Voles are generally small mouse-like rodent species that belong to the family Cricetidae and the subfamily Arvicolinae. These are mouse-like creatures having small compact bodies, small rounded ears, small eyes, short legs, and short hairy tails.
In North America, they are seldom popularly known as meadow mice or field mice. According to Wikipedia, there are around 155 different species of Voles dispersed all across the world. These counts may however vary significantly depending upon varied classifications.
Although Voles are closely related to Lemmings and Hamsters, it might seem quite difficult to differentiate between Voles, Moles, Rats, Gophers, and Shrews since they show similarities in behavioral tendencies.
Voles are scattered worldwide and their favorable habitats usually include prairies, steppes, semi-deserts, forests, treeless tundra, and meadows. Their sizes and characteristic features totally depend on their distinctive species.
While Woodland Voles are one of the smallest Vole species found in the Eastern United States, the European Water Voles are one of the largest Eurasian Vole species. Let’s explore and discover some interesting facts about these tiny creatures!
17 Interesting Facts About Voles
This article intends to present the 17 most crucial and fascinating facts relating to livelihood, lifespan, feeding habits, predators, habitats, activities, and distinctive features of Voles. The differences between Voles, Moles, Shrews, Gophers, and Mice are also discussed at length.
1. What Do Voles Eat?
Being an omnivorous creature, Voles can feed on anything that is available to them. However, they prefer a vegetarian diet that primarily consists of grasses, plants, bulbs, tubers, roots, tree barks, and vegetable crops.
At times when herbaceous plant items are scarce, Voles seldom resort to consuming other items such as small insects or the remains of dead animals. Voles usually consume tree bark and roots during the winters.
They are also known to show cannibalistic characteristics, especially on younger Voles. About 60% of their body weight is consumed by Meadow Voles each day. Thus, as a whole, Voles can feed on any food item that is readily available and accessible to them.
2. Where Do Voles Live?
Voles are generally scattered all over the world. However, they are primarily the creatures of the Northern Hemisphere and therefore live in different pockets of North America, Europe, and Asia.
Voles are known to live in a wide variety of habitats that range from elevations of sea level to that of high mountains depending on their diverse species.
The habitats of Voles include prairies, steppes, tundra, semi-deserts, meadows, and different types of forests such as deciduous and coniferous forests.
In North America, their locations range from Alaska to the mountains of Mexico. They are also found in different pockets of Eurasia in China, Japan, and Taiwan.
3. What Eats Voles?
Owls and Hawks are by far the major Vole predators. Two major Hawk species, the Red-tailed Hawk and the Rough-legged Hawk, are known to prey on Voles.
Amongst mammals, Foxes, Coyotes, and Shrews are the major Vole predators. Some other predators of Voles are Gulls, Eagles, Salamanders, Dogs, and Cats. Thus, Voles serve as a food supplement to many creatures.
4. How Long do Voles Live?
Voles are known to live for about a year on average. Their average lifespan is therefore about 1 year.
The average lifespan of Voles, however, depends on the basis of their distinctive species. The smaller Vole species are known to live for about 3 to 6 months on average and rarely survive longer than 12 months.
The larger Vole species, such as the European Water Vole, on the other hand, can survive for a longer period of time and are known to die during their second or third winter.
5. When Do Voles Come Out?
Voles are generally active throughout the year and at any time of the day or night. However, most of their activities primarily take place at dawn and dusk. Also, they aren’t known to hibernate during winters.
The primary activity of Voles is to conduct short and quick visits to certain places from their nests through the runways they construct and back.
Therefore, because of these small tours and visits of Voles, they are rarely seen by people who can only realize their presence by the damage they cause. Voles are also known to come out during their mating season, which is generally from late spring to early fall.
6. How Do Voles Get in The House?
Voles, like any other desperate pests, can enter houses through any openings alongside the walls of the house like the opening of chimney, any cracks present in the house, holes in the basement, or vents of the house.
Although Voles seldom try to enter houses, they can surely get into houses in order to forage for food supplements when food items are not available to them in the yard or garden, or if they are disturbed by other creatures in the yard.
7. What Are Voles Attracted To?
Voles are genuinely attracted towards the arenas with adequate food supplements and where they can easily expand their population.
Grasses, being the most favorite meal of Voles, are their primary attractions. Voles are also attracted towards meadows, weeds, excess mulch, woodpiles, shrubs, and heavy vegetation or crops in the yard since these provide them with a safe ground for breeding with favorable conditions and easy availability of food supplements.
8. How To Know If You Have Voles in Your Yard?
Since Voles are very rarely seen outside their burrows, mainly due to their rapid and spontaneous activities, it can seem problematic to assert their presence in your yard. However, the appearance of some signs indicates a Vole presence in your yard. These signs are:
- Runways or Paths: If you find runways or tunnels near the surface of the ground that are around 2 inches in width, you surely have Voles in your yard since they are known to construct such paths in order to get access to their favorite food items.
- Vole Burrows: Hole-like burrows, constructed by Voles in the bases of trees or in the lawn so that they can safely breed, are a sure sign of Vole’s presence. In contrast to Molehills, these Vole burrows don’t form mounds in the yard.
- Gnawing Marks: Marks created by Voles on the barks and stems of trees or on the food items such as potatoes or carrots indicate that these are made while Voles Gnaw and feed on vegetation. Since Voles usually feed on the roots of plants, they incur havoc damage to the yard. These damages also portray Vole’s presence in your yard.
- Dead Plants: If the plants in your yard seem lifeless and if you find that these plants lack the root structure, then they must have been damaged by the Voles present in your yard since they are known to purposely attack the roots of plants.
- Spaces in Yard: Areas or spots in the yard where the grasses are short and lifeless also indicate the presence of Voles in the yard. These grasses become short since Voles feed on them.
9. How Deep Do Voles Dig Their Tunnels?
Voles seldom construct deep burrows since they generally tend to stay near the ground in order to get access to their favorite food sources. However, some Voles are known to dig tunnels that are 12 inches deep.
Voles create runways and paths across the yard in order to connect the tunnels. These Vole tunnels are usually hidden beneath mulch, shrubs, or plants and have an opening of about 1.5 to 2 inches.
Voles are generally known to construct shallow tunnels. However, some Voles dig deep into the ground.
10. What Times Of The Year Are Voles Active?
As noted earlier, Voles are rodents that remain active throughout the year and do not hibernate during the winter months.
Voles aren’t seasonal creatures and are active all day or night throughout the year. At times of the year when temperature decreases considerably, Voles dig deep into the ground and feed on plant roots and other food supplements that are available to them.
However, they remain active and don’t hibernate for even a few weeks. Their activities also increase to a great extent during the springtime, which is generally their breeding season.
11. Where Do Water Voles Live?
Water Voles generally live along with slow-moving water bodies such as rivers, ditches, streams, ponds, lakes, canals, or any other marshland or upland areas.
Water Voles are generally scattered all across the U.K, Europe, West Asia, Russia, and Kazakhstan. The Water Vole population in England is generally found all across the regions of the Midlands, East Anglia, and Southern England.
However, Vole’s presence and distribution in Northern England, Wales, and Scotland differ significantly. Water Voles live beside water bodies and survive by feeding on grasses and vegetation growing on the banks.
12. What Do Voles Eat Under the Snow?
Voles don’t hibernate, rather they tend to stay active throughout the winters and feed on barks of trees, roots of plants or grasses, and items such as seeds, tubers, and bulbs that they could collect and hoard in the summer and spring months.
Even during winters with heavy snowfalls, these creatures build their burrows and tunnels with the help of thatch and grass available to them in the yard, where the snow acts as a blanket and makes them the least noticeable.
They usually store food items in chambers near their nests and utilize them during winters.
13. What Temperature Can Voles Survive?
Since Voles stay active throughout the year, they can survive at any given temperature.
Voles can also survive during extreme winter months amidst the snow when the temperature drops significantly. However, during these cold months, Voles decrease their activities to some extent and restrict themselves inside the ground. They are also known to build tunnels below the snow bed.
14. Moles Vs Voles
Although their names rhyme and they show some physical resemblances, both Moles and Voles are two distinctive creatures that can cause destruction to your yard at different levels.
The most important distinctions between them include their differences in behavior, appearance, and dietary preferences.
Moles are known to dig deeper into the ground and the holes that they construct measure two or more inches in diameter. When Moles dig their burrows, they push the dirt piles towards the mouth of the hole which results in the creation of mounds or Molehills.
Contrastingly, Voles create shallow burrows that are often close to the ground. Their passage from one hole to the other leads to the creation of numerous runways across the whole yard.
On the basis of appearance, both Moles and Voles differ considerably. While Moles have long, pointed snouts, barely visible eyes and ears, and large, clawed forefeet that helps them to dig tunnels, Voles look much like mice with short, thin tails and skinny forefeet.
Moles are generally carnivorous creatures that primarily consume insects and other garden pests. On the other hand, Voles are herbivorous creatures that survive by feeding primarily on vegetation and plant roots.
15. Voles Vs Shrews
Both Voles and Shrews can cause serious damages to your yard. Although they share some common features, they are mostly unique in their appearance and behaviors.
The main differences between Voles and Shrews include their dissimilarities in respect to their physical appearance and characteristic features.
While Voles are small mouse-like rodents with a small tail and rounded ears, Shrews are even smaller mammals having a pointed snout and tiny eyes. Voles are mostly herbivorous creatures that primarily feed on vegetation and plant roots.
On the other hand, Shrews are insectivores that primarily consume insects and other creatures present in the soil. Unlike Voles, Shrews are known to reuse the tunnels made by other creatures such as Moles and Voles.
16. Voles Vs Gophers
Voles and Gophers are both herbivorous creatures that primarily feed on plants and vegetation and share some common features. However, when we compare these two creatures, we find that there are more differences than similarities.
When compared, Gophers are found to be larger in size than Voles. Gophers are characterized by large incisor teeth, round and broadheads, round ears, and thick tails. Voles, on the other hand, are small rodents with rounded ears and small tails.
Similar to Moles, Gophers create mounds in the mouth or opening of their tunnels and these mounds can be a foot tall and 1-2 feet in diameter. Voles usually don’t create mounds, rather their movements from one hole to the other often result in ‘runways’ or paths across the yard.
Also, even though both Voles and Gophers are herbivorous creatures, they have somewhat distinctive preferences. While Gophers are known to prefer plants, roots, tubers, and bulbs, Voles, on the other hand, prefer a diet that primarily consists of grasses and plant roots.
17. Voles Vs Mice
Since the sizes of Voles and Mice are similar, it might seem quite difficult to differentiate between them. However, some unique characteristic features of these creatures make it easier to distinguish between the two.
On the basis of physical appearances, Voles have round faces, less prominent ears, and small tails. Mice, on the other hand, have prominent eyes and ears, and longer tails. Voles tend to look heavier than Mice.
While Voles are herbivorous and prefer grasses and plants, Mice can consume seeds, grains, and even dead and decaying matters.
Also, Voles are primarily found in the yards or gardens. However, Mice are capable of thriving in any area with adequate food and suitable shelter facilities that include the indoors of houses or barns.
Thus, it is clear from the above discussion that Voles are a unique species of rodents that remain active throughout the year in or around the yards with perfect vegetation. Based on their different species, they show varied characteristics and distinctive features.
They are popular for constructing unique paths or ‘runways’ to help their movements across their burrows. We have explored their feeding habits, lifespan, activities, and distinctive behavioral tendencies.
The difference between Voles and four other similar creatures, that is Moles, Shrews, Gophers, and Mice are also discussed at length. Voles are therefore distinctive creatures with their own peculiarities.