-round and tends to peak during the summer and autumn.

Other Info.: They are primarily nocturnal and highly social. They live in family packs of several individuals and a dominant male. Although they are adequate swimmers, they rarely enter water. They are superb climbers and prefer being up high to avoid predators. In the wild they are usually found in trees. The black rat is the primary reason for the spread of the bubonic plague, which is spread through the fleas it carries.

Distribution

Complete distribution

Common all over the state,  surrounding states, and around the world. Numbers seem to be decreasing as the more aggressive Norway rat’s numbers increase.

Status: Invasive

Tracks

Rat Tracks

Look for 1/2 to 2 inches long, 5-toed hind prints and 4-toed fore prints that are less than half as long. Hind prints may slightly overlap with fore prints. The tail drags.

Look for nests in tangled vines or in trees next to buildings.

Deer Mouse
Deer Mouse
Find more images
Caution
Deer mice are carriers of the Hantavirus as well as ticks bearing Lyme disease. The Hantavirus can be deadly to humans. Do not handle these mice or their droppings.

Deer Mouse
(Peromyscus maniculatus)

Identifying characteristics: A small mouse, slightly smaller than the house mouse, with grayish to reddish-brown fur on top and whitish under parts. The tail is short-haired and bi-colored with darker fur on top and lighter fur underneath. The body is round and slender, with a large head and pointed snout with whiskers. The ears are large and round. The eyes are large and black. There are two forms, the woodland variety tends to have a longer body and tail as well as larger feet and ears than the prairie form.

Size: From 4.5 to 8.5 inches in length (not including their tail, which ranges from 2 to 5 inches). They weigh up to 0.8 ounces. Males are roughly double the size of females.

Habitat: Found in pretty much any habitat in NY, but most commonly in prairies, brush, and woodland. The prairie variety nests in burrows just below ground level. They are either dug by the mice themselves, or abandoned by other animals. The woodland variety builds theirs near the ground on stumps, in tree cavities, piles of debris, or in buildings. Woodland nests may be abandoned bird nests or made out of plant matter.

Food: Omnivorous. Insects, fruits, vegetables, seeds, plants, various invertebrates, sometimes their own feces. They will often cache nuts in logs or nests for winter.

Vocalization: Squeaks. May also thump its feet on the ground or chatter its teeth to warn others.

Predators: Owls and other birds of prey, bobcats, skunks, foxes, raccoons, weasels.

Reproduction: Litter size averages 5 with multiple litters a year. The young stay with their mother for just over a month. Mating occurs year round, but is more frequent during warmer temperatures.

Other Info.: Nocturnal and social, they live as family units, but more may group together for warmth in the winter. There are over 100 subspecies of deer mouse, with overlapping territories and frequent cross-breeding. They are excellent climbers and are often found in trees. They do not hibernate.

Distribution

Complete distribution

Found throughout the state and neighboring states.

Status: none

Tracks

Mouse tracks

In mud whole heels and toes may be visible, but commonly you will find just pads and claws. 5-toed hind prints are about a half inch long and 4-toed fore prints are smaller. Prints will be in groups of 4.

Look for droppings that look like black grains of rice.

 

House mouse
House Mouse
Find more images

House Mouse
(Mus musculus)

AKA: Mouse

Identifying characteristics: A small mouse, with soft brown or black fur with lighter underparts (but not white like the Deer Mouse). The long, slender tails and large round ears do not have fur. The eyes are large, black and beady. The whiskers are long. Those that live closely alongside humans may be darker and have longer tails than wilder varieties.

Size: From 2.5 to 4 inches in length (not including their tail, which can be up to half of their total length). They weigh up to 1 ounce.

Habitat: Found wherever humans are. Houses, barns, garages, but also fields and wooded areas. The wild variety will inhabit cracks and crevices in rocks or rock walls or dig complex tunnels in the ground. Tunnels will contain several rooms, exits and a nesting site. In homes, mice may construct nests within walls.

Food: Omnivorous. Wild mice concentrate on seeds, roots, and other plant material. Some insects and carrion may also be eaten. Those that live with humans tend to feed on human food or trash and human made-materials. The wild variety will store food in a cache, but those that live with humans may not need to.

Vocalization: Squeaks.

Predators: Owls and other birds of prey, cats, dogs, snakes, foxes, weasels.

Reproduction: Litter size average 5 with multiple litters a year. The young stay with their mother for 21 days. Mating occurs year round, but is more frequent during warmer temperatures. Wild mice tend to breed from April to September.

Other Info.: Nocturnal and social, they live as family units, but family units are territorial. In human homes, they will be even more territorial. They are quick runners, good jumpers, excellent climbers and proficient swimmers.

Distribution

Complete distribution

Found throughout the state, around the US, and around the world.

Status: none

Tracks

Mouse tracks

Look for 1/2 inch long, 5-toed hind prints and smaller (3/8 in) 4-toed fore prints. Prominent toe pads. Prints will be in groups of 4.

Look for droppings that look like black grains of rice.

 

Meadow Jumping Mouse
Meadow Jumping Mouse
Find more images

Meadow Jumping Mouse
(Zapus hudsonius)

Identifying characteristics: A small mouse with dull brown fur on the back, yellowish-brown on the sides and cream colored underparts. The tail is very long (longer than the body), slender and sparsely haired with brown on the top and cream underneath. The forefeet are small and the hind feet are much larger and elongated. The body shape is seemingly triangular.

Size: From 3-4 inches in length (not including their tail, which is slightly longer than their body). They weigh up to 1 ounce. Females are slightly larger than males.

Habitat: Preferring moist grasslands, but found in many fields with thick vegetation and close proximity to water. Avoids wooded areas. Nests are lined with grass and are in burrows several feet below ground or under logs, stumps or rocks, sometimes above ground on clumps of grass.

Food: Omnivore. Primarily seeds, but also berries, fruit, fungus and insects (beetles and larvae). They will often cut down tall stalks of grass to get to the seeds.

Vocalization: Squeaks, clucks, chatters. Will drum its tail on the ground if frightened.

Predators: Owls and other birds of prey, cats, dogs, snakes, foxes, weasels.

Reproduction: Litter size average 5.5 with 2 or 3 litters a year. The young leave their mother after roughly a month. Mating season is spring through summer.

Other Info.: Solitary and primarily nocturnal. Named for their spectacular leaps that can exceed 3 feet. When startled they will often perform these high jumps, followed by a few short hops and eventually will lie flat and motionless (playing dead). Although they use hopping for speed, the generally travel on all fours, using trails in the grass created by other small mammals. These mice are highly nomadic, often roam nearly a mile to find a suitable home. They hibernate starting in late fall and the length of their hibernation depends on how much body fat they have stored. They are excellent swimmers. They do not cache food.

Distribution

Complete distribution

Found all over the state and neighboring states.

Status: None

 

Tracks

Jumping mouse tracks

Look for long, 5-toed hind prints (just over an inch long) and shorter 4-toed fore prints arranged in pairs with a long (up to 14 inch space) in between. The tail tends to drag on the ground.

Look for tall grass that has been “beheaded” or that has been cut from the bottom with the stalks cut to matchstick size and left on the ground in piles.

Woodland Jumping MouseWoodland Jumping Mouse
Find more images

Woodland Jumping Mouse
(Napaeozapus insignis)

Identifying characteristics: Similar to the Meadow Jumping Mouse, but with golden fur along the sides, darker brown stripe of fur from the nose to tail and cream-colored underparts. Their long tails are sparsely furred and have a white furry tip. The tops of their large, elongated feet are a pale color.

Size: From 3-4 inches in length (not including their tail, which is roughly another 4-6 inches). They weigh up to 1.2 ounces. In general, they are slightly larger than the meadow species.

Habitat: Preferring coniferous and hardwood forests with dense ground vegetation. Prefers damp and cool conditions. They dig burrows, use abandoned ones, or settle under shrubs or on the ground. Nests are constructed out of grasses and dead leaves.

Food: Omnivore. Seeds, fruit, fungi, insects and their larvae. With a favorite being Endogone truffles.

Vocalization: Squeaks, clucks, chatters. Will drum its tail on the ground if frightened.

Predators: Owls and other birds of prey, cats, dogs, snakesfoxesweasels.

Reproduction: Litter size average 4.5 with 1-2 litters a year. The young leave their mother after roughly a month. Mating season is spring through summer.

Other Info.: Solitary and primarily nocturnal. Named for their spectacular leaps that can exceed 3 feet (sometimes reaching twice that amount). When startled they will often perform these high jumps, followed by a few short hops and eventually will lie flat and motionless (playing dead). Although they use hopping for speed, they generally travel on all fours, using trails in the grass created by other small mammals. They hibernate for six months out of the year. They are excellent swimmers. They do not cache food.

 

Distribution

Complete distribution

Common all over the state and surrounding states.

Status: none

Tracks

Jumping mouse tracks

Look for long, 5-toed hind prints (just over an inch long) and shorter 4-toed fore prints arranged in pairs with a long (up to 14 inch space) in between. The tail tends to drag on the ground.

Norway RatNorway RatFind more images

Norway Rat
(Rattus norvegicus)

AKA: Brown rat, Sewer rat

Identifying characteristics: A relatively large member of the mouse family with coarse light to dark brown hair that lightens as it reaches the sides, reaching a tan on the undersides. The ears are large, rounded and naked, but shorter than the Black Rat’s. The tail is naked and shorter than the length of the body.

Size: Averaging 15.5 inches in length (not including their tail, which makes up 45% of their total length) and weighs roughly 14 ounces. Males are larger than females. They are generally larger than the Black Rat.

Habitat: Norway Rats inhabit the same spaces humans do and pretty much anywhere that offers food and shelter. In the wild, they will occupy a wide variety of habitats, including woodlands and open fields. Crop land is preferred in the wild. Nests are made from grass, leaves, twigs, paper, or anything they can find and are often built near sources of water. Burrows are often dug for shelter and nests and can be highly complex with multiple rooms and food storage space.

Food: Omnivorous. Rats are opportunistic foragers. They will grab and eat pretty much anything they can. Human food and trash make up a large part of their diet. In the wild they will feed on seeds, fruit, plant material, mice, birds, small lizards, insects, fish, and fungus. They prefer meat.

Vocalization: Squeaks, chirps, clucks.

Predators: Humans, owls and other birds of prey, cats, dogs, snakes, foxes, weasels.

Reproduction: Litter size average 8 with up to 7 litters a year. The young stay with the family for about 4-5 weeks. Mating occurs year-round and tends to peak during the warmer months.

Other Info.: They are primarily nocturnal, and highly social. They live in family packs of several individuals and a dominant male. They are excellent swimmers and have a well-studied capacity for learning. Despite the name, these rats originate from northern China. Shipping and trade has brought them to the Americas via Europe. Today they are the most widespread rat species and the most dominant one in North America.

Distribution

Complete distribution

Common all over the state and surrounding states.

Status: Invasive

 

Tracks

Rat Tracks

Look for 2 inch long, 5-toed hind prints and 4-toed fore prints that are less than half as long. Hind prints may slightly overlap with fore prints. The tail drags.

Look for tunnels in river or creak banks. Droppings are dark brown capsule-shaped, 3/4 of an inch long.

White-footed MouseWhite-footed MouseFind more images
Caution
White-footed mice are carriers of the Hantavirus as well as ticks bearing Lyme disease. The Hantavirus can be deadly to humans. Do not handle these mice or their droppings.

White-footed Mouse
(Peromyscus leucopus)

Identifying characteristics: Often difficult to distinguish from the Deer mouse, they are generally in between the size and length of the woodland and prairie forms of deer mice. Although both species have bi-colored tails, the distinction is more prominent in the deer mouse. The deer mouse tends to have small white tufts at the base of the ears that are lacking in the White-footed mouse.

Size: From 6 to 8 inches in length (not including their tail, which ranges from 2.5 to 5.5 inches). Their average weight is 0.7 ounces. Males are larger than females.

Habitat: Found in pretty much any habitat in NY, but most commonly in warm, dry wooded or brushy areas. They may also be found in open fields or farmland, usually adjacent to woodland. Nests are constructed under rocks, logs or in burrows.

Food: Omnivorous. Insects, fruits, vegetables, seeds, plants, various invertebrates, sometimes their own feces. They will often cache nuts in logs or nests for winter.

Vocalization: Squeaks. They have an odd habit of drumming on a hollow reed, stick or dry leaf to produce a humming noise, the meaning of which is not known.

Predators: Owls and other birds of prey, bobcats, skunks, foxes, raccoons, weasels.

Reproduction: Litter size average 5 with multiple litters a year. The young stay with their mother for just over a month. Mating occurs year round, but is more frequent during warmer temperatures.

Other Info.: Primarily nocturnal and solitary, they live as family units, but more may group together for warmth in the winter. There are over 100 subspecies of deer mouse, with overlapping territories and frequent cross-breeding. They are excellent climbers and are often found in trees. They do not hibernate.

Distribution

Complete distribution

Common all over the state and surrounding states.

Status: none

 

Tracks

tracks

In mud whole heels and toes may be visible, but commonly you will find just pads and claws. 5-toed hind prints are about a half inch long and 4-toed fore prints are smaller. Prints will be in groups of 4.

Look for droppings that look like black grains of rice.

Recent Wildlife Discussion Topics

Recent Wildlife Topics error determining URL address with the following unresolved->/home4/e7f1r6x6/public_html

Contributors

Buy Finger Lakes Photos and Gifts
New York Historic
New York Historic

Explore the history of New York State from the comfort of your desktop. We are creating a photographic catalog of New York State historic sites. Post comments, answer trivia, and learn what has happened in your neck of the woods. NY Historic

Public Markets
Public Markets

Beautiful captures of people and products from markets around the world. From Rochester to the mountains of China. Check back for monthly updates from local Upstate New York Markets. Scenes from Public Markets

Buy Photos & Gifts
Buy Photos & Gifts

Like the photos you see here? Think they will look great on your wall, or be a perfect gift for someone you know? Select photos by photographer Matthew Conheady are available to purchase at discounted prices.
Buy New York Pictures.

More…
© 2013 Copyright Matthew Conheady • Photos belong to their owners • Privacy PolicyOur Advertisers