Deer Mouse vs House Mouse: Differences and Similarities

Mice are easily one of the most common pests. They become an even bigger problem during the colder months of the year. Chances are that either you or someone you know has been bothered by mice in the past.

While most people are aware that mice can be an issue, they lack a deeper understanding of the mice they might have to deal with. Two of the most common species are deer mice and house mice.

In this article, we’ll give you a full breakdown of deer mice and house mice. We’ll outline the main characteristics of the two types and explain why it’s important to know the differences.

Let’s get started.

Deer Mice and House Mice: The Main Similarities

Unless you’re a zoological expert, you probably won’t know how to identify the particular type of mouse that’s troubling you. It’s time to change that.

To begin, let’s look at the main similarities between these two species.

Size

In terms of their actual bodies, both types of mice are roughly the same size. On average, a deer mouse will be between 3 to 4 in. (8 to 10 cm) while a house mouse will be 2.56 to 3.74 in. (6.5 to 9.5 cm). Since they’re both very small, it’s hard to tell them apart based on size alone.

Movement

Both types of mice are incredible navigators. They can swim well, jump up to 13 in. (33 cm), and can even climb up sheer surfaces. They’re able to fit through tiny gaps, sometimes as small as the eraser on the end of a pencil.

Droppings

Droppings are often one of the first signs that you’ve got a mouse problem. Both deer and house mice produce similarly-sized droppings (roughly the size of a grain of rice), which will usually be black and rod shaped.

Rat droppings, in comparison, will be much bigger, between 0.39 to 0.79 in. (1 to 2 cm). So, the size of the droppings is a quick and easy way to find out whether mice or rats are bothering you.

What They Carry

Both types of mice inadvertently carry a whole range of unwanted passengers with them, none of which are good news for humans. These include fleas, ticks, and lice. Both also carry diseases, although the different species carry different types (as we’ll see shortly).

Deer Mice and House Mice: The Main Differences

So, now you know the major similarities between these two common types of mice. That means it’s time to look at the differences between the deer mouse and the house mouse, which are far more important.

Appearance

While it’s hard to tell which mouse is bothering you at a glance, there are noticeable physical differences. You can identify these if you get a good look at the pest.

The deer mouse is generally “cuter” with bigger, Mickey Mouse-style ears, and larger eyes. It also has two-tone fur with a white belly (which is why it’s called a deer mouse in the first place).

A house mouse has smaller, beadier eyes and smaller ears, too. Unlike the deer mouse, its tail is completely hairless.

Habitat

Both types of mice might enjoy invading your home, but there are differences in their natural habitats. The deer mouse habitat tends to be more rural while house mice are more common in urban areas.

Deer mice are more likely to build their nests outside, whether in heaps of rubbish or in the roots of a tree. They’ll simply head into human houses to forage. House mice, on the other hand, take advantage of the warmth and shelter of man-made structures to build their nests when possible. They’ll often build these nests between walls or in the attics of homes.

With all that said, please be aware that these are tendencies, not hard-and-fast rules. Some deer mice build nests in homes and some house mice build theirs outdoors. Deer mice will be particularly likely to venture indoors during the winter to avoid the colder weather.

Eating Habits

At a base level, both types of mice like the same kinds of food. They have a particular preference for grain, but will eat just about anything, given the chance! This includes any and all leftovers and rubbish that’s been thrown away.

The key difference lies in their eating habits. Given that it will usually live outdoors, a deer mouse in a house will collect food to carry back to its nest. House mice are much more opportunistic. They tend to eat food where and when they find it.

Why Should You Know the Differences Between These Species?

Both types of mice pose health risks to people who live in a home they’ve invaded. The risks they pose are different, however, which is why it’s so important to know the differences between the two.

Perhaps the most dangerous single disease which either mouse carries is Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS). HPS is transmitted by deer mice. Humans contract it through the air when droppings, urine, or nests are disturbed. HPS has proven fatal to 1 in 3 people in North America who’ve contracted it. This is why, if you find evidence of deer mice in your home, you must address the issue immediately.

There aren’t any common house mouse diseases that are quite so serious, but they still do cause significant health concerns. Because they spend most of their time inside your home, particularly around your food, house mice can easily spread diseases like listeria and salmonella

They can also pose a risk to your home itself. House mice are notorious for gnawing through pipes, cables, and wooden surfaces, which you must then pay to repair.

Final Thoughts

It goes without saying that nobody wants mice in their home. Many of us, though, will be confronted with this problem at some time or another. The main thing is how you deal with it.

The deer mouse vs house mouse debate is somewhat moot. Both are pests, but there are significant differences between the two. As we’ve outlined here, you need to know what type of problem you’re facing so that you understand exactly what’s at stake.

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