Did you find a mouse or a rat in the United States?
First, I hope it was outside and NOT in your house. 🙂
Second, I’m guessing you’re here to try and identify the correct species. Luckily, you’ve come to the right place! I’ve compiled a list of the most common mice and rats that live in the United States, with photos and range maps to help find the one you’re looking at.
Unfortunately, mice and rats can be hard to identify. First, many species look similar to each other. In addition, due to their shy nature and small size, it can be hard to get a good look. You may want to consider purchasing the book below if you need additional help with rodent identification.
Here are 22 COMMON Mice and Rats Found In the United States!
#1. Brown Rat
- Rattus norvegicus
The Brown Rat is among the most widespread rats in the United States!
It goes by many names, including the common rat, street rat, and sewer rat. You may also know it as the gray rat or Norway rat.
Interestingly, the Brown Rat isn’t native to North America. Instead, it’s thought to have originated in China and Mongolia.
Look for Brown Rats anywhere people are living, particularly in urban environments. They’re best known for living in sewer tunnels and subway systems, scavenging food from the trash.
Although many people find rats off-putting, others keep a sub-species of Brown Rats as pets. This subspecies, called the Fancy Rat, was bred specifically for the pet trade. Besides companion animals, rats can be trained for many jobs to assist humans, like detecting gunpowder for forensic teams and providing therapy support.
It’s a misconception that Brown Rats spread bubonic plague. In actuality, it’s more commonly spread through ground squirrels! Regardless, Unfortunately, they can still transmit infections of many kinds though as their blood can carry several diseases,
#2. Black Rat
- Rattus rattus
The Black Rat is a naturalized species in North America. It’s thought to be native to India but was transported here on cargo ships and has become so widespread that it’s no longer considered a foreign species.
It’s considered a pest in the agricultural market because it feeds on a wide variety of crops. Like other rodents, Black Rats can carry pathogens in their bodies. While they may not appear sick, they can spread infections like toxoplasmosis, typhus, and bubonic plague.
In many areas where the Black Rat was once the dominant species, the Brown Rat has taken over. Black Rats are slightly smaller and reproduce less often, which are two of the reasons this species isn’t as widespread as Brown Rats.
Black Rats go by many common names, such as ship rat, roof rat, and house rat.
#3. Eastern Meadow Vole (Field Mouse)
- Microtus pennsylvanicus
You probably know this species as a Field Mouse or Meadow Mouse, but it’s a vole, which is a similar type of animal. The Eastern Meadow Vole uses burrows for nesting, shelter, and rest. They create woven grass nests placed in the burrows or under logs.
As their name suggests, they prefer grassland or open forest habitats. Like most mice in the United States, the Field Mouse is a dietary generalist, which means they will eat many different types of food. Garden plants, flowers, crops, and grasses are common food sources.
Field Mice are an important food source for many predators, including birds of prey, snakes, and wild and domesticated cats.
Although they’re very easily recognized and a well-known species, the Field Mouse is not commonly found in homes. It prefers open space and grasses to eat, so it will ignore a populated area in favor of its preferred habitat.
#4. House Mouse
- Mus musculus
Most mice in the United States can live around people, but few thrive as well as the House Mouse!
If you picture a small, mischievous cartoon mouse when you think of mice, then you’re probably familiar with this species! House Mice have the characteristic large ears, thin tails, and tiny bodies of a typical “mouse.” They do incredibly well in highly populated areas, and there are now more semi-tame populations than wild. These populations live near people and depend on them for food and shelter.
House mice are the most common species to find inside your home because they’re so adaptable to human presence. They readily eat food scraps, build their nests in walls or dark attics and basements, and spend most of their time hidden from view. In fact, you’ve likely shared your home with a House Mouse at least once over the years. Although most people would prefer not to have them, they aren’t the worst roommates!
Like their eating habits, they are adaptable in their social behavior. Populations of House Mice that have an excess of food, like those that live in buildings, form a hierarchy with leaders and followers. However, in the wild, where food is less plentiful, females aggressively protect their territory from one another.
#5. White-throated Woodrat
- Neotoma albigula
Look for White-throated Woodrats in deserts and pine forests, where they make nests of plant material and branches. Underneath their nests, they construct shallow tunnels with “rooms” to store food. They’re particularly fond of shiny objects like CDs and tin foil, often adding shiny trash to their nesting site.
Like other rats in the United States, their large ears help them hear and provide a natural way to regulate heat during warm weather.
The typical diet of the White-throated Woodrat is mostly prickly pear cactus, but they eat a variety of leaves, stems, and fruit from other plants. They don’t generally have to drink water because they get the hydration they need from their food.
#6. Eastern Woodrat
- Neotoma floridana
Eastern Woodrats live in swamps and forested areas and build their nests in protected spots like the base of trees or boulders. They use various materials to construct their nests, including sticks and branches, rocks, dry dung, tin cans, and even glass shards. This species isn’t picky about building materials!
They’re opportunistic feeders and commonly eat plant matter, including stems, roots, foliage, nuts, seeds, buds, and fruits.
Although they’re laid-back regarding what they eat and where they live, Eastern Woodrats are extremely territorial. Unlike some other rats in the United States, this species will nearly always defend its territory jealously. They only become social during the breeding season.
#7. Desert Woodrat
- Neotoma lepida
The easiest way to identify the Desert Woodrat is to look at its feet! Although their coloring is highly variable, their feet and undersides are always white.
Like many rats in the United States, this species is a food source generalist and will consume any type of plant matter available. This is handy for the Desert Woodrat, whose habitat often has long droughts.
During especially dry weather, Desert Woodrats become territorial over water sources and will prevent other species from accessing succulent plants or cacti in their territory.
#8. Allegheny Woodrat
- Neotoma magister
Allegheny Woodrats are one of the largest rat species in the United States!
This long-haired gray pack rat can weigh up to a pound. They’re similar in size and appearance to the Eastern Gray Squirrel, so if you see a squirrel without a bushy tail, it may be an Allegheny Woodrat!
You’re much more likely to spot an Allegheny Woodrat near your bird feeders than you are to see one in your home. In fact, they almost never get close enough to a house or building to be noticed! They prefer to steer clear of humans and hide in the woods.
The most common predators of Allegheny woodrats are owls, foxes, raccoons, bobcats, and large snakes. Unfortunately, they are also sometimes killed by humans who confuse them with the Brown Rat, an invasive species more closely associated with urban areas.
#9. Bushy-tailed Woodrat
- Neotoma cinerea
Though not as furry as a squirrel’s, the tail of this woodrat is quite bushy. So it’s easy to see how the Bushy-tailed Woodrat got its name!
This species is the original “pack rat,” a term that describes its fondness for shiny objects. They’ll often drop food or nesting material in favor of coins, shiny metal, or foil! Look for Bushy-tailed Woodrats in forests, shrubland, and grasslands with boreal and temperate climates. They’re excellent climbers and often spend time in trees, clinging to the bark with their sharp claws.
Like many rats in the United States, these rodents use their strong tails for balance to aid in jumping and climbing.
#10. Golden Mouse
- Ochrotomys nuttalli
Unlike other mice in the United States, Golden Mice are picky eaters and almost exclusively eat seeds.
The Golden Mouse is named for its soft fur, ranging in color from a golden brown to burnt orange. Look for them in thick woodlands and swamps where they hide in vegetation. They’re especially fond of red cedar and honeysuckle plants.
Their tails are prehensile, which means they’re used as an extra appendage for balance, standing on two legs, and aid in climbing or running.
#11. Cactus Mouse
- Peromyscus eremicus
Look for Cactus Mice in deserts and dry mountain foothills. Their diet changes throughout the year as different food sources become available. For example, in the spring, they mainly eat grasses and the flowering portions of plants, but they transition to a winter diet of mostly insects.
Although they’re shy and excitable when handled, they rarely bite. Because of their docile nature and clean living environment, they are often used as laboratory specimens.
Interestingly, this species will enter a state of torpor, or dormancy, if they cannot find adequate food. Some laboratory studies found they would enter torpor in as little as 30 minutes if deprived of food.
#12. Canyon Mouse
- Peromyscus crinitus
Canyon Mice are mostly nocturnal and active throughout the year.
They eat seeds, insects, and vegetation like grasses and leaves. They prefer a dry climate but can be found in many different habitats, from deserts below sea level to mountain forests.
This species is solitary except during the mating season, and females are particularly territorial once they give birth to their young. Therefore, mating pairs do not stay together once the female conceives.
#13. Eastern Deer Mouse
- Peromyscus maniculatus
Eastern Deer Mice are one of the most widespread mice in the United States.
Its various subspecies are spread all over the country. To identify, look for a small gray or brown mouse with large black eyes, round ears, and white feet.
They can reproduce throughout the year, although they typically only do so in the warmer parts of their range.
Although we generally think of mice as ground creatures, Eastern Deer Mice prefer to nest high up in hollow trees. Their sharp claws allow them to climb to incredible heights!
In addition to spending time in forests, this species is also commonly found in houses! They feed on food scraps and crumbs and make nests in small spaces. Because they’re so numerous and widespread, they’re incredibly hard to get rid of if you have an infestation.
#14. White-footed Deer Mouse
- Peromyscus leucopus
Like other mice in the United States, this species is a vector, which means it carries and spreads disease.
Many rodents can carry disease-causing pathogens without getting sick, making them ideal carriers for these germs. For example, hantavirus, which causes severe disease in humans, and the bacteria that cause Lyme disease are transmitted by this mouse.
Although many people keep White-Footed Deer Mice as pets, there are probably more people that live with this species unwillingly! That’s because this is one of the most likely species to find in your attic, garage, or basement. Even though they can spread disease, contamination isn’t very common in homes.
This is the species I’ve found in my house, and I use a live trap and release them in a field a few miles away. Here’s the one I use!
#15. Cotton Mouse
- Peromyscus gossypinus
You’re likely to find Cotton Mice in a variety of habitats, including forests, swamps, fields, and rocky bluffs. They’re omnivorous and opportunistic but favor seeds and insects as their main food sources.
Cotton Mice earned their common name from using raw cotton in their nests. Although they rarely live longer than a year, this species has a unique talent for surviving wildfires and predators! It often spends time underground, where it can stay protected from these threats.
While wildfires will severely impact nearly every other species in the United States, the Cotton Mouse’s population can remain largely unaffected.
#16. Brush Mouse
- Peromyscus boylii
The Brush Mouse’s name is fitting for two reasons. First, its preferred habitat is brushy, forested areas with plenty of hiding places. Second, its tail is hairless except for the tuft at the end, which looks like a paintbrush.
Brush Mice are nocturnal, like most mice in the United States.
They spend their days in nests under rocks, fallen logs, or in trees. Interestingly, where individual Brush Mice spend their time seems determined by their tail length. Longer-tailed individuals spend more time climbing than shorter-tailed mice.
They primarily eat acorns but supplement their diet with insects, berries, and leaves. Foxes, birds of prey, and large rodents are their main predators.
#17. Pinyon Mouse
- Peromyscus truei
Compared to other mice in the United States, the Pinyon Mouse’s ears are enormous for its body!
This species is flexible when it comes to habitat, ranging from grasslands to mountain forests and even the desert. However, you will most likely see the Pinyon Mouse on rocky slopes.
Because of their varied habitats, Pinyon Mice have to be adaptable to many different climates. They adjust their food intake based on how much water is available in their area.
For instance, in a desert environment, they will eat more leafy plants and cactus parts for the water content, but in a forested area with regular rainfall, they may eat more seeds and insects.
#18. Fulvous Harvest Mouse
- Reithrodontomys fulvescens
Mating pairs of Fulvous Harvest Mice will often share a nest even if they aren’t actively raising young, which is unusual for mice in the United States. Look for them in grassy areas with open pine or mesquite woods. They build their nests, made of tangled grasses, a few inches off the ground.
Outside the nest, Fulvous Harvest Mice spend most of their time in low shrubs. They eat insects and invertebrates and supplement this diet with seeds during colder temperatures.
#19. Eastern Harvest Mouse
- Reithrodontomys humulis
Eastern Harvest Mice are widespread in the United States and plentiful in grassy fields and meadows. They have dark brown fur, lighter fur on the belly, and light tan or white feet. They avoid forested areas and instead build nests that they live in throughout their life.
Eastern Harvest Mice have short lifespans.
Females in the wild rarely live longer than a year, and the oldest recorded individual in a laboratory lived to 2 years and 2 months.
#20. Western Harvest Mouse
- Reithrodontomys megalotis
This nocturnal species is most active on particularly dark nights. Your best chance to see one would be during the new moon after dusk.
Unlike other mice in the United States, the Western Harvest Mouse is a strict herbivore and does not typically consume insects. Instead, it feeds primarily on fruit, grasses, and seeds.
Western Harvest Mice will occasionally eat grasshoppers and caterpillars if these food sources become scarce. They nest on the ground and spend most of their time there, only rarely venturing into shrubs or low trees in search of food.
#21. Plains Harvest Mouse
- Reithrodontomys montanus
Look for Plains Harvest Mice in the United States in open, grassy fields and grazed prairie. Although widespread, populations of this species are low and very spread out, meaning it can be difficult to find.
Plains Harvest Mice are nocturnal. They spend their nights foraging for small insects and seeds and sleep in round nests made of grass during the day. They breed throughout the year and do not hibernate, which is common among rodents of their size.
#22. Northern Grasshopper Mouse
- Onychomys leucogaster
Unlike other mice in the United States, the Northern Grasshopper Mouse is carnivorous.
Remarkably, its diet is made up primarily of insects, smaller mice, and even snakes. That’s one tough little rodent!
They create multiple burrows in their territory for different purposes. First, the nest burrow is used for sleeping during the day. The second type of burrow, a cache burrow, is used as a pantry to store excess food. Finally, escape burrows provide a way to quickly avoid predators. These are the deepest burrows, about ten inches deep and angled 45 degrees to keep predators out.
Do you want to learn about other MAMMALS in the United States? Check out this field guide!
- 50 COMMON Mammals in the United States! (ID Guide)
Which of these mice and rats have you seen before in the United States?
Tell us below in the COMMENTS section!