Animal of the Week: Woodland Jumping Mouse (Napaeozapus insignis)

Ever heard something jumping around your tent at night and wondered what the heck could be making all that racket? I distinctly remember a canoe trip into the backcounty of Ontario Canada where just such a scenario happened.  A short while after climbing under the tarp to go to bed, my wife and I heard something running around in the leaf litter next us and wondered what in the world could be making so much noise. Visions of medium-sized mammals came to mind it was so loud. Not being able to resist finding out what was out there, I awoke and grabbed my headlamp and peered out into the darkness. I saw nothing and returned to my sleeping bag. Well, the little stinker came back and was again making a lot of noise in the dry leaf bed. Grabbing my headlamp again I was determined to find out what was stalking us. Much to my surprise it was just a Woodland Jumping Mouse furiously hopping around on the nightly patrol for food.  Man was that bugger loud!


Woodland jumping mice can be found throughout northeastern North America, from the lower Appalachian Mountains up into northern Quebec, and into the Upper Peninsula of northern Michigan.


Woodland jumping mice are common residents of deciduous, coniferous, and mixed forests. They prefer habitat that is comprised of shrubs, rock piles, dense vegetation, logs, and streams.


The overall length of a woodland jumping mouse ranges from 8-10 inches with a typical body length of  3-4 inches and the rest is tail.  This mouse is a small rodent that has long hind feet and a very long tail, which typically makes more than half of its total length. They use their tail for balance and their high limbs as a means for propulsion. Typically they move with short hops but can make larger leaps of up to three meters.

An adult can attain a weight of 0.5-0.9 ounces, but their weight will increase as they near hibernation.

The woodland jumping mouse is brightly colored with a yellow-brown back and orange sides. Their bellies are white as a well as their underpants. A key feature to identifying these mice, aside from their tails, is a dark stripe running down the middle of their backs. Tails are dark brown on top and white underneath and have a distinctive white tip at the end. These bright colors may seem odd for an organism avoiding prey, but the colors and patterns allow them to blend in with the leaf-covered forest floor they inhabit.


Woodland jumping mice are omnivores. They will feed on seeds, fruits, fungi, insects/larvae and do not cache food. According to a 1988 book written by D. A. Saunders, their diet may be comprised of up to 30% subterranean fungi (Endogone) that they find in the leaf litter and soil of the forest floor.


Breeding begins in May and can occur as soon as the animal emerges from hibernation. The gestation period lasts between 23 and 29 days. Although their young are born in June, the breeding season may extend to the end of August. The size of a litter can vary from two to seven Pinkies, or pups. The young are weaned between 30 and 35 days.


Hibernation for the woodland jumping mouse will usually begin in mid to late September. They will remain in this state from 6 to 9 months. As fall approaches they begin to develop a layer of body fat up to 50% of their weight shortly before entering hibernation. As true hibernators, these mice do not have cheek pouches for carrying seeds and, therefore, do not cache food like other rodents. Hibernation is a stressful time for these mice and there is about a 75% mortality rate as a result during hibernation. The high mortality rate may be attributed to lack of sufficient fat for survival, extreme winter conditions or flooding of their hibernaculum during the spring.

For the Math Geeks

Solve this problem from

a woodland jumping mouse hops along a parabolic path given by y=-0.2xsquared +1.3x where x is the mouse’s horizontal position (in feet) and y is the corresponding height (in feet). Can the mouse jump over a fence that is 3 feet high? Explain.

Click to Check out the solution!

Chances are slim that you will actually get to see one of these fascinating creatures in person. You have a much greater chance of actually hearing them as they hop around your tent or shelter at night foraging for food.  Trust me.




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