Friday 17 May
Woodland jumping mouse (Napaeozapus insignis)
Woodland jumping mouse fact file
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Woodland jumping mouse description
The only species in its genus (2) (3), the woodland jumping mouse (Napaeozapus insignis) is a small rodent with long hind feet and a distinctly long tail, which makes up more than half of its total length (2) (4) (5) (6). Using the hind limbs for propulsion and the tail for balance, the woodland jumping mouse is able to make large leaps of up to three metres at a time (4) (5) (6), although it more commonly moves with shorter hops (2) (3).
The woodland jumping mouse has rather coarse fur, due to a layer of stiff guard hairs (2) (3) (4). Its fur is quite bright, with yellow-orange to reddish-brown sides, sprinkled with dark hairs. The sides contrast with the brown to black back and top of the head, and with the pure white underparts. The tops of the feet are also white, while the tail is distinctly bi-coloured, being dark brown above and white below, with a white tip (2) (3) (5) (6). The ears of the woodland jumping mouse are of moderate size and are furred on the outside (6). The female woodland jumping mouse is usually slightly larger than the male (2).
Like all jumping mice, the woodland jumping mouse has prominently grooved incisors (2) (3) (4) (5) (6). This species is distinguished from jumping mice in the genus Zapus by its white tail tip and by differences in its teeth, and from Eozapus species by lacking a dark stripe on the belly (2) (3) (5) (6). Across its range, the woodland jumping mouse varies in appearance, with northern populations generally being larger and paler than those in the south (2) (5). Some scientists have recognised up to five subspecies (2).
- Zapus insignis. Top
Whitaker Jr, J.O. and Wrigley, R.E. (1972) Napaeozapus insignis. Mammalian Species, 14: 1-6. Available at:
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History: North American Mammals - Woodland Jumping Mouse, Napaeozapus insignis:
Hafner, D.J., Yensen, E. and Kirkland Jr, G.L. (1998) North American Rodents: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN/SSC Rodent Specialist Group, IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. Available at:
- A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
- The state of being pregnant; the period from conception to birth.
- Guard hairs
- In some mammals, long, coarse hairs that protect the softer layer of fur below.
- A winter survival strategy in which an animal’s metabolic rate slows down and a state of deep sleep is attained. Whilst hibernating, animals survive on stored reserves of fat that they have accumulated in summer.
- The front or cutting teeth.
- A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
IUCN Red List (June, 2011)
Whitaker Jr, J.O. and Wrigley, R.E. (1972) Napaeozapus insignis. Mammalian Species, 14: 1-6. Available at:
- Nowak, R.M. (1991) Walker’s Mammals of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.
- Macdonald, D.W. (2006) The Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
- Whitaker Jr, J.O. and Hamilton Jr, W.J. (1998) Mammals of the Eastern United States. Cornell University Press, Ithaca.
- Reid, F.A. (2006) A Field Guide to Mammals of North America. Houghton Mifflin Company, New York.
- Brannon, M.P. (2005) Distribution and microhabitat of the woodland jumping mouse, Napaeozapus insignis, and the white-footed mouse, Peromyscus leucopus, in the Southern Appalachians. Southeastern Naturalist, 4(3): 479-486.
- Whitaker Jr, J.O. (1963) Food, habitat and parasites of the woodland jumping mouse in Central New York. Journal of Mammalogy, 44(3): 316-321.
- Orrock, J.L., Farley, D. and Pagels, J.F. (2003) Does fungus consumption by the woodland jumping mouse vary with habitat type or the abundance of other small mammals? Canadian Journal of Zoology, 81: 753-756.
- Ovaska, K. and Herman, T.B. (1988) Life history characteristics and movements of the woodland jumping mouse, Napaeozapus insignis, in Nova Scotia. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 66: 1752-1762.
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Woodland jumping mouse biology
The diet of the woodland jumping mouse includes a variety of fungi, seeds, caterpillars, beetles, nuts, fruits and other plant material (2) (3) (5) (6) (8). Fungi often make up over a third of the diet (4) (5) (8), with underground species such as those in the genus Endogone being particularly important (2) (5) (8) (9). The association of the woodland jumping mouse with cool, moist habitats may partly relate to the availability of this food source (7).
Although it may use long leaps to escape danger, the woodland jumping mouse more often walks around on all fours when moving slowly, or uses short hops for greater speed (2) (3). When escaping, it usually makes several leaps before stopping and remaining motionless under nearby cover (2) (4). The woodland jumping mouse climbs well in bushes, but does not ascend trees (2) (3).
The woodland jumping mouse is most active at night, although it may also be active at dawn and dusk, especially in cloudy or rainy weather (2) (3) (6). This species has a long hibernation, usually lasting from September or October until April or May. During the autumn, the woodland jumping mouse starts to accumulate extra body fat in preparation for hibernation, and will sometimes increase to one and a half times its spring weight (1) (2) (3) (6). No extra food is eaten over the winter months, so any individuals without sufficient fat reserves do not survive (1). In the spring, male woodland jumping mice emerge a couple of weeks before the females (2) (3) (10).
This small rodent builds a globular nest of dry grass and leaves, usually in an underground burrow, in a hollow log or fallen tree, or in a pile of brush (1) (2) (3) (4) (5). Burrows may be dug by the mouse itself, or taken over from another small animal. The entrance is concealed during the day (2) (3). The breeding season of the woodland jumping mouse runs from May to early September, although births usually peak in June and August (1) (2) (3) (5) (6). The gestation period is about 21 to 29 days (1) (2) (5), and litter size ranges from 2 to 7 (2) (3). Females sometimes have two litters a year, particularly in more southerly populations (1) (2) (3) (5).
The newborn woodland jumping mice are naked and blind and weigh just 0.9 grams. The young are fully furred by 24 days old and open their eyes at 26 days (2) (3). Weaning takes place by about 34 days old (3). Neither the male nor female woodland jumping mouse breed until after their first hibernation (1) (2) (3) (10). This species may live up to three or four years, but most individuals probably do not survive beyond one or two years (3) (4) (5).Top
Woodland jumping mouse range
The woodland jumping mouse occurs in the north-eastern United States and south-eastern Canada. In Canada, it has been recorded from southern Labrador, south through Quebec, and east through southern and central Ontario, as far as Manitoba. Its range extends south through the north-eastern United States, along the Appalachian Mountains and as far south as northern Georgia (1) (2) (3) (5) (6). It is also found in northern Michigan and northern Wisconsin (1) (5).Top
Woodland jumping mouse habitat
As its common name suggests, the woodland jumping mouse is found primarily in wooded habitats. It prefers relatively cool, moist areas with dense vegetation, particularly in spruce-fir and hemlock-hardwood forests (1) (2) (3) (5) (6) (7). This species is often found along streams or around bogs or swamps (1) (2) (3) (5) (6).Top
Woodland jumping mouse status
The woodland jumping mouse is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).Top
Woodland jumping mouse threats
The woodland jumping mouse is a common and widespread species and is not currently considered at risk of extinction. Its populations are believed to be stable, and it is not facing any major threats at present (1).
However, residential, agricultural and industrial development may reduce the habitat available to the woodland jumping mouse in some areas, particularly affecting suitable hibernation sites. In future, a more serious threat is likely to come from climate change, which could cause a decline in the southern populations of this species, which are already restricted to cooler environments at high elevations. Climate change may also cause reduced winter snowfall, removing the insulating layer that the woodland jumping mouse needs to survive its hibernation period (1).Top
Woodland jumping mouse conservation
There are no specific conservation measures currently known to be in place for the woodland jumping mouse. This colourful rodent occurs within a number of protected areas, but there are no conservation efforts targeting its specific needs (1).
The woodland jumping mouse would benefit from further research into its abundance, the extent of its distribution, and the potential impacts of any threats on its populations (1).Top
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Find out more about the woodland jumping mouse:
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