Sunday, January 12, 2014

On the trail of a white-footed mouse; - - - - - or was it a meadow vole?

MEADOW VOLE OR WHITE-FOOTED MOUSE   (all photos by Jonathan Schechter)
       The red fox does not care if tiny tracks were made by a meadow vole or a white-footed mouse.
           Both of them are tasty treats on the cold days of winter!
Fox image captured in my meadow on trail cam.

White-footed mice tracks are extremely common in the woodlands of Oakland County.
Two characteristics that distinguish mice tracks from the meadow vole are the opposite placement of the tiny feet as they hop on the surface of the snow and the occasional drag mark of the tail.  
The next two photos show tracks of the common white-footed mouse.

Note the opposite placement of the mouse tracks even as it ran in a circle!

 And in this image (above)  the mouse tail drag marks are very clear.

Meadow vole track (opposite placement of feet) and plunge hole.

Adapting for winter survival is a struggle for both the meadow vole and the white-footed mouse.
The vole makes winter nests of grasses under the snow. In summer they feast on grasses, sedges 
and herbs but after snow blankets the land they tunnel in search of  tender bark, roots and tubers.
Every now and then  voles travel above snow leaving  distinctive tracks  before  plunging 
back into a world of under snow hidden safety; except from the fox that can hear it move 
under the snow!  When the snow melts in spring their hidden tunnels become visible.
Meadow vole tunnels after spring melt.
The white-footed mouse  usually travels above the snow and climbs shrubs and trees in search of seeds. 
They are active mostly during the night and some fall prey to screech owls and great horned owls.  
Before sunrise mice return to their winter nests, often an empty bird nest safely located above ground.

 A typical winter refuge/nest for a white-footed mouse


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