House Mouse vs. Deer Mouse – Do You Know These 7 Differences?

The first step of a good IPM program is identifying the pest. If the pest is not correctly identified, treatment may be ineffective and could even be considered off-label applications if the wrong pest is targeted. There are over 70 species of mice and rats in North America, and some of them can look similar at first glance. For example, the deer mouse and the house mouse. Here are seven differences to consider between these two mouse species.

  1. While these two mice are about the same size, house mice are a fairly uniform gray color, while deer mice have a very distinctive white belly and feet. Deer mice also have large eyes and ears, though this can be hard to tell if you don’t have them side by side.
  2. Both deer mice and house mice can be found inside structures. However, it is more common to have house mice inside breeding and infesting structures. Deer mice prefer to be outside but can venture in to find food and shelter. Once they are in, they can establish themselves just like house mice.

House mouse nest in an old antique trunk


  1. Both can be hazardous to people from an aspect of disease. House mice are implicated in spreading Lymphocytic choriomeningitis, rickettsialpox, and leptospirosis, but these are relatively rare. On the other hand, Deer mice are the primary vector of Hantavirus, which can result in death. Both species can carry ticks, fleas, and lice. Always wear appropriate PPE when dealing with rodents.
  1. There’s a slight difference in their food preferences. House mice are well adapted to living off people and what people leave for them. This is why sanitation (removal of food wastes and available foods) is crucial for rodent control. Deer mice feed on seeds, berries, and small insects. Inspecting for these items inside can help to narrow down a deer mouse issue. It also helps to bait traps with the foods they prefer.
Deer Mice

Deer Mice Feed on seeds and berries

  1. Both deer mice and house mice can gnaw all types of items and will collect nesting material. Unlike house mice, deer mice are more likely to create food “stores”. They will stash food in various areas, typically nearby to where they are nesting. This can help identify the issue (if you haven’t seen the offending mouse itself) and track where they might be nesting. A mouse trap, like the EZ Snap Mouse, can be strategically located near those points for the greatest chance of capture.
EZ Snap Mouse Station

Position EZ Snap Mouse where mice are nesting

  1. House mice are good jumpers, while deer mice are good climbers. This means traps and bait stations may need to be located higher for deer mice. Consider using the MBS Mouse Bait Station in various areas since it is small and fits easily into small corners and elevated areas. When using rodenticides, always read and follow all label precautions and directions.

For a good rodent bait station, place the MBS up higher for deer mice

  1. Deer mice are more common in rural areas because that’s where their natural habitat is. House mice can be nearly anywhere but can be found more in urban and suburban areas.

If the mouse is correctly identified, it can quickly determine where they are nesting and what they are feeding. Finding those areas faster leads to better and more accurate station placement. Whether you are using snap traps like the EZ Snap Mouse or rodent bait boxes like the MBS, the closer these rodent stations are to nesting sites and established runways, the more effective they will be.

For more on mouse control information and VM Products, click here.

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