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woodland vole

Microtus pinetorum

What do they look like?

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.

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range mass
    14 to 37 g
    0.49 to 1.30 oz
  • Range length
    83 to 120 mm
    3.27 to 4.72 in
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    0.305 W
    AnAge

Where do they live?

Woodland voles are found from central Texas to Wisconsin, and eastward to the Atlantic coast (except for Florida).

What kind of habitat do they need?

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.

How do they reproduce?

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.

  • How often does reproduction occur?
    Woodland voles may breed several times a year.
  • Breeding season
    Mating generally takes place from spring through fall with a peak in late spring to early summer.
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 13
  • Average number of offspring
    3 to 7
  • Average number of offspring
    3
    AnAge
  • Average gestation period
    21 days
    AnAge
  • Average weaning age
    17 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    98 days
    AnAge

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.

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • pre-fertilization
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female

How long do they live?

On average, woodland voles live less than three months. The longest known lifespan in the wild is just over a year.

How do they behave?

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.

  • Range territory size
    700 to 2800 m^2

Home Range

Woodland voles spend their entire lives within the same home range of 700 to 2800 square meters.

How do they communicate with each other?

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.

What do they eat?

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.

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • roots and tubers
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit

What eats them and how do they avoid being eaten?

Woodland voles have many predators, including hawks, owls, snakes, foxes, raccoons, weasels, skunks, and opossums.

What roles do they have in the ecosystem?

Woodland voles may spread the seeds of the plants they eat and they are an important food source for many predators.

Do they cause problems?

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.

  • Ways that these animals might be a problem for humans
  • crop pest

How do they interact with us?

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.

Are they endangered?

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.

Some more information...

Voles are often confused with moles due to similarity of appearance and behavior.

Contributors

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.

References

Walker, Ernest P. Mammals of the World [volume III, ps. 647 - 1500]. Johns Hopkins Press: Baltimore, 1964.

I.M. Gromov & I.Y. Polyakov. Voles (Microtinae). Ed. Robert S. Hoffman & Douglas Siegel-Causey. Smithsonian Institute Libraries: Washington D.C., 1992.

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.

 
University of Michigan Museum of ZoologyNational Science Foundation

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Copp, D. 2011. "Microtus pinetorum" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed September 02, 2014 at http://www.biokids.umich.edu/accounts/Microtus_pinetorum/

BioKIDS is sponsored in part by the Interagency Education Research Initiative. It is a partnership of the University of Michigan School of Education, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, and the Detroit Public Schools. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant DRL-0628151.
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