Nature conservation

Threatened species

Desert Mouse - profile

Indicative distribution

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The areas shown in pink and/purple are the sub-regions where the species or community is known or predicted to occur. They may not occur thoughout the sub-region but may be restricted to certain areas. ( click here to see geographic restrictions). The information presented in this map is only indicative and may contain errors and omissions.
Scientific name: Pseudomys desertor
Conservation status in NSW: Critically Endangered
Commonwealth status: Not listed
Gazetted date: 13 Aug 2010
Profile last updated: 20 Jun 2019


The Desert Mouse, Pseudomys desertor, Troughton, 1932 (family Muridae) is a medium sized rodent with bright chestnut brown fur, overlaid by long, dark guard hairs that produce a spiny, unkempt appearance; under fur is light grey-brown. The tail is brown above and lighter along the sides and below, and is sparsely furred with a scaly appearance. The tail is equal to or shorter than the head-body length. The upper lip and chin of the Desert Mouse is greyish-white. The eyes are large and surrounded with a distinctive pale orange ring. The sexes are of similar size, weighing 11-35g, measuring 70-105mm (head and body length) with the tail 67-103mm.


The Desert Mouse once ranged from the Murray-Darling region in NSW through the Flinders Ranges to the Gibson and Great Sandy Deserts, Nullarbor Plain, and west coast and Bernier Island of Western Australia, in areas receiving a median rainfall of <600mm. Since the arrival of Europeans, the range of the Desert Mouse has apparently contracted to the central deserts. Until recently, there have been no confirmed records of the Desert Mouse in NSW since 1857. Early records of the abundance of the species in NSW are limited, although it was described by Gerard Krefft as being present in ‘large numbers’ at a location between Gol Gol Creek (near Buronga) and the Darling River. In September 2008, a single male Desert Mouse was captured in a pitfall trap in Sturt National Park, in the extreme north-west corner of NSW. Despite intensive surveys in this area over an extended period, the species was only found at the one location. The total number of mature individuals of the species is inferred to be extremely low in New South Wales.

Habitat and ecology

  • Most records of the Desert Mouse come from sand dune or sand plain habitats dominated by Spinifex (Triodia spp.).
  • Depends on a dense groundcover of grasses, sedges or shrubs; survives in small pockets of habitat and expands into other areas following rains and subsequent vegetation growth.
  • Found to be most abundant in areas with the least historical grazing pressure and disturbance, including fire.
  • Has been found in open eucalypt woodlands, riparian habitats, acacia, samphire and nitre bush shrublands, and sedge, spinifex and cane-grass habitats, on alluvial plains, sandplains, dunes, stony hills, scree slopes, and wetlands.
  • Predominantly eats leaves and shoots, although the diet may vary over time and in different areas. It is less granivorous than other desert rodents, although in parts of its range, some dependence on seed and invertebrates has been observed.
  • Unlike many other desert rodents, the Desert Mouse is usually found in simple shallow burrows or in nests in dense grass tussocks; however, complex tunnels have also been observed.
  • The Desert Mouse is solitary and known to be active during both the day and night.

Regional distribution and habitat

Click on a region below to view detailed distribution, habitat and vegetation information.


Recovery strategies

Activities to assist this species

Information sources

IBRA Bioregion IBRA Subregion Known or predicted Geographic restrictions region
Murray Darling DepressionSouth Olary Plain Known None
Other StateQLD Known None
Other StateSA Known None
Simpson Strzelecki DunefieldsStrzelecki Desert Known None