Rats and Mice

From Ohio History Central

Ohio is home to many members of the rodent family. The following are some of the rats and mice that can be found in the state.

    Allegheny Woodrat Facts

    Scientific Name: Neotoma floridana
    Habitat: Caves, rock shelters, and bluffs
    Adult Weight: 7-16 oz.
    Adult Body Length: 12 1/4 - 17 1/2 inches
    Litters Per Year: 2
    Litter Size: 1-4
    Foods: Herbivore - variety of vegetation, nuts and fungus.


    The native Woodrat is much different from the inner-city, introduced Norway rat that people are used to seeing. It is grayish-brown with a fur-covered tail, larger ears, and white paws and stomach. The Allegheny Woodrat is not a carrier of diseases which can be picked up by humans.

    The Allegheny (or Eastern) Woodrat is an endangered species. It has been extirpated from New York and the same thing is threatening them in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The cause for their decline is unknown but some believe a parasite is to blame. Because it is classified as a rat, there is little attention being paid to its preservation.

    Norway Rat Facts

    Scientific Name: Rattus norvegicus
    Habitat: Farms, cities, fields, human houses
    Adult Weight: 6-17 oz.
    Adult Body Length: 12 1/2 - 18 inches; tail: 4 3/4 - 8 1/2 inches
    Breeding Period: Throughout the year
    Litters Per Year: 12; average, 5
    Litter Size: 2 - 22; average 7 - 11
    Life Expectancy: 3 years maximum
    Foods: Omnivore - Meat, insects, wild plants, seeds, grain, birds, eggs, human food and garbage


    The Norway Rat, also known as the common, or sewer, rat, has traveled around the world. Originally from central Asia, it spread overland and aboard ships to Europe between the 16th and 18th centuries. The rat was then introduced to American around 1776 in boxes of grain from Europe. Its population quickly spread across North America.

    The "sewer rat" is found throughout Ohio, especially near waterways. It has coarse, brown fur with lighter coloring on its stomach and the easily recognizable naked, scaly tail.

    As populations grow to exceed an area's carrying capacity, Norway Rats will mass migrate to another area. It is reported that in 1727, millions drowned while crossing the Volga River in Russia, although many also survived the crossing. It is migrations like this one that brought about the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin.

    The Norway Rat is a carrier of many diseases and can be very destructive, including ruining grain supplies and property. There are reports of rats that have started fires after gnawing on matches. It is even capable of chewing through steel.

    Despite the trouble that it can cause, the rat, in its albino form, is used in laboratories for tests on genetics, nutrition and disease.

    House Mouse Facts

    Scientific Name: Mus musculus
    Habitat: Buildings in farms and cities; cultivated fields.
    Adult Weight: 5/8 - 3/4 oz.
    Adult Body Length: 5 1/8 - 7 3/4 inches; tail: 2 1/2 - 4 inches
    Breeding Period: Throughout the year
    Litters Per Year: 12
    Litter Size: 13 - 16
    Life Expectancy: 15 - 18 months
    Foods: Omnivore – Weed seeds, caterpillars, insects, grains, human food and garbage.


    The House Mouse is small with generally a brown coat, although there are many color variations.

    The House Mouse has a similar travel history as the Norway Rat. They were introduced from Asia into Europe before arriving in Florida in the 16th century as stowaways on Spanish ships. Another arrival of House Mice came later to America aboard ships from England and France.

    House Mice are known for having exploding populations. In 1926-27, they reached plague levels with an estimated 82,000 mice per acre in the Central Valley of California.

    The House Mouse can be found throughout Ohio

    Meadow Jumping Mouse Facts

    Scientific Name: Zapus hudsonius
    Habitat: Moist fields, marshes, thick woods near water
    Adult Weight: 1/2 - 1 oz.
    Adult Body Length: 7 1/4 - 10 inches; tail: 4 1/4 - 6 1/8 inches
    Breeding Period: April - May
    Litters Per Year: 2
    Litter Size: 2 - 9; average 5 -6
    Life Expectancy: 15 - 18 months
    Foods: Omnivore - Seeds, grasses, caterpillars, beetle larva, fungus


    The Jumping Mouse gets its name from the ability to jump 3 - 4 feet when startled. It has a short, coarse coat with yellow or orange black-tipped hairs, but is easily recognized by its long tail and long hind feet.

    Jumping Mice are excellent swimmers and diggers.

    Jumping Mice do not store food for the winter. Instead, they will gain body fat and live off of it while hibernating.


    See Also