Add this Critter rss news feed to your rss reader.
How many species of voles are there in the US?
Correct Trivia Answer: C
“There are 23 vole species in the United States. Seven notable species are widespread and cause significant economic damage.”
Voles, also called meadow mice or field mice, belong to the genus Microtus. Voles are compact rodents with stocky bodies, short legs, and short tails. Their eyes are small and their ears partially hidden. Their underfur is generally dense and covered with thicker, longer guard hairs. They usually are brown or gray, though many color variations exist.
There are 23 vole species in the United States. Seven notable species are widespread and cause significant economic damage.
Voles occupy a wide variety of habitats. They prefer areas with heavy ground cover of grasses, grass-like plants, or litter.
Though voles evolved in “natural” habitats, they also use habitats modified by humans, such as orchards, windbreaks, and cultivated fields, especially when vole populations are high.
Voles are active day and night, year-round. They do not hibernate. Home range is usually 1/4 acre or less but varies with season, population density, habitat, food supply, and other factors. Voles are semi-fossorial and construct many tunnels and surface runways with numerous burrow entrances. A single burrow system may contain several adults and young.
Voles may breed throughout the year, but most commonly in spring and summer. In the field, they have 1 to 5 litters per year. Litter sizes usually average 3 to 6. Life spans are short, probably ranging from 2 to 16 months.
Voles may cause extensive damage to orchards, ornamentals, and tree plantings due to their girdling of seedlings and mature trees. Girdling damage usually occurs in fall and winter. Field crops (for example, alfalfa, clover, grain, potatoes, and sugar beets) may be damaged or completely destroyed by voles. Voles eat crops and also damage them when they build extensive runway and tunnel systems. Voles also can ruin lawns, golf courses, and ground covers.
Girdling and gnaw marks alone are not necessarily indicative of the presence of voles, since other animals, such as rabbits, may cause similar damage. Vole girdling can be differentiated from girdling by other animals by the non-uniform gnaw marks. They occur at various angles and in irregular patches. Rabbits neatly clip branches with oblique clean cuts. Examine girdling damage and accompanying signs (feces, tracks, and burrow systems) to identify the animal causing the damage.
The most easily identifiable sign of voles is an extensive surface runway system with numerous burrow openings. Runways are 1 to 2 inches in width. Vegetation near well-traveled runways may be clipped close to the ground. Feces and small pieces of vegetation are found in the runways.
Voles pose no major public health hazard because of their infrequent contact with humans; however, they are capable of carrying disease organisms, such as plague and tularemia. Be careful and use protective clothing when handling voles.
Cultural and habitat modification practices can reduce the likelihood and severity of vole damage. Eliminate weeds, ground cover, and litter in and around crops, lawns, and cultivated areas to reduce the capacity of these areas to support voles. Lawn and turf should be mowed regularly. Mulch should be cleared 3 feet or more from the bases of trees.
Although voles rarely invade houses, in the event that they do, they can be controlled by setting snap traps or live traps as you would for house mice.
If you’re experiencing vole problems, call 1-800-CRITTER (274-8837) to speak with your local Critter Control office.