There’s a good reason that you’ve never seen a woodland jumping mouse. You may not even know that the species exists. These mice are common forest-dwellers, but they spend most of their lives sleeping. (Hey, sweet!). In fact, they hibernate longer than any other mammal in eastern North America.
After nine months of slumber, woodland jumpers do get busy, briefly, in the spring. They’re nocturnal, but you might spot one bounding across the road in the headlights of your car. A woodland jumping mouse can leap more than three metres in one bound; that’s at least 33 times its own body length! They’re built a little kangaroo-like, with large back feet and thin toes. They tend to jump in a zigzag pattern, and use their long, white-tipped tails for balance.
After breeding—and giving birth—woodland jumpers are ready to hit the hay again. Adults hunker down as early as mid-August, but youngsters stick around until October. They need more time to forage and fatten up before winter. The choice treat for a jumping mouse? Underground fungi, a.k.a., truffles. The more they eat, the more the truffles spread; jumping mice help to disperse the fungal spores via their droppings. (Since truffle spores are underground, they can’t spread via water or wind.)
Jumping mice aren’t common cottage pests, and, because they spend so much time safely tucked in their underground burrows, they can live longer than other rodents. Some mice even make it to age four! That’s downright ancient.