Woodland voles have a combined head and body length between 83 and 120 mm; the tail ranges from 15 to 40 mm in length. They weigh between 14 and 37 g. Males and females look alike. The fur on the back varies from light to dark brown in color. The belly fur is whitish or silvery. Because they live partly underground, their eyes, ears, and tails are very small, and their foreclaws are somewhat enlarged for digging.
Woodland voles are found from central Texas to Wisconsin, and eastward to the Atlantic coast (except for Florida).
Woodland voles live in deciduous forests in eastern North America. They burrow near the surface of the forest floor, moving through thick decaying leaves and loose soil.
Each woodland vole mates with just one other woodland vole; therefore, they are monogamous.
Mating generally takes place from spring through fall with a peak in late spring to early summer. Some woodland voles may breed throughout the year if they live at low altitudes or experience mild winters. After a pregnancy of about 21 days, females give birth to a litter. Litters usually contain 3 to 7 young, though they can have 1 to 13 newborns. Females may have several litters in a year.
Females make nests in underground burrows, shallow surface depressions, or under rocks and logs. Nests are spherical in shape and lined with shredded vegetation. They are approximately 150 mm in diameter. Young are helpless at birth and the mother nurses them for about 17 days.
On average, woodland voles live less than three months. The longest known lifespan in the wild is just over a year.
Woodland voles are surface burrowers, normally going no deeper than 100 mm below ground. They may also use the burrows of mice, moles, and large shrews. They are active at any time of the night or day. Males and females seem to be very social, and they are usually bonded in monogamous male-female pairs.
Woodland voles spend their entire lives within the same home range of 700 to 2800 square meters.
When sensing danger or when surprised, woodland voles make a high pitched noise that may serve as a warning signal. They have small eyes, so they probably do not rely much on their vision, and instead rely on their senses of touch, smell, and hearing to locate one another and find food.
Woodland voles are mostly herbivorous animals that feed on tubers, roots, seeds, leaves, and nuts. They may also eat berries and insects. In the fall, woodland voles store tubers and shoots inside of a burrow to eat in the winter when food is scarce.
Woodland voles may spread the seeds of the plants they eat and they are an important food source for many predators.
During a severe winter woodland voles may cause damage to trees. In orchards these animals may strip the bark from the roots and lower trunks of fruit trees.
There are no known direct positive effects of woodland voles on humans. Because they are important prey for many species, they help maintain a thriving ecosystem.
Some populations at the edge of the range of this species are considered to be threatened or--as is the case in Michigan--of "special concern." However, woodland voles are common throughout most of their range and sometimes considered agricultural pests.
Voles are often confused with moles due to similarity of appearance and behavior.
Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, George Hammond (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.
Allison Poor (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
David Copp (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
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