Sparkles on this morning’s fresh layer of snow hint at the magic concealed beneath the white covering. Hidden under is a fantastical network of tunnels, best revealed in photos taken prior to this latest snowfall…
Look just below the pheasant tracks in the photo above. Do you see those lines beneath the snow? Although they look snake-like, these tunnels were made by voles, little rodents with tiny ears and short tails, also known as field mice.
Meadow voles (Microtus pennsylvanicus) are active year round and make tunnels in tall grass or under the snow as they travel from one part of their territory to another. These super highways make for speedier trips, even in unclement weather. They also allow voles to travel undetected by predators such as foxes, coyotes, bobcats and birds of prey.
Because a thin layer of snow has melted since the tunnels were made, it’s possible to either see through their thin top layer or, where the top layer has melted completely, see straight down through to the tunnel itself.
Voles are mostly nocturnal herbivores that supplement their grass diet with bark and seeds in the winter months. Although one female vole may give birth to as many as 25 pups in one year, their life expectancy is quite short . Most voles live for less than a year due to high predation. Their population density can range from 14 to 500 per acre.
If you’re a foodie who’s keen on wild edibles and you’ve noticed some of these tunnels in your backyard, you might be inspired to try something new by reading my previous post on Vole Holes and Recipes.