Deer mice and other disease-carrying mice can be deadly

As cute as it may appear, the gray to brown and white deer mouse is actually a very deadly creature.

The deer mouse is about 5 to 8 inches long with:

  • Big eyes
  • Ears that are prominent and leaf-like
  • Head and body about 2 to 3 inches long
  • Tail also 2 to 3 inches long.

This rodent gets its name because it resembles a deer: its upper body is gray to reddish brown, its underbelly and legs are white, and its tail is bicolored: dark on top and white on the sides and bottom.

The deer mouse is omnivorous, eating just about anything, and nocturnal. Unlike other mice, it is not a very good climber. Although this mouse prefers woodlands and rural areas, it will also make its home in urban areas. In fact, it will live about anywhere it finds concealed shelter with food nearby.

Deadly Disease-Carrying Mice

Found throughout North America, the cute-looking deer mouse carries and spreads Lyme disease and is the primary carrier of hantavirus in the U.S.:

  • Lyme Disease. This disease is carried by a bacteria that is transmitted by the deer tick between mammal hosts, such as deer mice, rabbits, white-tailed deer, and, yes, humans. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system.
  • Hantavirus. First recognized in 1993, more than 130 people have been diagnosed with Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS) since then. HPS is a severe, sometimes fatal, respiratory disease in humans caused by infection with hantaviruses. Half of those affected died from the disease. The disease is transmitted primarily through the inhaling of contaminated air, but also through contact with the urine, feces, or saliva of infected mice. Because there is still no recognized cure, it is important to avoid contact with deer mice and areas they are known to frequent or where infestations are or have been present.

Hantavirus strains can also be transmitted by other mice, including:

The White-Footed Mouse (Peromyscus leucopus)
  • This mouse closely resembles the deer mouse, but is different in the tail; it is hairier and shorter.
  • They have whitish tufts of hair that often appear at the base of ears, and usually have longer hair or fur.
  • Together, its head and body length is about 4 inches, and its tail about 2 to 4 inches.
  • Similar to the deer mouse, the fur on top of its body is darker – pale to reddish brown, while its underbelly and feet are white.
  • Like the deer mouse, it prefers concealed harborage, but it will also live in open areas. 
The Cotton Rat (Sigmodon hispidus)
  • With its head and body that measures 5 to 7 inches in length and its tail adding another 3 to 4 inches, this rodent is much larger than the deer mouse.
  • In coloring, it is grayish brown to black, and its fur is long and coarse.
  • In the U.S., this rat is found primarily in the southeast states and it prefers to live in areas that are overgrown with weeds, shrubs or tall grass.
The Rice Rat (Oryzomys palustris)
  • Smaller than the cotton rat, the rice rat is larger than the deer mouse. It has a very long tail: with a head and body measuring 5 to 6 inches, this rat can be 4 to 7 inches long.
  • Its coloring is more like the bi-colored deer mouse, with grayish-brown fur on top and gray or tawny coloring beneath. Its fur is short and soft.
  • As its name would indicate, this is a semi-aquatic rat.
  • In the U.S., it is found primarily in the southeast.

Because other rodents may also carry additional viruses or diseases, you should avoid close contact with rodents all together.

Rat and Mouse Control 

Rats can wiggle their way into gaps and holes as small as a ½ inch. And if the hole is not yet ½-inch big, the rat can gnaw at it until it is. Mice can squeeze in through holes as small as ¼ inch. And, like rats, mice will chew and gnaw at smaller holes until they are big enough to wiggle through.

Additionally, both rats and mice prefer warmth over cold. This means that when the weather outside starts to turn cold, rats and mice will turn to houses and other buildings. And the more food and water they can find once they are inside, the more likely it is that the population will quickly grow.

Hilton Head Exterminators technicians are trained pros when it comes to getting rid of mice and rats from your home or place of business. We handle everything from small to custom homes and even large restaurants. Hilton Head Exterminators is the area’s most trusted source when it comes to pest protection, so give us a call today! We offer free inspections and quotes.

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