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Overview

Brief Summary

Description

Creeping Voles are found in moist coniferous forests at all stages of forest succession, from old growth to recent clear-cuts. In fact, population density is probably higher in recently cut areas where more sunlight reaches the ground and more grasses and herbs grow. They are good burrowers, and they spend more time below the leaf litter than above it. Their nests are built underground or under rotting logs or root clumps. About a third of their diet may be fungi, and the rest grasses and forbs. They are quite small and have tinier eyes than most other voles. They have sooty-gray to dark brown or almost black fur mixed with yellowish hairs, and a gray or white belly.

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Distribution

Range Description

This species is found in southwestern British Columbia, Canada, south through western Washington and western Oregon to northwestern California in the United States.
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occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Global Range: Southwestern British Columbia south through western Washington and western Oregon to northwestern California.

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Physical Description

Size

Length: 16 cm

Weight: 31 grams

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Size in North America

Sexual Dimorphism: Males are larger than females.

Length:
Average: 140 mm
Range: 130-153 mm

Weight:
Range: 17-20 g
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Ecology

Habitat

Puget Lowland Forests Habitat

Cope's giant salamander is found in the Puget lowland forests along with several other western North America ecoregions. The Puget lowland forests occupy a north-south topographic depression between the Olympic Peninsula and western slopes of the Cascade Mountains, extending from north of the Canadian border to the lower Columbia River along the Oregon border. The portion of this forest ecoregion within British Columbia includes the Fraser Valley lowlands, the coastal lowlands locally known as the Sunshine Coast and several of the Gulf Islands. This ecoregion is within the Nearctic Realm and classified as part of the Temperate Coniferous Forests biome.

The Puget lowland forests have a Mediterranean-like climate, with warm, dry summers, and mild wet winters. The mean annual temperature is 9°C, the mean summer temperature is 15°C, and the mean winter temperature is 3.5°C. Annual precipitation averages 800 to 900 millimeters (mm) but may be as great as 1530 mm. Only a small percentage of this precipitation falls as snow. However, annual rainfall  on the San Juan Islands can be as low as 460 mm, due to rain-shadow effects caused by the Olympic Mountains. This local rain shadow effect results in some of the driest sites encountered in the region. Varied topography on these hilly islands results in a diverse assemblage of plant communities arranged along orographically defiined moisture gradients. Open grasslands with widely scattered trees dominate the exposed southern aspects of the islands, while moister dense forests occur on northern sheltered slopes characterized by Western red cedar (Thuja plicata), Grand fir (Abies grandis), and Sword fern (Polystichum munitum) communities.

There are only a small number of amphibian taxa in the Puget lowland forests, namely: Cope's giant salamander (Dicamptodon copei); Monterey ensatina (Ensatina eschscholtzii); Long-toed salamander (Ambystoma macrodactylum); Western redback salamander (Plethodon vehiculum); Northwestern salamander (Ambystoma gracile); Pacific chorus frog (Pseudacris regilla); Coastal giant salamander (Dicamptodon tenebrosus); Rough-skin newt (Taricha granulosa);  the Vulnerable Spotted frog (Rana pretiosa); Tailed frog (Ascopus truei); and Northern red-legged frog (Rana aurora).

Likewise there are a small number of reptilian taxa within the ecoregion: Common garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis); Western terrestrial garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis); Northern alligator lizard (Elgaria coerulea); Western fence lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis); Northwestern garter snake (Thamnophis ordinoides); Sharp-tailed snake (Contia tenuis); Yellow-bellied racer (Coluber constrictor); and Western pond turtle (Clemmys marmorata).

There are numberous mammalian taxa present in the Puget lowland forests. A small sample of these are:Creeping vole (Microtus oregoni), Raccoon (Procyon lotor), Southern sea otter (Enhydra lutris), Mink (Mustela vison), Coyote (Canis latrans), Black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus), Pallid bat (Antrozous pallidus), and Harbour seal (Phoca vitulina).

A rich assortment of bird species present in this ecoregion, including the Near Threatened Spotted owl (Strix occidentalis), Turkey vulture (Cathartes aura), Bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), Blue grouse (Dendragapus obscurus), as well as a gamut of seabirds, numerous shorebirds and waterfowl.

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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
It is found in the moist forests of the Pacific coast, brushy, grassy areas. It is most abundant in more xeric sites, especially those supporting stands of short grass, but may favour riparian areas in some localities. More abundant in clearcuts than in virgin forest. It occupies shallow burrows and low cover.

Young are born in nests, dry grasses are placed in cavities under logs or in similar protected sites. Breeding occurs mainly from March to September in Oregon and British Columbia. Gestation is approximately 23 days. Females are estimated to produce a maximum of four or five litters per year, with approximately three to four young per litter.

Diet consists primarily of green vegetation (presumably both forbs and grasses); they also eat fungi. Although active at any time, this species is most active at night.

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Comments: Moist forests of Pacific coast, brushy, grassy areas. Most abundant in more xeric sites, especially those supporting stands of short grass, but may favor riparian areas in some localities. More abundant in clearcuts than in virgin forest. Occupies shallow burrows and low cover. Young are born in nests dry grasses placed in cavities under logs or in similar protected sites.

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Migration

Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

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Trophic Strategy

Comments: Eats primarily green vegetation (presumably both forbs and grasses); also eats fungi.

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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Comments: Although active at any time, this species is most active at night.

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Reproduction

Breeds mainly Mar.-Sept. in OR and British Columbia. Gestation ca. 23 days. Females estimated to produce maximum of 4 or 5 litters/yr., with approximately 3-4 young/litter.

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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
Linzey, A.V. & NatureServe (Hammerson, G.)

Reviewer/s
Amori, G. (Small Nonvolant Mammal Red List Authority) & Chanson, J. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)

Contributor/s

Justification
Listed as Least Concern, although it has a patchy distribution and sometimes is uncommon, its population is thought to be stable, it is adaptable and there are no major threats.
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National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

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Population

Population
This species is considered secure within its range (NatureServe). Densities vary with habitat and over time due to changes in habitat quality. They can be fewer than 15 per hectare in mature forests, and up to 138 per hectare in clear cuts and old fields.

Population Trend
Stable
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Threats

Major Threats
There are no major threats to this species. In coastal British Columbia, creeping voles were apparently unaffected by herbicide treatment of Douglas-fir plantation (Sullivan 1990).
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Comments: In coastal British Columbia, apparently was unaffected by herbicide treatment of Douglas-fir plantation (Sullivan 1990).

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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
This species is not of conservation concern and its range includes several protected areas.
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Wikipedia

Creeping vole

The creeping vole (Microtus oregoni), sometimes known as the Oregon meadow mouse, is a small rodent in the family Cricetidae. Ranging across the Pacific Northwest of United States and Canada, it is found in forests, grasslands, woodlands, and chaparral environments. The small-tailed, furry, brownish-gray mammal was first described in the scientific literature in 1839, from a specimen collected near the mouth of the Columbia River. The smallest vole in its range, it weighs around 19 g (0.67 oz). At birth, they weigh 1.6 g (0.056 oz), are naked, pink, unable to open their eyes, and the ear flaps completely cover the ear openings. Although not always common throughout their range, there are no major concerns for their survival as a species.

Taxonomy[edit]

The animal was described in 1839 by John Bachman.[3] The original scientific name was Arvicola oregoni with a common name of the Oregon meadow mouse.[3] The type specimen was an older male collected November 2, 1836 near the mouth of the Columbia River in Oregon.[3] The specimen had been submitted to Bachman for review by John Kirk Townsend.[3] Subsequent authorities state that it was collected at Astoria, Oregon, which is at the mouth of the Columbia River.[4] In 1857, Baird placed Arvicola oregoni in a section Chilotus of the subgenus Arvicola of the genus Arvicola.[5] In 1874, PNAS paper, Coues reclassified Chilotus as a subgenus and refers to the animal as Arvicola (Chilotus) oregonus.[6][7] Miller subsequently reclassified the animal in the genus Microtus and maintained the subgenus Chilotus.[8] This was the first reference to the animal under its current scientific name Microtus oregoni.[4] It was subsequently reclassified to the subgenus Mynomes.[2]

Description[edit]

On average, creeping voles weigh around 19 g (0.67 oz) with a reported range of 14.5 to 27.5 g (0.51 to 0.97 oz)[4] The average length is around 140 mm (5.5 in), with a range of around 129 to 154 mm (5.1 to 6.1 in)[4] Compared to other voles within their geographic range, they are the smallest.[4] They have smaller eye opening (around 2 mm (0.079 in) in diameter) compared to other voles that share the same geographic range (sympatric) or have adjacent ranges (parapatric).[4] There are other distinguishing features of the roots and enamel of the molar teeth that help in differentiation.[4] Unlike other voles in the range, only the creeping vole and the (much larger) water vole have five plantar tubercles on the hindfeet.[4]

They are pentadactyl, although the pollex is reduced in size and lack a claw.[4] They walk with their feet planted firmly on the ground (plantigrade locomotion).[4] The foot pads have a moderate amount of fur.[4]

The fur markings are plumbeous to a dark brown or black.[4] There are sometimes yellowish hair markings as well.[4] The underside fur markings tend to be lighter beige to whitish.[4] The tail may be gray to black and often lighter below.[4]

Creeping voles have a relatively short tail, measuring less than 30% their total body length.[4] They have short ears, which are nearly hairless, though a few black hairs present.[4] They protrude just slightly from the fur around the head.[4] They have eight mammae, with two pairs present in each of the pectoral and inguinal regions.[4]

The skull of the creeping vole has a low, flat profile, with a long and slender snout.[4] The zygomatic arches are somewhat delicate.[4] The incisive foramen is short and wide, but not so much as to be a distinguishing feature.[4] They have small molars.[4]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Creeping voles are found in British Columbia in Canada and in Washington, Oregon and northern California, in the United States.[1] They are found as far north as Port Moody, British Columbia and as far south as Mendocino City, California.[4] The western range in Washington extends east to Mount Aix, Lake Chelan, and Signal Peak.[4] The range in Oregon extends east to the north base of Three Sisters and to Crater Lake.[4] There are variable reports as to their occurrence in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.[4] In California, they are found as far east as Beswick and South Yolla Bolly Mountain.[4]

They are found in coniferous forests and woodlands, grasslands, and chaparral.[9] They are found at sea level through altitudes of nearly 2,400 m (7,900 ft).[4] They are more populous in areas of disturbance than virgin forests.[9] They are burrowing animals and will also use fallen logs, other debris, and patches of grass for cover.[9] The burrows are shallow.[9] They are found in moist forests along the coast, but may do well in drier areas.[9]

It is suspected that ancestral voles migrated from Eurasia 1.2 million years ago.[4] However, no Pleistocene-era fossils of creeping voles have been identified.[4]

Behavior and ecology[edit]

Creeping voles establish nests of dry grass in protected areas, such as under logs.[1] The breeding season varies by latitude, but is mainly March to September in Oregon and British Columbia.[1] Gestation lasts around 23 days. Each litter bears three to four young and the females may produce four or five litters a year.[1] The naked, pink newborn young weigh around 1.6 g (0.056 oz).[10] Their eyes are closed and skin flaps cover the ear openings.[10]

Creeping vole skull and dentition

Creeping voles are primarily nocturnal, though they are sometimes active during the day.[1] They are herbivorous, probably eating forbs and grasses, as well as fungi.[1]

Creeping vole females have XO sex chromosomes, while males have XY. Evolutionary geneticists have investigated these sex chromosomal features of creeping voles. A models for the evolution of creeping vole sex chromosomes was published by researchers from the University of Edinburgh in 2001.[11]

Conservation status[edit]

Although it is not widely distributed and not always common, the creeping vole is listed as "Least Concern" by the IUCN Red List.[1] The justifications for the listing are the lack of major threats, the stability of populations, and the adaptability of the animal to environmental changes.[1] Treatment of Douglas-fir plantations with herbicides in British Columbia did not affect creeping vole populations.[1] No conservation concerns are raised, since there are thought to be sufficient areas of protected habitat within its range.[1] NatureServe lists the species as secure within its range.[9]

References[edit]

Footnotes:

Sources:

External links[edit]

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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: See Musser and Carleton (in Wilson and Reeder 2005) for discussion of relationships.

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