For as big of a problem as these little rodents can be, it might surprise you to learn that these creatures live very short lives. But, how long do mice live?
In the wild, most species of mice don’t live longer than 18 months, in total. This figure can vary widely based on a variety of factors that we’ll discuss in this article. It’s important to note that there are more than 30 different subspecies of the most common mouse ‘order’, known as Rodentia. Each of these subspecies has its own average lifespan estimate.
In this article, we’ll be looking at the lifespan of a mouse, especially the four most common mouse species in North America:
- The House Mouse (Mus Musculus)
- The Deer Mouse (Peromyscus)
- The Western Harvest Mouse (Reithrodontomys megalotis)
- The White-Footed Mouse (Peromyscus leucopus)
It’s important to correctly identify the species of the mouse before developing a strategy to do pest control or eliminate a mouse infestation. Each mouse species has its own set of unique physical characteristics, breeding habits, and dietary preferences. In turn, these factors largely contribute to just how long a mouse will survive, whether in the wild or in captivity, and which make their lifespans different from how long rats live.
So, how about it, How Long Do Mice Live For?
Different Kinds Of Mouse And How Long Do They Live
The House Mouse (9-12 Months)
Did you know that the common House Mouse is one of the most important animals when it comes to developing medicines for humans? This type of mouse is considered a ‘model organism’ for researchers interested in learning more about how vertebrates like humans respond to certain medications or drug interactions.
So, how long do house mice live, on average? In the wild, they will rarely live longer than one year. A good range to use when describing its lifespan is nine to twelve months.
However, if a colony of house mice is able to locate a protective environment that allows for ready access to food and water, they can survive as long as three years. One of the reasons why house mice are such a pervasive problem for us humans is because they breed so rapidly—a single female mouse can give birth to as many as ten litters of up to 14 offspring in a single year.
The House Mouse gets its name from its preference for inhabiting human homes. In fact, this species of the mouse has come to rely on humans in order to live out its life.
The Deer Mouse (Up To 8 Years)
Deer mice (which are sometimes mistaken for voles) are closely related to house mice, however, there are a few distinctive physical characteristics that set them apart. When compared with the House Mouse, the Deer Mouse has slightly larger eyes and a two-tone fur coloring that the latter typically lacks. For more details, see House Mouse vs Deer Mouse.
Another key differentiator for the Deer Mouse is its impressive lifespan: as long as eight years! The trade-off for this longer life is a much higher mortality rate among newly born deer mice. The vast majority of deer mice do not live beyond 2.5 years, as predation and organ failure are the largest contributors to death.
Deer mice become sexually active very early in life, which is a big reason why their numbers can increase so rapidly. A female Deer Mouse can start copulating with males as young as 35 days old. They continue to breed as they age. However, unlike House Mice, the Deer Mouse typically only breeds for 3-4 months out of the year. This normally happens in the Spring.
The Western Harvest Mouse (6-12 Months)
The Western Harvest Mouse has one of the shortest lifespans of any mouse species, wild or not. This little critter rarely lives longer than a year, and there are no reports of a Western Harvest Mouse living longer than 18 months.
There are many contributors to the Western Harvest Mouse living such a short life. One important factor is the long list of predators who find this mouse a quick, easy meal. The animals that hunt this mouse include:
- Owls, hawks, and other birds of prey
- Domesticated cats
The small size of the Western Harvest Mouse makes it especially easy prey for animals that might not otherwise be able to hunt a larger species of mouse-like the Deer Mouse. Even though Western Harvest mice don’t live very long, they are prolific breeders and can further their lineage very quickly if given enough time in the right environment.
The White-Footed Mouse (1-3 Years)
The White-Footed Mouse gets its name from—you guessed it—their white feet. This mouse is native almost exclusively to the eastern United States. They prefer warm, forested areas where they can find hollowed trees or vacated bird nests which they use as homes for raising their young.
These mice breed from March to October and only have between two to four litters in any given year. The lifespan of the White-Footed Mouse in the wild is one year. White-Footed mice in captivity can live much longer, even doubling or tripling their lifespan in nature.
White-Footed mice are incredibly adept at avoiding predation from hunting animals. The reasons for this are that they’re only active at night, and they are remarkably alert and secretive with their behaviors. Even still, animals like weasels, falcons, and snakes are always keen to hunt them down if given the chance.
The most common mice found in the United States only live to be a year old in the wild. This means that year over year, an entirely new mouse population will invariably end up replacing the prior generation.
Ready access to food, water, and a nesting environment is what prolongs the lifespan of mice, regardless of which species. If kept in captivity and away from predators, most mice can live two, three, or even four times as long as they can be expected to live in nature.
Dealing with mice infestations can be made much easier through the correct identification of the mouse species in question, using the right elimination strategy that is suitable for that species. Use the other resources found on this page to learn more.