Voles are close cousins to mice and are often mistaken for them. In fact, field or meadow mice are actually a type of vole. These mammals are small, similar in size to mice. However, they are stockier than mice and have rounded bodies with shorter tails. They are similar in color to mice, ranging from grey to brown, but their fur is longer than mice. Their ears are not as prominent as a mouse’s ears, and their eyes can be larger or smaller than a mouse depending on the species. For instance, meadow voles, also known as meadow mice, actually have larger eyes than a mouse, while the woodland vole has much smaller eyes. Both of these species of voles are common here in Wisconsin.
Plant matter is a vole’s preferred food, and they will eat bulbs and root systems of plants and trees. They will create tunnels around their territory in search of food, known as runways. Nesting chambers and areas for food storage are also created and accessed via runways and underground tunnels.
Female voles will use these nesting chambers to have and raise their young, which they can do up to 10 times within a year. This is an especially impressive feat, as voles do not reach sexual maturity until a month after birth and typically do not live for more than 12 months. Litter size can range from 5 to 10 voles, which means that vole populations can increase dramatically in a very small amount of time. While this can be good for local predators like hawks and owls, it isn’t good for homeowners that have voles taking up residence in their yard.