dark meadow vole

(Microtus pennsylvanicus nigrans)


This is a relatively large sized vole with a long tail that weighs 25-50 grams and has a total length of 160-190 mm. The upper parts are very dark to black, darkest along the middle of the back. The under parts are grayish cinnamon and the feet are grayish brown. The tail is a dark dusky color above and paler below. It is distinguished from Microtus pennsylvanicus pennsylvanicus by its darker color. They breed from at least March through November and have several litters per year of 3-5 young per litter. Population levels are cyclic with highs at 3-4 year intervals. They are active throughout the day. This species uses 2-inch wide runways they construct and maintain by clipping the vegetation that grows there. They use the runways for feeding as well as travel. The young are born in 8-inch dome-shaped summer nests which are built of grasses and placed on the surface in dense clumps of grass. During the autumn, they dig burrows and build underground nests which several may use jointly during the winter months. They are preyed upon by foxes, weasels, snakes, owls and hawks. They have a short life span in the wild, with a maximum age of 11-12 months.


This subspecies of meadow vole is common throughout the very eastern part of the state. This species likes sedge meadows, marshes in summer, grassy upland, cropland, orchards in the winter. They are largely confined to non-forested areas.


They consume the leaves, stems, flowers and seeds of grasses and many forbs. White clover, red clover, alfalfa, and dandelion are an important part of the diet.