Michigan's varied habitats offer a wide range of environments for small rodents. Native areas are homes for wild mice, voles, lemmings, chipmunks and flying squirrels. Most small rodents are nocturnal, but voles are active day and night and chipmunks during the day. Small rodents have a high reproductive rate and are food for predators such as owls, hawks, snakes, foxes, coyotes and bobcats. Rodents can cause damage in gardens, stored foods and homes, and some are vectors of human diseases.
Native and Introduced Mice
The closely related deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus) and white-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus) are 5 to almost 8 inches long and widely distributed in woodlands and grasslands. Both mice have white underparts, but deer mice have brownish fur and white-footed mice are more grayish. Long tails and enlarged hind legs and feet distinguish jumping mice. The woodland jumping mouse (Napaeozapus insignis) is 8 to 10 inches long, has orange-yellow fur with a darker stripe down its back and a white-tipped tail. More slender and with a proportionately longer tail, the meadow jumping mouse (Zapus hudsonius) has a duller brown color. In contrast to the wild mice, the introduced house mouse (Mus musculus) has an almost hairless tail, a shorter length of 3 to 4 inches and light-brown to black coloration above and a beige to white underside. It thrives in man-made environments.
Voles and Lemmings
Voles have stouter bodies than mice and short, stubby tails. The commonest Michigan vole species is the meadow vole (Microtus pennsylvanicus), which constructs burrows and above-ground runways in grasslands and marshlands as well as under snow. It can be a garden and cropland pest, and it is about 5 to almost 8 inches long and blackish- to reddish-brown. The woodland vole (Microtus pinetorum) is infrequently seen and prefers dry hardwood forest habitats. It is smaller than the meadow vole, has a shorter tail and reddish fur on its sides. Occurring only in the southwestern corner of the state, prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster) are 5 to 6 inches long with tan undersides and otherwise salt-and-pepper, brownish-yellow fur. With a similar aspect, the southern bog lemming (Synaptomys cooperi) is 4 to 5 1/2 inches long and has a very short tail and chestnut to dark-brown fur with a grizzled appearance. It occupies bogs, swamps and woodlands.
Two kinds of chipmunks live in Michigan. The eastern chipmunk (Tamias striatus) resides throughout the state in woodlands and forests. It is about 10 inches long and has black and white stripes on its back and stripes on its face. It also has reddish-brown sides and a long, hairy tail. The least chipmunk (Tamias minimus) is smaller, from 4 to almost 9 inches long, and prefers more open habitats such as forest edges and rock cliffs and bluffs. Five dark and four light stripes travel down its back.
Due to their nocturnal habits, Michigan's two species of flying squirrels aren't frequently seen. Flying squirrels glide on skin flaps that extend along their sides between the front and hind legs. The northern flying squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus) inhabits Michigan's Upper Peninsula and the northern part of the Lower Peninsula while the southern flying squirrel (Glaucomys volans) lives in the southern part of the state. The southern flying squirrel is smaller, with a length of 8 to 10 inches; the northern flying squirrel is 10 to 13 inches long.