Wood mouse

The wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus) is a murid rodent native to Europe and northwestern Africa. It is closely related to the yellow-necked mouse (Apodemus flavicollis) but differs in that it has no band of yellow fur around the neck, has slightly smaller ears, and is usually slightly smaller overall: around 90 mm (3.54 in) in length. It is found across most of Europe and is a very common and widespread species, is commensal with people and is sometimes considered a pest.[1] Other common names are long-tailed field mouse, field mouse, common field mouse, and European wood mouse.[2]

Apodemus sylvaticus-gt
Upper front teeth with smooth inner surface which distinguish the wood mouse from the house mouse
Wood mouse
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Family: Muridae
Genus: Apodemus
A. sylvaticus
Binomial name
Apodemus sylvaticus
Apodemus sylvaticus distribution
Apodemus sylvaticus range (in green)

Mus sylvaticus Linnaeus, 1758

Habitat and distribution

Wood Mouse
"Harvest, Wood Mouse" illustration from "British Mammals" by A. Thorburn, 1920

Wood mice inhabit forests, grasslands, and cultivated fields, tending to seek out more wooded areas in winter.[3] Almost entirely nocturnal and terrestrial, wood mice burrow extensively, build nests of plants and live in buildings during harsh seasons. It is one of the most intensively studied species in the genus. In Europe it ranges north to Scandinavia and east to Ukraine. The wood mouse is also found in northwestern Africa and on many Mediterranean islands.[4]


Wood mice are primarily seed eaters,[5] particularly seeds of trees such as oak, beech, ash, lime, hawthorn, and sycamore. If seeds are plentiful on the ground, they carry them back to their nests/burrows for storage.[6] They may eat small invertebrates such as snails and insects, particularly in late spring and early summer when seeds are least available. Later in the season they will eat berries, fruits, fungi and roots. In winter, they may prey on hibernating bats.[7]


Wood mice are mainly active during the dark, probably having evolved so to avoid predation, employing several anti-predatory strategies, though breeding females may be more active in daylight in order to collect sufficient food.[8] While foraging, wood mice pick up and distribute visually conspicuous objects, such as leaves and twigs, which they then use as landmarks during exploration.[9][10] If a wood mouse is caught by its tail, it can quickly shed the end of it, which may never regrow.[11] Despite its name, it prefers hedgerows to woodland. During the colder months, wood mice do not hibernate; however, during severe winter seasons they fall into a sort of torpor, a decrease in physiological activity.


Predators of wood mice include foxes, snakes, weasels, hawks, owls, domestic dogs and domestic cats.[12] To avoid predation, wood mice tend to forage in covered microsites.[13]


The wood mouse has a breeding season from February to October in which multiple matings occur between males and females, resulting in scramble competition. Such behavioral characteristics result in sperm competition and multiple paternity litters. The society is polygynous with copulation resulting from scramble competition during reproductive periods. Males possess a sac known as the cauda epididymis, which stores sperm and lies underneath the scrotal protrusion. Temperature regulation ensures maximum sperm output.

One interesting observation about the species, in particular the males, is the morphology of the spermatozoa. They develop falciform (sickle-shaped) heads after meiosis and before spermiation (release during ejaculation). The hook located at the tip of the head adheres to the surface of the head prior to deployment. Propidium iodide staining revealed that only the basal surface of the hook is of nuclear origin. These apical hooks are deployed in female reproductive tract (mechanism responsible involved the remodeling of actin filaments in the hook). Deployed apical hooks combine with apical hooks and flagella of other spermatozoa. The aggregates of spermatozoa that result form "mobile trains", which have experimentally been determined to possess better motility in the female reproductive tract.[14] The mobility of these mobile trains was also found to be influenced by premature acrosome reactions, altruistic acts performed by some spermatozoa for the benefit of other genetically similar gametocytes. This altruism follows a "green beard" mechanism in which spermatozoa discern the genetic similarity of surrounding gametocytes (such mechanisms are rare because they must code for a recognizable phenotype, as well as response mechanisms). Once spermatozoa of similar genotypes are identified, altruism genes are turned on to elicit a response that seeks to conserve the genes present in the other cell, even if it results in the destruction of the cell performing the action.

The gestation period of wood mice is of 25–26 days and each female produces on average five young. The offspring become independent after about three weeks and become sexually active after two months.


Apodemus sylvaticus bosmuis

Wood mouse

Cherry stone hoard

A cherry stone hoard

Wood mouse in an attic


  1. ^ Schlitter & Van der Straeten (2004). "Apodemus sylvaticus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2006. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 11 May 2006. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of least concern
  2. ^ Wrobel, Murray. (2006). Elsevier's Dictionary of Mammals. Elsevier, ISBN 978-0-444-51877-4.
  3. ^ J. L. Tellería; T. Santos; M. Alcántara (1991). "Abundance and Food-Searching Intensity of Wood Mice (Apodemus sylvaticus) in Fragmented Forests" (PDF). Journal of Mammalogy. 72: 183–187. doi:10.2307/1381994. JSTOR 1381994. Retrieved 2 November 2018.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica. 2008. Wood mouse
  5. ^ Fedriani, J. M. (2005). "Do frugivorous mice choose where or what to feed?". Journal of Mammalogy. 86 (3): 576–586. doi:10.1644/1545-1542(2005)86[576:dfmcwo]2.0.co;2.
  6. ^ Phil Gates (6 September 2018). "Country diary: a close encounter with a wood mouse". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 November 2018.
  7. ^ Anne-Jifke Haarsma and Rutger Kaal (2016). "Predation of wood mice (Apodemus sylvaticus) on hibernating bats". Population Ecology. 58 (4): 567–576. doi:10.1007/s10144-016-0557-y.
  8. ^ S. Halle and N.C. Stenseth (2012). Activity patterns in small mammals: An ecological approach. Springer. ISBN 9783642182648. Retrieved 2 November 2018.
  9. ^ Stopka, P.; et al. (April 2003). "Way-marking behaviour: an aid to spatial navigation in the wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus)". BMC Ecology. 3: 3. doi:10.1186/1472-6785-3-3. PMC 154096. PMID 12697070.
  10. ^ "Mice make their own signposts". Nature. 2 May 2003. Retrieved 2 November 2018.
  11. ^ Goaman, K., Amery, H. (1983). Mysteries & Marvels of the Animal World, pg. 15.
  12. ^ "The Mammal Society" (PDF). Retrieved 2 November 2018.
  13. ^ Fedriani, J. M. 2005.
  14. ^ Moore, Harry; et al. (2002). "Exceptional sperm cooperation in the wood mouse" (PDF). Nature. 418 (6894): 174–177. doi:10.1038/nature00832. PMID 12110888.

External links

Allen's wood mouse

Allen's hylomyscus or Allen's wood mouse (Hylomyscus alleni) is a species of rodent in the family Muridae. It is native to West and Central Africa, where it is widely distributed. It occurs in deciduous forest habitat.

Angolan wood mouse

The Angolan hylomyscus or Angolan wood mouse (Hylomyscus carillus) is a species of rodent in the family Muridae.

It is found only in Angola.

Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical dry forest.

Ansell's wood mouse

Ansell's wood mouse (Hylomyscus anselli) is a species of rodent in the genus Hylomyscus. It was described in 1979.

Baer's wood mouse

Baer's hylomyscus or Baer's wood mouse (Hylomyscus baeri) is a species of rodent in the family Muridae.

It is found in Ivory Coast, Ghana, and Sierra Leone.

Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests.

It is threatened by habitat loss.

Beaded wood mouse

The beaded hylomyscus or beaded wood mouse (Hylomyscus aeta) is a species of rodent in the family Muridae.

It is found in Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and Uganda.

Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forest and subtropical or tropical moist montane forest.

Dwarf multimammate mouse

The dwarf multimammate mouse (Mastomys pernanus) is a species of rodent in the family Muridae found in Kenya, Rwanda, and Tanzania.

Its natural habitat savanna.

Emma's giant rat

Emma's uromys or Emma's giant rat (Uromys emmae) is a species of rodent in the family Muridae.


Hylomyscus is a genus of rodent in the family Muridae endemic to Africa.

It contains seventeen species divided in six species groups:

H. aeta group

Beaded wood mouse, Hylomyscus aeta (Thomas, 1911)

Mount Oku wood mouse, Hylomyscus grandis Eisentraut, 1969

H. alleni group

Allen's wood mouse, Hylomyscus alleni (Waterhouse, 1838)

Angolan wood mouse, Hylomyscus carillus (Thomas, 1904)

Hylomyscus pamfi Nicolas, Olayemi, Wendelen & Colyn, 2010

Flat-nosed wood mouse, Hylomyscus simus (Allen & Coolidge, 1930)

Stella wood mouse, Hylomyscus stella (Thomas, 1911)

Walter Verheyen's mouse, Hylomyscus walterverheyeni Nicolas, Wendelen, Barriere, Dudu & Colyn, 2008

H. anselli group

Ansell's wood mouse, Hylomyscus anselli Bishop, 1979

Arc Mountain wood mouse, Hylomyscus arcimontensis Carleton & Stanley, 2005

Heinrich's wood mouse, Hylomyscus heinrichorum Carleton, Banasiak & Stanley, 2015

Kerbis Peterhans's wood mouse, Hylomyscus kerbispeterhansi Demos, Agwanda & Hickerson, 2014

H. baeri group

Baer's wood mouse, Hylomyscus baeri Heim de Balsac & Aellen, 1965

H. denniae group

Montane wood mouse, Hylomyscus denniae (Thomas, 1906)

Small-footed forest mouse, Hylomyscus endorobae (Heller, 1910)

Volcano wood mouse, Hylomyscus vulcanorum (Lönnberg & Gyldenstolpe, 1925)

H. parvus group

Little wood mouse, Hylomyscus parvus Brosset, Dubost & Heim de Balsac, 1965

Hylomyscus vulcanorum

Hylomyscus vulcanorum is a species of rodent in the family Muridae.

Korean field mouse

The Korean field mouse (Apodemus peninsulae), also known as the Korean wood mouse, is a species of mouse. It is distributed across Northeastern Asia, including the Russian Far East, northern China, the Korean Peninsula, Sakhalin, and Hokkaidō. It is not found on the Korean island of Jeju. The adult has a body length of 76–125 mm, with a tail of nearly equal length (75–112 mm).

Little wood mouse

The lesser hylomyscus or little wood mouse (Hylomyscus parvus) is a species of rodent in the family Muridae.

It is found in Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, and possibly Equatorial Guinea.

Its natural habitat is subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests.

Montane wood mouse

The montane hylomyscus or montane wood mouse (Hylomyscus denniae) is a species of rodent in the family Muridae. A long-coated species with brownish-grey upper parts and whitish-grey underparts, it occurs in the uplands of tropical Central Africa where its natural habitat is tropical moist montane forests.

Mount Oku hylomyscus

The Mount Oku hylomyscus (Hylomyscus grandis) is a species of rodent in the family Muridae. Found only on Mount Oku, Cameroon, in tropical Central Africa, its natural habitat is tropical moist montane forests. It has a very small range and is threatened by habitat destruction, so the International Union for Conservation of Nature has rated its conservation status as being "critically endangered".


Myomyscus is a genus of rodent endemic to Africa. Species in this genus are often placed in the genus Myomys Thomas, 1915, but the type specimen for Myomys is a Mastomys. Other species that had been previously assigned to Myomys are now considered to belong to the genera Praomys and Stenocephalemys.

Natal multimammate mouse

The Natal multimammate mouse (Mastomys natalensis) is a species of rodent in the family Muridae. It is also known as the Natal multimammate rat, the common African rat, or the African soft-furred mouse.


Solomys is a genus of rodent in the family Muridae. These large rats, which are all seriously threatened (one already extinct), are native to the Solomon Islands.

It contains the following species:

Poncelet's giant rat (Solomys ponceleti)

Florida naked-tailed rat (Solomys salamonis)

Bougainville naked-tailed rat (Solomys salebrosus)

Isabel naked-tailed rat (Solomys sapientis)

Buka Island naked-tailed rat (Solomys spriggsarum) – extinct, known only from subfossil remains.

Stella wood mouse

The Stella hylomyscus or Stella wood mouse (Hylomyscus stella) is a species of rodent in the family Muridae. It is found in Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forest and subtropical or tropical moist montane forest.

Taiwan field mouse

The Taiwan field mouse, also called Formosan wood mouse (Apodemus semotus), is a species of rodent in the family Muridae.

It is found only in Taiwan.The Taiwan field mouse is primarily distributed in the montane region between 1,400 and 3,000 m. They inhabit various habitat types, such as natural or planted forests, grasslands, farms, and campsites, and are omnivorous feeding on plants, insects and fungi.Based on morphological measurements, it has been suggested that the Taiwan field mouse is not different from the South China field mouse (Apodemus draco), and should not be considered as a separate species.The Taiwan field mouse is sexually dimorphic, with male generally larger than females (male: 25.6 ± 0.5 g; female: 23.8 ± 0.5 g). Mark-capture-recapture data suggest that their life span may be less than 1 year in the wild.

Yellow-necked mouse

The yellow-necked mouse (Apodemus flavicollis), also called yellow-necked field mouse, yellow-necked wood mouse, and South China field mouse, is closely related to the wood mouse, with which it was long confused. It was only recognised as a separate species in 1894. It differs in its band of yellow fur around the neck and in having slightly larger ears and usually being slightly larger overall. Around 100 mm in length, it can climb trees and sometimes overwinters in houses. It is found mostly in mountainous areas of southern Europe, but extends north into parts of Scandinavia and Britain. It facilitates the spread of tick-borne encephalitis to humans and is a reservoir species for the Dobrava virus, a hantavirus that is responsible for causing haemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome.

Extant species of subfamily Murinae (Aethomys–Chrotomys)

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