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  The Mammals of Texas - Online Edition

Woodland Vole
Order Rodentia : Family Muridae : Microtus pinetorum (Le Conte)

Woodland Vole (Microtus pinetorum).  Photo by John L. Tveten.Description. A small mouse with short, dense, glossy fur and short tail; five tubercles on sole of hind foot; two pairs of mammary glands, inguinal in position; upperparts dull chestnut tinged with black; underparts tinged with cinnamon; tail slightly darker above than below. Juveniles plumbeous gray, tinged with chestnut. External measurements average: total length, 135 mm; tail, 25 mm; hind foot, 18 mm. Weight, 25-45 g.

Species distribution mapDistribution in Texas. Found in eastern and central parts of state west to Callahan, Kerr, and Gillespie counties.

Habits. These mice occur largely in woodland areas where ground cover in the form of leaf litter and lodged grasses offers suitable protection. They are rarely, if ever, found westward in the zone of sparse rainfall. This fact seems to correlate well with their fondness for burrowing just under the surface of the ground, much after the fashion of moles. Although they sometimes use surface runways in grassy areas, they are more inclined to spend their time in underground galleries that they dig for themselves or usurp from moles, short-tailed shrews, or other small mammals. Their burrows are about 4 cm in diameter and seldom more than 7-10 cm beneath the surface of the ground. The normal home range of individuals appears to be about one-tenth of a hectare.

The nest is globular in shape, constructed mainly of dead grasses, leaves, and other vegetation and usually placed in a special chamber in the ground. Occasionally, it is located under a partly buried log or among the roots of a stump. Two or more passages usually lead from it to the surface, thereby providing avenues of escape should the occupants be molested.

The food of these mice is largely roots and tubers. Specific items include peanuts, tuberous roots of violets, berries of red haw, bark from the roots of several kinds of trees, and shrubs and roots of several grasses. In their stores have been found acorns, nuts of various kinds, and tuberous roots of several species of herbs and grasses. Due to their subterranean habits, these mice rarely sit up to eat. Instead, the food is held pressed against the floor of the burrow and eaten at leisure.

The breeding season extends at least from February to October, and may continue through the winter. During the breeding period an adult female may give birth to as many as four litters of two to four young each. At birth the young ones are blind and naked and weigh slightly more than 2 g. In about 1 week they are well-furred; the eyes open in 9-12 days; and they are weaned when about 17 days old. They begin to acquire adult pelage at about 4 weeks of age. The gestation period is reported as 24 days.

In orchards these mice may become so abundant as to cause considerable damage by girdling the roots and killing the trees, but otherwise they are not of much economic importance. Predators include barn owls, hawks, rat snakes, gray foxes, opossums, mink, and weasels.

Photo credit: John L. Tveten.