Western jumping mouse

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Western jumping mouse
Zapus princeps.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Family: Dipodidae
Genus: Zapus
Species: Z. princeps
Binomial name
Zapus princeps
Allen, 1893

The western jumping mouse (Zapus princeps), is a species of rodent in the family Dipodidae.[2] It is found in Canada and the United States.[3]

Western jumping mice evolved during the Pleistocene, possibly from the fossil species Zapus burti, which is known from the late Blancan. Their closest relatives appear to be Pacific jumping mice, with which they can still interbreed to produce fertile offspring.[4]


Western jumping mice resemble typical mice in appearance, but with long hind-feet and reduced forelimbs. They range from 22 to 25 cm (8.7 to 9.8 in) in total length, including a tail 13 to 15 cm (5.1 to 5.9 in) long, and weigh from 17 to 40 g (0.60 to 1.41 oz). The mouse has coarse, dark-greyish-brown fur over the upper body, with a broad yellow to red band along the flanks, and pale yellowish-white underparts. Some individuals have white spots on the upper body, or on the tip of the tail. The two sexes are similar in appearance and size; females have four pairs of teats.[4]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Western jumping mice are found in western North America from Yukon to New Mexico. They inhabit mountainous terrain with moderately damp climates, in meadows and forests dominated by alder, aspen, or willow.[4] They are commonly found in areas of dense vegetation close to fresh water.[5]

Eleven subspecies are currently recognised:[4]

  • Zapus princeps princeps – eastern Wyoming, Colorado, northern New Mexico
  • Z. p. chrysogenysLa Sal Mountains
  • Z. p. cinereus – southeastern Idaho and northwestern Utah
  • Z. p. curtatus – northwestern Nevada
  • Z. p. idahoensis – northern Idaho, western Montana, central Wyoming
  • Z. p. kootenayensis – southern British Columbia, northwestern Washington
  • Z. p. minor – from southern Alberta to northeastern South Dakota
  • Z. p. oregonusOregon, southeastern Idaho, northern Nevada
  • Z. p. pacificus – northern California
  • Z. p. saltator – British Columbia to southern Yukon
  • Z. p. utahensisUtah and western Wyoming


Western jumping mice are omnivores, with the largest part of their diet consisting of the seeds of grasses and herbs. Less important food items include fruits, fungi, and insects.[6] Population densities range from 2 to 39 per hectare (0.81 to 15.78/acre), with individual mice having home ranges between 0.1 to 0.6 hectares (0.25 to 1.48 acres), with males generally having larger ranges than females. The feeding grounds of mice can be identified by small piles of grass stems stripped of their seeds, and by the presence of clear runways strewn with grass clippings. Their nests are constructed from grass fragments, and are concealed beneath vegetation or debris.[4]

The mice are nocturnal,[7] but are only active for the summer months, hibernating for the rest of the year. In at least some areas, they spend between eight and ten months of the year hibernating.[4] They subsist entirely on their fat reserves while dormant, and do not cache food; a typical mouse may lose 25% of its body weight during the eight to ten months of its hibernation. However, the hibernation is not continuous throughout this period, with the mice waking, on average, once every 38 days.[4]

The timing of hibernation is related to the weather conditions, with mice entering their dens following the first snowfall, if they have not already done so earlier in the year. They awake once the ground temperature reaches 8 to 9.5 °C (46.4 to 49.1 °F)[8]

Predators include bobcats, weasels, skunks, raccoons, snakes and birds of prey. The mice flee predators by making a rapid series of long jumps, interspersed with short periods when they freeze in place. Although they normally move by making short hops and occasional leaps of up to 36 cm (14 in), when startled, their leaps may reach 72 cm (28 in) along the ground, and 30 cm (12 in) into the air.[9]


Female western jumping mice enter estrus within one week of emerging from the hibernation, and typically breed only once each year. Gestation lasts for eighteen days, and results in the birth of a litter of four to eight young. The pups are born blind and hairless, weighing about 0.8 g (0.03 oz). They are weaned between 28 and 35 days of age.[4]

They are apparently able to breed by the time they complete their first hibernation, although only around 40% do so, with the remainder waiting for a further year.[10] They live for three to four years.[11]


  1. ^ Linzey, A.V. & Hammerson, G. (2008). "Zapus princeps". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2009.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 5 February 2010. 
  2. ^ Holden, M.E.; Musser, G.G. (2005). "Family Dipodidae". In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M. Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 871–893. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. 
  3. ^ California Department of Fish and Game (March 2006). "Complete List of Amphibian, Reptile, Bird and Mammal Species in California" (PDF). Retrieved 2007-07-06. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Hart, E.B.; et al. (2004). "Zapus princeps" (PDF). Mammalian Species 749: 1–7. doi:10.1644/749. 
  5. ^ Brown, L.N. (1967). "Ecological distribution of mice in the Medicine Bow Mountains of Wyoming". Ecology 18 (4): 677–679. doi:10.2307/1936518. 
  6. ^ Anderson, D.C.; et al. (1980). "Herbivorous mammals along a montane sere: community structure and energetics". Journal of Mammalogy 61 (3): 500–519. doi:10.2307/1379843. JSTOR 1379843. 
  7. ^ Wrigley, R.E.; et al. (1991). "Distribution and ecology of six rare species of prairie rodents in Manitoba". Canadian Field Naturalist 105: 1–12. 
  8. ^ Cranford. J.A. (1978). "Hibernation in the western jumping mouse (Zapus princeps)". Journal of Mammalogy 59 (3): 496–509. doi:10.2307/1380226. JSTOR 1380226. 
  9. ^ Jones, G.S. & Jones, D.B. (1985). "Observations of intraspecific behavior of meadow jumping mice, Zapus hudsonius, and escape behaviour of a western jumping mouse, Zapus princeps, in the wild". Canadian Field Naturalist 99: 378–379. 
  10. ^ Falk, J.W. and Millar, J.S. (1987). "Reproduction by female Zapus princeps in relation to age, size, and body fat". Canadian Journal of Zoology 65 (3): 568–571. doi:10.1139/z87-088. 
  11. ^ Brown, L.N. (1970). "Population dynamics of the western jumping mouse (Zapus princeps) during a four-year study". Journal of Mammalogy 51 (4): 651–658. doi:10.2307/1378291. JSTOR 1378291.