||The Mammals of Texas -
Rodentia : Family Muridae : Microtus
Description. A dark (brownish or
blackish) mouse with tail less than twice as long as hind
foot, ears almost hidden in long, lax fur, and only five
plantar tubercles; underparts tinged with buff. External
measurements average: total length, 146 mm; tail, 34 mm;
hind foot, 20 mm. Weight, 30-50 g.
Distribution in Texas. Known in Texas
only from Hardin County in southeastern Texas, and
Hansford and Lipscomb counties in the extreme northern
Habits. Prairie voles for the
most part inhabit tall-grass prairies. They live in
colonies, utilizing underground burrows and surface
runways under lodged vegetation for concealment and
protection. Their burrows are said to be shallow but
complex in their ramifications and to contain large
storage chambers. In farming regions they frequently take
up winter quarters in shocks of corn and other small
grains which offer both food and protection. Their nests
are rather large structures, averaging about 20 by 10 by
10 cm in length, width, and height and may be placed
either above ground or in underground chambers about 12
cm below the surface. Small hillocks of earth and pieces
of grass at the entrances of burrows often indicate the
presence of underground nests.
Their food is almost entirely vegetable
matter including green parts of plants, seeds, bulbs, and
bark, much of which they store for winter use. They also
seem to relish flesh and feed on their own kind caught
and killed by traps.
Their breeding habits are not
well-known. They probably breed throughout the year.
Gravid females have been captured in the winter months of
November, January, and February. The main season,
however, is in spring and summer. Apparently each
breeding female produces several litters a year, the size
of which varies from two to six and averages about four.
At birth the young are blind, nearly naked, and helpless.
They mature rather rapidly and are capable of reproducing
in their first year.
Remarks. Previously, this vole
was known in Texas on the basis of a single specimen
captured at Sour Lake (Hardin County) in 1902. No
additional specimens have since been encountered at this
locality; however, eight specimens recently were recorded
by the late J. Knox Jones, Jr., and his students at Texas
Tech University from two counties (Hansford and Lipscomb)
in the northern Panhandle. It is probable that this
species is extirpated from southeastern Texas but a
small, relic population still survives in the northern