Woodland voles have a combined head and body length of between 83 and 120 mm; the tail ranges from 15 to 40 mm in length. They weigh between 14 and 37 grams. 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. About 21 days after breeding takes place, a litter of between 3 and 7 young is born. The litter size can range from 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. The 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 with one another, 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.
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.
Allison Poor (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
David Copp (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.
uses sound to communicate
young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends.
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
animals that generate their own body heat through metabolic processes.
forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.
Referring to a burrowing life-style or behavior, specialized for digging or burrowing.
an animal that mainly eats seeds
An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.
offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).
Having one mate at a time.
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
active during the night
breeding is confined to a particular season
remains in the same area
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
associates with others of its species; forms social groups.
places a food item in a special place to be eaten later. Also called "hoarding"
uses touch to communicate
that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).
Living on the ground.
uses sight to communicate
reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.
I.M. Gromov & I.Y. Polyakov. Voles (Microtinae). Ed. Robert S. Hoffman & Douglas Siegel-Causey. Smithsonian Institute Libraries: Washington D.C., 1992.
Walker, Ernest P. Mammals of the World [volume III, ps. 647 - 1500]. Johns Hopkins Press: Baltimore, 1964.
Nowak, Ronald M. Walker's Mammals of the World [fifth edition, volume III]. Johns Hopkins University Press: Baltimore, 1991.
"Animal Life Histories Database" (On-line).
Kurta, A. 1995. Mammals of the Great Lakes Region. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.
Ruff, S., D. Wilson. 1999. The Smithsonian Book of North American Mammals. Washington [D.C.]: Smithsonian Institution Press in association with the American Society of Mammalogists.