Other Mammals - Sounds Wild
Jumping Mouse


Download Episode: Jumping Mouse (MP3 file 1,411 kB)


Jumping mice

On a camping trip I set a small live trap overnight to see what kind of mice or voles I might catch. Over the course of a few nights I managed to catch a western jumping mouse every single night. I commented to my brother that jumping mice seem to be pretty abundant and he countered with an observation that was almost certainly true - that I was catching the same mouse over and over.

Jumping mice are slender, nocturnal rodents that hibernate during the winter. They are quite distinctive looking, with long tails and large hind feet, like a kangaroo that's just four inches tall. There are two species in Alaska, the western jumping mouse and the meadow jumping mouse, which look very similar. As the name implies, western jumping mice are found in western North America, and meadow jumping mice are found across North America, favoring meadows and moist grasslands. Their ranges overlap in British Columbia and Southeast Alaska. They're pretty common, but because they are nocturnal, and they hibernate for half the year, they aren't often seen. They are excellent diggers and burrow, using their powerful hind feet to kick dirt away. They are also good swimmers, which doesn't always end well - they've been found in the stomachs of northern pike.

The jumping prowess of these little rodents is remarkable. When I opened the trap, I bet that mouse sprang six feet in a single bound, then disappeared into the tall grass with a series of short, fast little hops.