The Florida Mouse

Scientific Name
Podomys floridanus
Also Known As
Florida Mouse
Central Florida*
Seeds, Fruits, Insects
Life Expectancy
1 Year
The Florida Deer Mouse

Photo 128624678 (c) rupununiwildlife, CC BY-NC

Florida Deer Mouse conservation status - Vulnerable

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Florida Mice in Central Florida

The Florida mouse (Podomys floridanus) is a small native rodent found throughout peninsular Florida. Often confused with the introduced house mouse (Mus musculus), the Florida mouse can be identified by its larger ears, grayish brown fur, and preference for wooded habitats.

This guide covers the biology, behavior, and control of Florida mice, an endemic rodent of conservation concern that also invades homes in central Florida seeking food and shelter

Appearance and Identification

The Florida mouse has characteristic features that distinguish it from similar looking house mice

An Adult Florida Deer Mouse

Photo 256866114 (c) lparks713, CC BY-NC

Adult Florida Water Rat

  • Size: Adults reach about 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) in length including the tail. Their bodies alone are 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.5 cm) and they weigh 0.5 to 1 ounce (14 to 28 grams).
  • Tail: The tail is scaly with only a few short hairs and constitutes 60% of total body length.
  • Fur: The dorsal fur of adults is grayish brown while the ventral surface is white to light gray. Guard hairs are black-tipped, giving a flecked appearance.
  • Ears: Ears are very large, round, and sparsely haired.
  • Feet: Hind feet are broad with white undersides. They have small toes tipped with sharp claws for digging.

Juvenile Florida Water Rat

  • Size: Newborns are about 1 inch (2.5 cm) long and weigh around 0.2 ounces (5 grams). They reach 3.5 to 4 inches (9 to 10 cm) including the tail by 5-6 weeks old.
  • Fur: Juvenile fur is gray-brown in color with some black hairs interspersed. The underbelly is white to light gray. The fur is soft and dense as they grow.
  • Features: Younger Florida mice have larger hindfeet, ears, and eyes compared to body size. The tail is hairless.

The introduced house mouse has smaller body size, ears, feet, and tail. House mice also have uniformly gray-brown fur without flecking from black guard hairs. Florida mice are found more often in natural habitats compared to the human-adapted house mouse.

Maturation Rate

Young Florida mice are sexually mature by 6 weeks old. Their average lifespan is about 1 year in the wild. Predation limits most Florida mice to just several months of life. Their high reproductive capacity allows rapid rebound after population declines.

Habits and Behavior

Florida mice are mostly nocturnal but may be active during daytime as well. They prefer wooded, shrubby areas but also invade garages, sheds, and homes. Florida mice are solitary and territorial, with home ranges of 0.1 to 0.25 acres (0.04 to 0.1 hectares).

Their nests are globular, 8 to 10 inches (20 to 25 cm) in diameter, and built either underground or under debris on the surface. Nests are lined with grasses, stems, Spanish moss, and shredded palmetto fronds. Florida mice occasionally climb but mostly forage on the ground, digging for seeds and insects.

Reproduction and Lifespan

Florida mice can breed year-round in central Florida. Females produce up to 7 litters annually with 1 to 7 young per litter. The gestation period is 23 days and the eyes open by 2 weeks old. Weaning occurs by 3 weeks of age

Ideal Habitat and Range

Central Florida’s warm, humid climate with abundant vegetation provides excellent habitat for Florida mice. Average temperatures are in the 70s°F (21-26°C) along with 50+ inches (1270+ mm) of annual rainfall.

Florida mice thrive in oak scrub forests, pine flatwoods, palm hammocks, and coastal scrub habitats. They also readily invade urban areas with overgrown vegetation, woodpiles, and palm trees. Plentiful cover and food allows Florida mice to flourish.

Diet and Feeding

Florida mice are omnivorous, feeding on a variety of plant and animal matter. Their diet consists primarily of:

  • Seeds of native grasses, grains, berries, and fruits. This makes up the bulk of their diet.
  • Acorns, hickory nuts, fungi such as lichens and mushrooms.
  • Green vegetation including buds, leaves, moss, and algae.
  • Insects such as beetles, caterpillars, ants, termites, and insect larvae.
  • Snails, worms, and other invertebrates.
  • Occasionally small vertebrates like bird eggs and nestlings.

While foraging primarily on the ground, Florida mice will readily climb to access nuts, fruits, and nests in vegetation. They locate food through scent, sound, and touch cues. Seeds and insects make up the majority of their diet, providing carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Florida mice obtain all the water they need from the foods they consume.

The florida dandelions such as this is the preferred food for the florida mouse
Medical attention will be needed for these diseases

Common Health Risks

Although not major carriers of disease, Florida mice can potentially transmit:

  • Hantavirus Deer mice are the main carrier but Florida mice may spread. Causes serious lung disease.
  • Lymphocytic choriomeningitis Spread through saliva, urine, feces. Flu-like illness in humans.
  • Rat bite fever – Bacteria in saliva can cause fever, joint pain, vomiting.

Florida mice may also contaminate food through feces and urine. Their shed hair and debris can trigger allergies and asthma symptoms in sensitive people. Exclusion and sanitation helps reduce health risks from Florida mouse infestations.

Preventing Florida Mouse Infestations

While Florida mice provide ecological benefits, they can sometimes enter homes by accident while foraging. The key is to exclude them from structures through proper proofing:

  • Seal all potential entry points into the home larger than 1/4 inch (6 mm) using steel wool, copper mesh, caulk, or other durable materials. Pay close attention to areas where utilities enter the home.
  • Trim back trees, shrubs, and vines so they do not touch or overhang the home’s exterior. Maintain at least a 3 foot (0.9 m) clearance.
  • Eliminate woodpiles, debris piles, and dense vegetation close to the foundation that can provide shelter and access.
  • Store human and pet food securely in chew-proof, sealed metal or plastic containers to deny access.
  • Use baited snap traps or live traps as needed to remove any mice that find their way inside. Place traps along baseboards and potential entry points.

Through proactive proofing and exclusion, accidental home entry by Florida mice while foraging can be prevented. Their ecological benefits outweigh risks from occasional indoor exposure in homes.

Florida Mice in Central Florida – Conclusion

The Florida mouse is a unique native rodent of Florida scrub habitats that also readily invades homes. Their prolific breeding enables Florida mouse numbers to quickly rise if food and shelter is available.

Through exclusion, sanitation, and population control, Florida mice can be prevented and eliminated from structures. Trapping and sealing entry points are key, along with clearing brush and clutter near buildings.

With prompt action, Florida mice can be deterred before extensive damage or health risks arise in central Florida homes and businesses.