Meadow Vole: Lunchtime Visitor

By Derek Stoner, Conservation Project Coordinator

A Meadow Vole sitting under a picnic table at Ashland, chewing grasses with its sharp incisors. Image by Derek Stoner, May 15, 2012.

On May 15, we had a very interesting visitor to the staff picnic tables at Ashland Nature Center:  a Meadow Vole!

The small rodent showed no fear of humans and allowed for close approach.  With digital camera and video camera, I recorded the tiny rodent chewing on the grasses that it gathered with its tiny forepaws.   Typically Meadow Voles hide under the grass and leaf layer of dead vegetation, in order to avoid the eyes of predators. 

The Meadow Vole clutches the blade of grass in its right paw while it pushes the vegetation into its mouth. Image by Derek Stoner, May 15, 2012.

Meadow Voles are one of the most abundant small mammals that live in this region, and they are an incredibly important part of the food chain.   Studies have shown that they can occur at densities of more than 400 per acre!  Meadow Voles have a remarkable reproductive output that earns them the distinction of the world’s most prolific mammal. Females can breed when they are a month old and produce litters of 3-10 pups every three weeks for the rest of their lives.  A captive female produced 17 litters in one year!

Animals like Red Foxes, Striped Skunks, Red-tailed Hawks, Great-horned Owls, Barred Owls, and  Barn Owls all rely heavily on Meadow Voles as a prey item.  These rodents are perfect “protein packages” that supply the majority of meat to predators in our local meadow ecosystems.   

Enjoy this video of the Meadow Vole munching away under the lunch table– matched to appropriate music for this mysterious hero of meadow habitats!

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