Woodland Vole, Microtus pinetorum

The Woodland Vole, or Pine Vole, can be found in eastern North America. Their range includes states like Texas, Kansas, and Oklahoma, and they prefer to make their homes in apple orchards (a favorite home), deciduous forests, and dry fields, with the largest populations occurring in forests. Woodland voles like to burrow, and so they will choose soils that are workable, like loam and peat moss. They can in habit mixed soils and stone or gravel as well.

Woodland voles can have a length between 3.2 inches and 4.7 inches, with a tail length of up to 1.5 inches. These small creatures can weigh between .5 ounces and 1.3 ounces. The underside of the woodland vole is a silverish color, while the fur on the back is either a light or a dark brown. Its eyes and ears have adapted to its partially underground lifestyle.

Living in small family groups, woodland voles will spend most of their time in their burrows, and this helps them to escape predation by eagles, snakes, and hawks. The range of each familial burrow depends on the range of trees in the habitat. The number of voles in that area is also affected by tree dispersal as the diet of the woodland vole consists mostly of roots and tubers. They will also eat fruits, seeds, vegetation, and insects and are known to store food for the winter.

Each burrow system can contain at least three voles; one breeding male and female and at least one baby vole, although babies can number up to four. Occasionally voles from different groups will join, and the vole that is not related is known as a “helper”.

The breeding season of the woodland vole depends on its location. In the south, voles can breed throughout the year, while in the north voles will mate between the months of March and November through January.  Woodland voles are not usually polygamous between groups, but breeding females will stress female helpers to mate as well. Female voles being very loyal to males, will act aggressive towards males from different groups. If a breeding mole dies, it gives a chance to helper moles to become members of the family. This may create tension between the unrelated mole and members of its opposite sex for breeding purposes. Female voles can have up to four litters a year, containing one to five babies and can conceive at an age of seventy-seven days.

Apple farmers consider these voles pests as the can cause up to 50 million dollars in damage a year to the root systems of the orchards. Fortunately, urban areas have little effect on the voles, and so they have a conservation status of least concern.

Image Caption: Woodland Vole, Microtus pinetorum. Credit Wikipedia