Voles

Scientific Name: Genus Microtus

Description:

Many people distinguish "meadow mice" from "field mice" by the fact that meadow mice (more properly called "voles") have blunt snouts and short ears barely visible through the fur. Most of the eight species of voles that make Colorado home are brownish in color, but the sagebrush vole is gray and the southern red-backed vole has a brick-red patch on its back.

Size ranges from less than six inches and 1½ ounces for sagebrush voles to about seven inches long and up to 2 ½ ounces for meadow and prairie voles.

Range:

Except for prairie uplands in the east and the southwestern desert valleys, most parts of Colorado support one or more species of voles. Many of the voles live in meadows, but the sagebrush vole lives in sagebrush and the Mogollon (formerly called Mexican) vole occurs in ponderosa pine savannah.

Habitat:

Most species select habitats with good ground cover where their presence is revealed by runways, 1 ½ inches wide, often beneath a roof of thatch and littered with cut grass stems.

Diet:

Voles eat mostly plants. Red-backed and heather voles eat fungi, fruits, seeds and some leaves, but other voles are mostly grazers. Like other mammals that feed on abrasive grasses, they have ever-growing cheekteeth that are continually replaced from below as the crowns wear away.

Reproduction:

Females have several litters of one to seven young through the growing season. Young are born blind and helpless, but young of early litters mature and breed their first year. Predators include owls, snakes, foxes, and weasels, depending on environment. Populations of a number of species cycle in abundance.

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