What’s New in Nature: Meadow Vole

Meadow Vole, (Microtus pennsylvanicus)

The meadow vole, or meadow/field mouse, is a common species of small mammal on Nantucket and across the northern United States and Canada. As the name implies, this species prefers open grassy habitats, but it can also be found in shrublands and forests. This little mammal is active during the day and night year-round. They primarily eat plants, but will occasionally make a snack of insects, fungi and snails.

Meadow vole, photo credit: Leo Papandreou via CreativeCommons

Meadow vole, photo credit: Leo Papandreou via CreativeCommons

Meadow voles differ physically from mice having smaller ears and eyes, a rounder, more stout body and a shorter tail with fur. They are capable of high rates of reproduction and bear multiple litters year-round. Their population numbers are known to widely fluctuate on a 2-5 year cycle, with extreme peaks and lows.

These little guys are an important food item for many predators, particularly birds of prey like the northern harrier hawk on Nantucket. In fact, it has been demonstrated that northern harriers will lay more eggs during years with large meadow vole populations! When populations are large, there is a higher chance that birds of prey will be able to catch enough voles to feed and raise more chicks!

Prepared by: Karen C. Beattie, NCF Science and Stewardship Staff

The Nantucket Conservation Foundation is a private, non-profit land trust that depends on contributions from our members to support our science projects, conservation property acquisitions, and land management efforts. If you are not already a member, please join us! www.nantucketconservation.org

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