Zapus hudsoniusmeadow jumping mouse

Geographic Range

Meadow jumping mice may be found throughout northern North America. They are found from the Atlantic Coast to the Great Plains in the United States, northward throughout the north eastern and north central states to the arctic tree-line of Alaska and Canada, and as far south as Georgia, Alabama, Arizona, and New Mexico. They have the widest known distribution of mice in the subfamily Zapodinae.


Meadow jumping mice may live in various habitats that have some herbacious cover, but moist grassland is preferred and heavily wooded areas are avoided. Grassy fields and thick vegetated areas bordering streams, ponds, or marshes generally support greater numbers. It is possible that these mice prefer habitats with high humidity.

Physical Description

Meadow jumping mice range in length from 180 to 240 mm, with the tail accounting for 108 to 165 mm. The hind feet are 28 to 35 mm long.

Mass varies substantially with the season. Summer weights range between 11.15 and 24.8 grams, averaging between 16 and 19 g. Prior to hibernation, meadow jumping mice may attain weights up to, or greater than, 35 g.

Meadow jumping mice are recognized for their extremely long tails and long hind feet. Small and slender, they differ from woodland jumping mice in that they do not have a white-tipped tail and are generally duller in color. Adults have a dorsal dark or olive brown band, which is paler in juveniles. The sides are a pale yellowish-brown, with black hairs lining the flanks, and the underparts are white or buffy-white. The tail is sparsely haired, dark brown on top and yellow-white on the bottom, and exceeds the body length. The pelage is short, thick, and predominantly coarse. These mice undergo an annual molt that usually commences after mid-June for adults or in August for the juveniles and lasts for about three weeks. Meadow jumping mice have small and delicate forelimbs with four toes on each foot. The hind limbs are longer and have five toes. The feet have naked soles. The head is small, narrow, and relatively high crowned. The nose is short and pointed. These mice have large infraorbital foramen. Dental formula is 1/1, 0/0, 1/0, 3/3. Meadow jumping mice are the only mammal with eighteen teeth. The upper jaw is characterized as follows: short, narrow, and longitudinally grooved incisors; small cheek teeth; and a small peg-like premoloar that generally precedes the molars. These mice have 8 mammary glands, 4 inguinal, 1 pectoral, and 1 abdominal. Females may sometimes be slightly larger and weigh more than males.

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger
  • Range mass
    12 to 30 g
    0.42 to 1.06 oz
  • Average mass
    18.25 g
    0.64 oz
  • Range length
    180 to 240 mm
    7.09 to 9.45 in
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    0.219 W


No information is available on the mating system of meadow jumping mice.

The breeding season of meadow jumping mice occurs shortly after hibernation in late April or May. Males emerge from hibernation slightly prior to females and are reproductively active when the females emerge. Within two weeks after emergence, the majority of females are pregnant and gestation begins. Gestation is usually about 18 days, but may be longer for lactating females. A female may have 2 to 3 litters in a year. The average litter size is 5.3, though the number of young varies between 2 and 9. In the north, most young are born and weaned between June and August. Small and weighing about 0.8 g, the neonates are naked, pink, blind, clawless and deaf, but squeak audibly at birth. In the first week, their ear pinnae unfold, fur begins to cover their backs, and their claws appear. They begin crawling between the first and second weeks, and by the third week they can hop, creep, and hear. Their incisors have erupted, and they have tawny coats. By the end of the fourth week, the young have adult pelage, and open eyes. Weaned, they are independent between the 28th and 33rd day. Those young females born during the spring may reproduce after two months.

  • Breeding interval
    Females may have 2 to 3 litters during the warm part of the year.
  • Breeding season
    The breeding season of meadow jumping mice occurs shortly after hibernation in late April or May.
  • Range number of offspring
    2 to 9
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average gestation period
    18 days
  • Average gestation period
    19 days
  • Range time to independence
    28 to 33 days
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    2 (low) months
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    Sex: male
    61 days

Female meadow jumping mice provide all the care for their young, until they are weaned and independent.

  • Parental Investment
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female


Most meadow jumping mice in the wild die in their first year; about 9% of those who live longer make it into their third year. Maximum lifespan in captivity is five years. (Kurta, 1995)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    3 (high) years
  • Range lifespan
    Status: captivity
    5 (high) years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    1 (high) years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    <1 years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    5.0 years
    Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research


Meadow jumping mice are solitary, but not aggressive toward others of their kind. They are generally nocturnal (although occasionally diurnal), and usually move in sequential short hops of about 2.5 to 15 cm or by crawling along vole runways or in the grass. They are also great swimmers and diggers and can climb. These mice are relatively nomadic, and may roam up to 1 km in search of moist habitat. Summer nests are made of grass and are generally placed in or under protective structures or underground. Hibernation nests are made of grass and leaves and usually lie in burrows 0.3 to 0.9 m below the ground. These animals begin to hibernate between late September and early October. Hibernation is not believed to be synchronous, but dependent upon fat reserves. Juveniles usually start hibernating later than adults. While in torpor, body temperature may drop as low as 2 degrees celsius. These mice reemerge in mid to late spring.

  • Range territory size
    0.0015 to 0.011 km^2

Home Range

Home ranges vary between 0.15 and 1.10 hectares and may overlap. Population densities may reach up to 10 or more per acre, but 2 to 3 individuals per acre is typical in a high quality habitat. There is some disagreement over the degree of population fluctuation in this species.

Communication and Perception

Meadow jumping mice make few sounds, except the squeaking of young. Adults may call in clucks, chatter their teeth, and drum the ground with their tails. They have a keen sense of smell and probably use scent to communicate as well.

Meadow jumping mice perceive their environment using their eyes, their ears, their nose, and their whiskers.

Food Habits

Meadow jumping mice primarily eat seeds, but also feed on berries, fruit, and insects. Grasses may be cut in sections to reach the seed heads. These mice may leave these piles of grass debris with rachis and glumes on the surface. In the spring, one half of the diet may consist of animal foods after emergence from hibernation. Especially important are Lepidoptera larvae and beetles of the familia Carabidae and Curculionidae. Later, seeds and the sporocarps of hypogeous fungi (e.g. Endogone). Weight generally increases toward the beginning of the fall, especially two weeks before hibernation begins, as sufficient accumulated fat is required for hibernation.

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit
  • Other Foods
  • fungus


Predators of meadow jumping mice include great horned owls, screech owls, red-tailed hawks, weasels, and foxes. If startled, these mice leap up to 1 m high in the air (hence, their common name) and then either short hop or crouch, flattening their brighter underparts against the ground. This stillness is apparently their primary defense against predators. (Kurta, 1995)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

Meadow jumping mice are an important food source for many predators, and may play a role in spreading the seeds of some of the plants they eat. They have few parasites.

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • disperses seeds

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Meadow jumping mice may eat grain, but numbers aren't generally high enough to have a substantial impact.

  • Negative Impacts
  • crop pest

Conservation Status

Meadow jumping mice are not currently threatened, although local populations may be affected by changes in land use and habitat destruction.

Other Comments

There are three species of the genus Zapus: Zapus hudsonius, Zapus princeps, and Zapus trinotatus. Eleven subspecies of Zapus hudsonius are listed by Whitaker, Jr. (1972).


Allison Poor (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Jocelyn Smith (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map


uses sound to communicate

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.


union of egg and spermatozoan


an animal that mainly eats seeds


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


the state that some animals enter during winter in which normal physiological processes are significantly reduced, thus lowering the animal's energy requirements. The act or condition of passing winter in a torpid or resting state, typically involving the abandonment of homoiothermy in mammals.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


marshes are wetland areas often dominated by grasses and reeds.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


active during the night


generally wanders from place to place, usually within a well-defined range.


Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).


specialized for leaping or bounding locomotion; jumps or hops.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


lives alone


uses touch to communicate


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


Living on the ground.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.


A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.


uses sight to communicate


reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.


Baker, R. H. 1983. Michigan Mammals. Michigan State University Press, Michigan.

Knox, Jr., J.J. and E. C. Birney. 1988. Handbook of Mammals of the North-Central States. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.

Nowalk, R. M., and J. L. Paradiso. 1983. Walker's Mammals of the World. The John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.

Whitaker, Jr. J. O. 1972. Mammalian Species. No. 11 (pp. 1-7). The American Society of Mammalogists, New York.

William, A. 1974. The Mammals of Canada. University of Toronto Press, Toronto.

"Animal Life Histories Database" (On-line).

Kurta, A. 1995. Mammals of the Great Lakes Region. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Ruff, S., D. Wilson. 1999. The Smithsonian book of North American Mammals. Washington [D.C.]: Smithsonian Institution Press in association with the American Society of Mammalogists.