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Zapus hudsonicus - Meadow Jumping Mouse

Geographical Range:

Zapus hudsonius has been recorded in southern Alaska stretching eastward through Canada to New Brunswick (Harris).  The record for the Meadow Jumping Mouse was recorded in the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska at 59o 17’ N and 161o 06’ W. (Peirce 2000). The range continues south into the United States stretching from Oklahoma to the Atlantic Coast (Linzey 2002).

Physical Characteristics:

The adult length of this mouse is between 185 and 225 mm.  The Tail length takes up the majority of the total length ranging from 110 to 150 mm.  The powerful and large hind foot indicative of the jumping mouse measures between 27 and 32 mm.  The weight of the adult mouse can range between 12 and 28 grams (Linzey 2002).  The meadow jumping mouse has a small head with relatively large ears.  The tail has two colors and is sparsely covered.  The mouse is colored a yellowish brown on the dorsal side and white with some yellow possible on the ventral side.  There is a black mid-dorsal stripe that runs from the nose to the base of the tail. The tail lacks the white tip that is common to the Woodland Jumping mouse.  The large hind feet allow the mouse to leap over great distances and the long tail gives stability and balance.  The dentition of the mouse is I 1/1 C 0/0 P 1/0 M 3/3.  The orange or yellow colored upper incisors are deeply grooved on the anterior surface.  The skull has a large, oval preorbital foramen.  The nasals extend substantially further than the incisors.  The baculum measures from 4.5 – 4.9 mm (Whitaker 1972).

Fossil Records:

Klingener (1963) has studied numerous fossils from Meade County, Kansas as well as Harper County, Oklahoma.  Guilday et al (1969) found fossil records in Robinson Cave in Overton County, Tennessee.

Food Habits:

Meadow jumping mice are omnivores.  Their diet consists mainly of grass seeds and surrounding vegetative seeds.  They have been known to eat moth larvae as well as some species of beetle.  Zapus also can feed on berries and other fruits (Harris).


The breeding begins very soon after emergence from hibernation.  Most litters are produced in June and August, but there are instances where litters were birthed in May and September.  Litter size can range from three to seven.  Gestation periods range from 17 – 21 days (Whitaker 1972).  The litter is usually born in burrow or a clump of vegetation where they are protected.  The babies are hairless and their eyes are closed.  The ears and eyes are fully open approximately 25 days after birth.  The young are weaned between four and five weeks after birth (Harris).


The meadow jumping mouse is a nocturnal mammal.  They are generally quiet.  They make a squeaking or sucking noise directly after birth and a loud chirping noise if they are fighting.  The mice themselves are generally solitary, but when in contact are rarely antagonistic and fighting is uncommon.  There have been rare occurrences where the mice have been sighted engaging in rapid jumps about 45 cm high and 60 cm long while making a loud chirping sound.  This has been ruled out as fighting, however the reason for this behavior is unknown (Jones 1985). The mice are good swimmers and can also dig or climb when necessary.  While in the water they can become vulnerable prey to fish like the Brown trout (Salmo trutta) and other predatory fish species (Cochran 1999).  Other land predators include snakes, owls, foxes, mink, weasels, and hawks. The mice usually escape by bounding, sometimes up to a meter high.  The mice can and do traverse on the ground, usually under the litter and dense brush.  The mice begin hibernation in late September and use lined burrows that extend below the frost line.  The mice curl into a ball and are usually solitary (Harris).  The energetic cost of entering hibernation was found at approximately 12o C and 5o C for arousal (Muchlinski 1978).  


As revealed by captures, the mice prefer moist, lowland habitats like willow – alder thickets or grass/sedge meadows.  The habitats are usually very near to water.  The mouse needs dense ground cover and an abundant food source which is provided readily by grasslands.  They can be found in various other habitats that meet these basic requirements as can be noted by their wide geographic distribution (Tester 1993).


There is no current conservation status for this mouse.  They are abundant and in no threat of extinction.  They may be open to more predation where predatory fish are being stocked in common habitat ranges, but are in no serious risk of becoming endangered (Cochran 1999).

Literature Cited:

Cochran, P. A; Cochran, J. A.  Predation on a meadow jumping mouse, Zapus hudsonius, and a house mouse, Mus musculus, by brown trout, Salmo trutta. Canadian Field Naturalist. 133(4): 684 – 685. 1999.

Guilday, J. E. et al. 1969. The Pleistocene vertebrate fauna of Robinson Cave, Overton County, Tennessee.  Palaeovertebrata. 2: 25 – 75.

Harris, M.  Zapus hudsonius and Napaeozapus insignis. Mammology (4251C), Mount Allison University.

Jones, G. S; Jones D.  Observations in interspecific behavior of meadow jumping mice, Zapus hudsonius, and escape behavior of a western jumping mouse, Zapus Princeps, in the wild. Canadian Field Naturalist. 99(3) : 378-380. 1985.

Klingener, D. 1963. Dental evolution of Zapus.  Journal of Mammalogy. 44: 248 – 260.

Linzey, D. , C. Brecht. 10 April, 2002. <>.

Muchlinski, A. E. ; Rybak, E. N.  Energy Consumption of resting and hibernating meadow jumping mice. Journal of Mammalogy. 59(2) : 435 – 437. 1978.

Peirce, K. N. ; Peirce, J. M. A range extension for the meadow jumping mouse, Zapus hudsonius, in Southwestern Alaska.  Canadian Field Naturalist. 114(2): 311. 2000.

Tester, J. R. et al.  Movements and Habitat use by Meadow Jumping Mice in Northwestern Minnesota.  The Prairie Naturalist. 25(1): 33 – 37. 1993.

Whitaker, J. O., Jr. 1972. Zapus hudsonius. Mammalian Species No. 11: 1-7. American Society of Mammalogists.

Reference written by Josh Bray, Biol 378: Edited by Chris Yahnke and Jen Callahan. Page last updated 5-7-04.

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