Red-Backed Vole

Red-Backed VoleVoles are mice that have fuzzy coats and short tails. They mainly live in and eat grass. They are differentiated from mice by their molars and enamel patterns. They live in colonies and in winter are active under the snow. They dig underground burrows where they construct food and nesting chambers.

They do not hibernate. They do not make their own runways beneath the snow but will use existing runways of other voles to feed on snow-flattened grasses. The runways are sometimes visible through the snow and when the snow first melts the runways are visible on the ground.

They form the base of the food chain for many animals in Alaska. They are a staple of weasels, marten, foxes, coyotes, owls, hawks, inland breeding gulls, jaegers and occasionally great blue herons, cats and other voles. They carry giardia which may affect humans.

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