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Meadow Vole

Meadow voles occur throughout most of the northern and eastern United States and Canada in low wetlands, open grasslands, and orchards.

 Meadow Vole

Meadow Vole

Meadow voles are most active above the ground, as evidenced by surface trails often littered with droppings and grass cuttings in the ground vegetation where they live. They sometimes live underground where the soil has been cultivated or where a burrow system is already present.

The pine vole is a stocky little rodent with a blunt nose, short legs, and a tail that is shorter than the head-and-body length. Adult meadow voles are larger than pine voles, have longer tails, and have dark brown fur. A number of other physical, social, and ecological differences distinguish these two species.The Meadow Vole, or “Field Mouse,” is a small, common rodent that lives in grassy fields, woodland, marshes, and along lakes and rivers.It is five to seven inches long, counting the tail, and usually weighs only and ounce or two. Meadow Voles’ color can vary from yellowish-brown to reddish-brown to blackish-brown. They are normally gray on their underparts.

Habits: Meadow Voles make nests in clumps of grass, using materials such as dry grass, sedges, and weeds. From their nests, they build “runways,” like tunnels beneath the grass and plants.Meadow Voles are most active at night during the Summer, and during the day if its Winter. They are less active when there’s a full moon.Meadow Voles breed frequently.

Meadow Voles live a year to a year and a half.Meadow Voles’ diet includes many things, including grasses, sedges, seeds, flowers, leaves, roots of shrubs and small trees, bark, tubers, bulbs, and sometimes insects.Some of Meadow Voles’ favorites, besides grasses, are clover and plantain. These animals can eat their weight daily.Meadow Voles do not hibernate, and they do not usually store food.

They eat constantly. Voles concentrate on green vegetation in the Summer, and switch to mostly grains and seeds in Fall.While Meadow Voles use mostly runways, they also build systems of burrows. They are good diggers, as well as good swimmers. If a vole feels threatened, it will stamp its hindfeet, much like a rabbit. Meadow Voles normally only make noise in order to threaten another vole. Female voles are very territorial.

Life cycle:Many vole populations are cyclic. In North America, population peaks occur about every three to four years.These are not necessarily regular cycles, nor do they usually involve spectacular population explosions.Occasionally, population explosions last about a year before the population crashes. Several factors contribute to this potential for dramatic population increases: voles do not hibernate; females become reproductively active at a very young age (35 to 40 days); voles can give birth to a litter of three to six young every 21 days after the first litter. If the habitat provides protection from predatorsand high protein food sources exist, populations can reach devastating levels in a short period of time.Vegetation greater than 6 inches in height, snow cover, brush piles, leaves, and low-hanging limbs all provide excellent habitat protection. If there is good cover and high-quality food available during the growth period of the population, predators cannot keep up with the popu- lation growth and economic damage can occur.

Damages:Signs found at the scene will help you identify the species causing damage. Prairie and meadow voles leave characteristic surface runways that are visible after snowmelt . The runways consist of closely clipped vegetation, about 1 to 2 inches wide. Small holes lead to underground runways and nesting areas. Pine voles have extensive underground burrow systems, and spend little time above the leaf litter and ground cover layer. Damage that is primarily underground (versus aboveground), coupled with the absence of surface runway systems, typically is caused by pine voles.

 Meadow Vole

Meadow Vole

Voles usually damage woody plants during late fall through early spring. Voles tunnel through snow, and may gnaw on trees and shrubs up to the height that snow accumulates. Individual tooth marks may be visible on the wood after winter vole damage. The gnawing marks left by voles will be irregular in appearance and at various angles. In contrast, rabbits leave tooth marks that are about ⅛-inch wide and very regular. Pine voles, and occasionally meadow and prairie voles, tunnel belowground and feed on roots of trees and shrubs.

Control: Voles don’t always cause significant damage to property. Populations of voles, however, can increase quickly and be cause for concern. Generally, a direct relationship exists between populations of voles and the expected overall level of damage. Before undertaking control, consider the extent of the problem in relation to the cost of control. For example, a few voles could damage a highly valued tree or flower bed and warrant control. At other times, they may go virtually unnoticed, making control unnecessary.

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