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Meadow Vole

Microtus pennsylvanicus

The meadow vole is an herbivore that feeds on the leaves, stems, roots and seeds of wetland grasses. (John J. Mosesso/NBII Life)
The meadow vole is an herbivore that feeds on the leaves, stems, roots and seeds of wetland grasses. (John J. Mosesso/NBII Life)

The meadow vole is a small, dark brown rodent that is common in grassy marshes throughout the Chesapeake Bay region.

Appearance:

  • Rich, dark brown fur
  • Grayish or pale brown underparts
  • Long, furry tail that can be 2.5 inches
  • Small ears
  • Dark brown feet
  • Grows to 6 inches long and usually weighs about 1.5 ounces

Habitat:

  • Lives in fresh, brackish and salt marshes
  • Active both at night and during the day

Range:

  • Found throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed
  • Stays within a home range that varies in size depending on sex: males’ home ranges are three times larger than females’
  • Females’ home ranges do not overlap with other females’, but males’ home ranges can overlap

Feeding:

  • An herbivore that feeds on the leaves, stems, roots and seeds of wetland grasses, sedges and rushes
  • In winter, switches to eating tree bark and roots
  • Known to be cannibalistic, especially on young voles
  • Eats 60 percent of its body weight each day
  • Creates narrow “runways” through the marsh grass as it eats its way along a path and runs back and forth along that path

Predators:

  • Owls, hawks, snakes, weasels and red foxes feed on voles
  • Hides from predators in its burrows and tunnels
  • Can become aggressive when trapped

Voice:

  • Uses vocalizations primarily when trying to defend itself against predators

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

  • Breeds year-round
  • Females begin mating within 25 days of birth. Males mate when they are 45 days old.
  • Nests in a depression within marsh grasses or below ground in burrows
  • Females have several litters each year. The typical litter size is 2-3 but can be as large as nine.
  • Young are born blind, naked and helpless
  • The female cares for her young for about two weeks until they are weaned.
  • Usually lives no longer than one year

Other Facts:

  • The most abundant rodent in the Bay’s marshes
  • Also known as the field mouse or meadow mouse
  • Able to swim well
  • Has good senses of smell and hearing
  • When alarmed, meadow voles stamp their hind feet, just like a rabbit
  • Voles can be considered a pest because they can cause damage to farms, orchards and newly planted trees

Sources and Additional Information:

Places:




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