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Small Mammals

Meadow Vole

Classification

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Order: Rodentia
Family: Cricetidae
Genus species: Microtus pennsylvanicus 

Description

The Meadow Vole is a chunky cylindrical vole with short legs and a short tail which is darker on top. Their fur varies from gray-brown to dark-brown with silver-gray underparts. Their short ears are barely visible through their fur. They are 16 cm long with a 5 cm tail and weigh about 50 g.

Habitat

Meadow Voles are found in moist open areas. They make runways through the surface growth in warm weather and tunnel through the snow in winter. They feed on grasses, sedges and seeds, sometimes eating snails and insects.

Reproduction

Female voles have three to six litters of four to seven young in a year. Most meadow voles live much less than a year, however, in captivity they can live as long as three years. The vole population in any given area tends to pass through a boom and bust cycle over a three- or four-year period.

They are active year-round, usually at night. They also dig underground burrows where they store food for the winter and females give birth to their young. Although these animals tend to live close together, they are aggressive towards each other.


Short-tailed Shrew

Classification

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Order: Insectivora
Family: Soricidae
Genus species: Blarina brevicauda 

Description

The Short-tailed Shrew is a large shrew, slate gray in color with light underparts. Its body is about 10 cm in length including a 2 cm long tail. They weigh about 21 g, about the same as a house mouse.

Habitat

Meadow Voles are found in forests and wet open areas. They eat insects, earthworms, snails, small rodents and plant material. These shrews dig through dense leaf litter and can also tunnel in moist soil. They have scent glands that release a musky secretion which repels some predators; males also use scent to mark their territory.

Reproduction

Mating begins in early spring and may occur until late fall. The female has 2 or 3 litters of 5 to 7 young in a nest in a tunnel or under a fallen log.

Toxins

Glands in their mouth contain a neurotoxin which allows them to immobilize larger animals such as snakes and birds.