Not a mouse, not a mole but a vole

Sunday, June 26, 2011

This little animal closely resembles a mouse, but it has a rounder body and head than a mouse. It also has a hairy tail that is about half as long as a mouse's tail.

This is a vole.

There are many kinds of voles throughout the Northern Hemisphere. In Missouri there are at least three kinds: the meadow vole, the prairie vole and the woodland vole. Because this one was found in a wooded area of Southeast Missouri, it is probably a woodland vole.

Voles are often misidentified as field mice or other small animals. Field mice are brown like voles but have longer mouselike bodies and long tails. Voles often travel in underground mole runs and thus are often confused with moles if one is seen escaping into or out of a mole tunnel. Because voles are not commonly seen, they are easily mistaken for gophers, rats or other small rodents.

The vole pictured here is about 5 inches long. My close-up photo shows its pink nose, black beady eye, claws on its front foot and an ear this is only slightly visible.

Voles eat a variety of tender plant parts, including flower bulbs and roots of young plants, which they will tunnel underground to get to. Some predators of the vole are owls, dogs, cats, coyotes, raccoons, birds of prey, snakes and weasels.

Through the Woods is a weekly nature photo column by Aaron Horrell. Find this column at semissourian.com to order a reprint of the photo. Find more work by him at The Painted Wren Art Gallery, 5H N. Main St.

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