What do voles look like?
Surprisingly, voles look nothing like moles! Closely related to the hamster, voles share many of the same features, with brown and grey fur and short leg. They typically average 3-7 inches long, including the tail, and weigh in at about 2 ounces. To distinguish voles from the common mouse, voles have small, furry ears, very small eyes, and short tails. They have a blunt snout with chisel-shaped front teeth.
North America is home to a smaller variety of voles compared to their European cousins, with an average lifespan of 3-6 months, rarely living longer than a year in the wild. In captivity, these rodents can live to nearly three years of age.
Characteristics of voles
Voles do not become active in a particular season, but are active at all times during the year, day and night. Non-hibernating creatures, voles are some of the most rapidly breeding rodents, producing between 5-10 litters per year with anywhere from 3-6 offspring in each litter.
Voles are semifossorial, meaning they live both above ground and in tunnels. Their burrows contain multiple entrances and may house multiple adults and offspring. The population of voles in one area can fluctuate from year to year, depending on access to food, environmental stressors, and predators.
Due to the vast number of voles across the globe, voles can differ quite drastically from one species to another. The European water vole can swim up to 50 ft. underwater, while the red tree vole is an excellent climber and can be found living in trees across the Northwest.
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