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Scientific name: Microtus pennsylvanicus

Also known as a meadow vole or field mouse, this small rodent measures from 5 to 8 inches long, snout to tip of tail. Its rounded stocky body has a much shorter tail than that of the mouse. Moles spend all their time in tunnels underground and are seldom seen. The tunnels are often visible in lawns. Rather than killing moles, let them be, since they eat grubs and beetles. They are also an important food source for other wildlife.

They are active year round, both day and night. They create extensive series of tunnels where they breed and raise their young. They are known to be very territorial and aggressive among themselves.

Watch the fascinating clip below to learn more.

Photo Credit Tomi Tapio
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Herbivores, although they will also eat insects and cannabalize each other.


Moist dense grasslands, meadows, gardens. They live in large communities in underground tunnels, nesting in burrows.

Life Cycle

They have from six to seven litters a year, which is necessary as they are at the bottom of the food chain, and are a food source for many other animals. Females can breed at three weeks of age with gestation taking three weeks.

Their lifespan can be quite short, measured in months.

Signs and Tracks

Voles make tunnels in snow which you may see in your yard, just before the snow has completely melted.

Similar Species

There are several other small rodents here. Chipmunks are tiny squirrels that also make tunnels that they use for dens in winter. They particularly enjoy birdseed that has spilled from feeders. White-footed mice, and similar looking and equally common deer mice, are nocturnal and live in dead trees and stone walls. They sometimes make nests in bird boxes and sometimes in our houses! They eat seeds and small fruits and are an important food source for other birds and animals.

Ecosystem Connections

  • The meadow vole is an important source of food for many other animals, especially in winter.
  • Shrews reuse tunnels made by voles and moles. They weigh only 1/4 of an ounce.
  • The vole eats grubs and beetles.

Winter Adaptations

This small grey mammal continues to stay warm as they dig tunnels beneath the earth, where the temperature is more moderate. Snow provides an excellent thermal blanket, keeping temperatures up to 40 degrees warmer than the air.

In addition, the sex hormone level of these animals drops in winter, allowing these normally highly territorial animals to live in closer proximity during this season.

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