rock vole

(Microtus chrotorrhinus)


This species is a medium sized vole with a total length of 140-185 mm, and a weight of 30-48 grams. The upperparts are grayish brown with black-tipped hairs and the face has a yellowish to dull orange-rufous wash, which is most prominent on the snout and decreases in intensity toward the ears. The breeding season is from early spring to late fall with two to three litters produced per year of 1-7 young. Rock voles are primarily diurnal and are most active in the morning and they spend a considerable amount of time in subterranean activities. They are often caught in subsurface runways among rocks. Rock voles share their subterranean habitats with red-backed mouse these two species apparently don’t compete or exclude each other. Rock voles are prey for bobcat, timber rattlesnakes, copperheads, and short-tailed shrew.


Although there has been considerable effort to locate rock voles in Virginia, to date it has been found only in the Valley of Little Back Creek, Bath County. Rock voles are considered a relict species. Habitat on Whitetop and Mount Rogers appears suitable. Rocks and talus are an important feature of its habitat throughout its range. Also water either in the form of surface on sub-surface streams is another important component of its habitat. It inhabits sites characterized by an abundance of mosses and forbs within forested areas.


Supposed foods of the rock vole in New England and Minnesota include blueberry leaves, stems, and fruits; foliage of Clinton’s lily, wild lily-of-the-valley, and bunchberrys; fruit of raspberry and blackberry; and mushrooms. Grasses and sedges may be of lesser importance as food items.