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Field Vole

All about Field Voles

The field vole, or short-tailed vole, is one of the most common mammals in Europe. It is widespread in mainland Britain. The field vole is active by day and night and is very vocal, making loud chirping and chattering noises.

What to look for

The field vole is 9-13cm long and 18-60g in weight, with a tail about one-third of the body length. It is dark brown or greyish brown above with a paler belly. The ears are rounded and the eyes are set high on either side of the head, giving a very wide field of vision.

Did you know?

  • The field vole feeds mainly on grass and herbs. In winter it also eats tree bark and this can sometimes be sufficient to damage the trees.
  • Field voles mate between March and October, with a 21 day gestation period. Up to six litters a year can be produced, each with 3-7 young. This allows the field vole to respond rapidly to a good food supply and it undergoes rapid increases in population followed by dramatic falls as food becomes scarce. This happens on a 3-5 year cycle.
  • Field voles have good reason to remain under cover as they are an important food source for owls, kestrels and weasels. They are very wary at all times and often stop to sniff the air and stand up on their hind legs to look around. Although its eyesight is not good, the field vole has acute hearing and it responds immediately to sounds which might indicate danger, running into the nearest cover.
  • The field vole frequently nests above ground, especially if the soil is wet.
  • Field voles are aggressively territorial and a resident vole will attack and even kill another vole trespassing on its territory.

Photo gallery

Field Vole  NottsWT (cpt Darin Smith) Short-tailed Field Vole Notts WT (cpt Scott Tilley)

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Field Vole Printable Factsheet

Status

The field vole is one of the most common mammals in Europe.

Habitats

The field vole can be found in a range of moist habitats, including woodland edges, river banks, wet grassland and parks.
 

Where to see

Although they are active during the day, they are much less likely to be seen than bank voles because they rarely leave the safety of cover. They make tunnels and runs in thick grass and just underneath the surface of the soil. It is sometimes possible to detect their presence by their movement through the tunnels and runs and also
by piles of their olive green droppings and freshly chopped blades of grass.

 

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