All about the wood mouse
What to look for
The wood mouse has a sandy-brown coat and large ears and eyes. The under parts are white, with a yellow streak on the chest, and the tail is slightly hairy. It has large hind feet which help it to leap about. The woodmouse is about 7.5-11cm long, not including its long tail, and it weighs 20-30g.
Did you know?
- Wood mice eat a wide range of seeds from grasses, herbs and trees, as well as buds, shoots, berries and fungi. They also eat insects, worms and slugs.
- Wood mice dig their own burrow systems, where they store food and spend the day and where the young are born in a nest chamber, which is lined with leaves, moss and grass.
- Although not very sociable, the mice will normally nest communally in the winter to improve their chances of survival. However, in the mating season the females will adopt their own territory and nest singly to produce their offspring.
- Between March and October a female may bear four litters a year, each of which contains between four and seven young. The offspring are born blind and are weaned at between 18 and 22 days, when their weight will reach six to eight grams. They grow rapidly and by the time they reach 12 grams they are ready to begin breeding themselves. This means that the wood mouse can increase rapidly in numbers in times of plentiful food.
- Wood mice are generally short-lived; their maximum life span in the wild is rarely more than two years. Few adults will survive from one summer to the next, partly because they are prey to a wide range of animals including foxes, weasels and owls.
Wood mice are extremely widespread and common in the United Kingdom.
Despite their name, wood mice are not confined only to woodlands. They thrive equally well in more open spaces, even on moorlands, mountainsides and sand dunes. They are also common in gardens, where they often live near sheds and outbuildings. Wood mice can also colonise bird and nest boxes to use as a home, so you may get a surprise when cleaning them.
Where to see
The wood mouse is very active at night, but also at dusk and dawn, running, bounding and climbing from place to place and venturing where other small mammals would rarely go. It is at these times that you may see them foraging for food.