California Vole

Microtus californicus


Natural History of California Voles

California vole. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera
                    2008. A California vole. This animal is also known as the meadow mouse.
vole scat
Vole scat
Vole tunnel
                    in grass. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2009.

A vole tunnel from a vole's eye view. Voles make tiny tunnels underneath the grass. Their habitat usually has plenty of tall, tangly grass in which they feed, hide, and live their entire lives.

A small hole showing an entrance to a vole tunnel.

Vole scats can be found throughout their runs through the grass. The red arrows indicate the scats in the photo above.

Looking down a vole tunnel that was found under an abandoned piece of plywood.
Looking down a vole tunnel in the grass.
This vole tunnel was found under an abandoned piece of plywood in a field.
A vole's eye view of one of its tunnels.
Vole tunnel in grass.

A vole dug this tunnel to get to seeds that were dropped from a bird feeder above. Rather than running across open ground, it is safer for voles to use tunnels to travel. They are protected this way from predators from above, like hawks.

Measuring a vole tunnel.
Vole saved
                    from a cat. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2008.
A vole that was caught by a domestic cat. I retrieved the vole from the cat and checked to see if it was injured. Aside from a possibly injured toe, it was OK. I took some photos of it and released it.

                      with injured toe. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera

The vole posed for a few photos nicely. It refused to eat though. Too scared.

                    hind foot. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

This toe may have been injured in its encounter with the cat, or it could have been that way  for a while. The animal got around OK and didn't seem bothered by it.

Fresh vole
                    scats. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2008.
These tiny scats were fresh from a vole. Vole scats can normally be found inside its grassy tunnels.
Vole being
                    released. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2008.
The vole as it was being released. It scampered away into the grass.
vole lower
                  jaw bone
The lower jaw of a vole - unknown species.

Vole scat found at Abbott's Lagoon, Pt. Reyes National Seashore


Personal Notes on California Voles

Voles are very common, but we don't often see them. I did find that they don't run from noisy lawnmowers though. They are used to living in their tunnels and even such a noisy intrusion doesn't drive them away. I had cut some grass and saw something moving ahead of the mower. I stopped and found that it was a vole, still trying to use its tunnels, even though they had been opened to daylight by the mower. I caught the vole and moved it to a safer habitat -  one that wasn't going to be mowed!


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Copyright 1997, 2018. Text, photos, and drawings by Kim A. Cabrera

Updated: June 13, 2018.