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Overview

Brief Summary

Description

Fossil finds have helped document shifts in the geographic distribution of the Woodland Vole over the centuries. During the Pleistocene, when glaciers covered much of North America, this species ranged well into Texas and northern Mexico. As the climate warmed and the Southwest got drier, Woodland Voles, which prefer habitats with a thick leaf layer or dense grassy patches, became concentrated in the eastern United States. Other small mammals found in the same habitats as Woodland Voles include Jumping Mice, White-footed Mice, Deermice, Red-backed Voles, Prairie Voles, Meadow Voles, Smoky Shrews, and Short-tailed Shrews. Hairy-tailed Moles frequently share their burrow systems.

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  • Original description: LeConte, J.L., 1830.  Description of a new genus of the order rodentia, p. 133.  Annals of Lyceum of Natural History of New York, 3:132-133.
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Distribution

Range Description

This species occurs in extreme southern Ontario, Canada and throughout the eastern United States with the exception of peninsular Florida and the coastal plains of the southeastern states. A disjunct relict population occurs on the Edwards Plateau in Texas.
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Geographic Range

Woodland voles are found from central Texas to Wisconsin, and eastward to the Atlantic coast (except for Florida).

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

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Geographic Range

Microtus pinetorum ranges from central Texas to Wisconsin, and eastward to the Atlantic coast (excluding Florida).

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

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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: North-central New England to central Wisconsin and south to Gulf Coast states from Texas to northern Florida.

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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Woodland voles have a combined head and body length between 83 and 120 mm; the tail ranges from 15 to 40 mm in length. They weigh between 14 and 37 g. Males and females look alike. The fur on the back varies from light to dark brown in color. The belly fur is whitish or silvery. Because they live partly underground, their eyes, ears, and tails are very small, and their foreclaws are somewhat enlarged for digging.

Range mass: 14 to 37 g.

Range length: 83 to 120 mm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike

Average basal metabolic rate: 0.305 W.

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Physical Description

Woodland voles have a combined head and body length of between 83 and 120 mm; the tail ranges from 15 to 40 mm in length. They weigh between 14 and 37 grams. There is almost no sexual dimorphism within the species. The dorsal region varies from light to dark brown in color. The ventral surface is whitish or silvery. Their bodies have become modified for their partially subterranean habitat by a reduction of the eyes, external ears, and tail. Their foreclaws are also somewhat enlarged for digging.

Range mass: 14 to 37 g.

Range length: 83 to 120 mm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike

Average basal metabolic rate: 0.305 W.

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Size

Length: 15 cm

Weight: 39 grams

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Size in North America

Sexual Dimorphism: None

Length:
Average: 121 mm
Range: 111-139 mm

Weight:
Range: 14-37 g
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
It lives in a wide variety of habitats, but in many areas prefers upland wooded areas with a thick layer of loose soil and humus. It spends most of its time underground in shallow burrow systems. Young are born in nests built beneath logs, below surface litter, or underground. Woodland voles breed mid-February to mid-November, probably year-round. In Oklahoma: apparently all year, with the peak October-May; 1-4 litters per year; litter size is 1-5 (average 2.6) (Caire et al. 1989).

Home range is estimated at about 0.1 hectares. These voles are not territorial, they appear to occur only in loose social groups. Diet includes roots, bulbs, seeds, fruits, and other vegetable matter. Active throughout the day, year-round. Sometimes regarded as a pest; can do serious damage to nurseries and orchards. May damage apple trees by removing bark from roots, especially in winter.

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Woodland voles live in deciduous forests in eastern North America. They burrow near the surface of the forest floor, moving through thick decaying leaves and loose soil.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: forest

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Woodland voles live in deciduous forests in eastern North America. They are surface burrowers, moving through thick leafmold and loose soil.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: forest

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Comments: Lives in a wide variety of habitats, but in many areas prefers upland wooded areas with a thick layer of loose soil and humus. Spends most of time underground in shallow burrow systems. Young are born in nests built beneath logs, below surface litter, or underground. Considered pests in orchards (Smolen, in Wilson and Ruff 1999).

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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

Food Habits

Woodland voles are mostly herbivorous animals that feed on tubers, roots, seeds, leaves, and nuts. They may also eat berries and insecta. In the fall, woodland voles store tubers and shoots inside of a burrow to eat in the winter when food is scarce.

Animal Foods: insects

Plant Foods: leaves; roots and tubers; seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit

Foraging Behavior: stores or caches food

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Food Habits

Woodland voles are mostly herbivorous animals that feed on tubers, roots, seeds, leaves, and nuts. They may also eat berries and insects. In the fall, woodland voles cache tubers and shoots inside of a burrow to eat in times of winter shortage.

Animal Foods: insects

Plant Foods: leaves; roots and tubers; seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit

Foraging Behavior: stores or caches food

Primary Diet: herbivore (Granivore )

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Comments: Feeds on roots, bulbs, seeds, fruits, and other vegetable matter.

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Associations

Ecosystem Roles

Woodland voles may spread the seeds of the plants they eat and they are an important food source for many predators.

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Predation

Woodland voles have many predators, including accipitridae, strigidae, serpentes, canidae, procyon lotor, mustela, mephitinae, and didelphis virginiana.

Known Predators:

  • accipitridae
  • strigidae
  • serpentes
  • mustela
  • mephitinae
  • didelphis virginiana
  • canidae
  • procyon lotor
  • hawks (Accipitridae)
  • owls (Strigidae)
  • snakes (Serpentes)
  • weasels (Mustela)
  • skunks (Mephitinae)
  • opossums (Didelphis_virginiana)
  • foxes (Canidae)
  • raccoons (Procyon_lotor)

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Ecosystem Roles

Woodland voles may disperse seeds and they are an important food source for numerous predators.

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Predation

Woodland voles have numerous predators, including hawks, owls, snakes, foxes, raccoons, weasels, skunks, and opossums.

Known Predators:

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General Ecology

Home range is estimated at about 0.1 ha. Average population density is up to 2.4 per ha (Miller and Getz 1969). Densities usually are highest in orchards during fall. Not territorial, appears to occur only in loose social groups. Rapid turnover of individuals in population.

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

When sensing danger or when surprised, woodland voles make a high pitched noise that may serve as a warning signal. They have small eyes, so they probably do not rely much on their vision, and instead rely on their senses of touch, smell, and hearing to locate one another and find food.

Communication Channels: acoustic ; chemical

Perception Channels: visual ; acoustic

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Communication and Perception

When sensing danger or when surprised, woodland voles make a high pitched noise that may serve as a warning signal. They have small eyes, so they probably do not rely much on their vision, and instead rely on their senses of touch, smell, and hearing to locate one another and find food.

Communication Channels: acoustic ; chemical

Perception Channels: visual ; acoustic

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Cyclicity

Comments: Active throughout the day, year-round.

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

On average, woodland voles live less than three months. The longest known lifespan in the wild is just over a year.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
12 (high) months.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
3 months.

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
2.8 years.

  • Kurta, A. 1995. Mammals of the Great Lakes Region. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.
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Lifespan/Longevity

On average, woodland voles live less than three months. The longest known lifespan in the wild is just over a year.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
12 (high) months.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
3 months.

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
2.8 years.

  • Kurta, A. 1995. Mammals of the Great Lakes Region. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.
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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 3.8 years (captivity) Observations: Voles, in general, are short-lived and show seasonal population crashes, probably due to lack of food. One wild born specimen was about 3.8 years old when it died in captivity (Richard Weigl 2005).
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Reproduction

Each woodland vole mates with just one other woodland vole; therefore, they are monogamous.

Mating System: monogamous

Mating generally takes place from spring through fall with a peak in late spring to early summer. Some woodland voles may breed throughout the year if they live at low altitudes or experience mild winters. After a pregnancy of about 21 days, females give birth to a litter. Litters usually contain 3 to 7 young, though they can have 1 to 13 newborns. Females may have several litters in a year.

Breeding interval: Woodland voles may breed several times a year.

Breeding season: Mating generally takes place from spring through fall with a peak in late spring to early summer.

Range number of offspring: 1 to 13.

Average number of offspring: 3 to 7.

Average weaning age: 17 days.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); viviparous

Average birth mass: 2.32 g.

Average gestation period: 21 days.

Average number of offspring: 3.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)

Sex: female:
98 days.

Females make nests in underground burrows, shallow surface depressions, or under rocks and logs. Nests are spherical in shape and lined with shredded vegetation. They are approximately 150 mm in diameter. Young are helpless at birth and the mother nurses them for about 17 days.

Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)

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Woodland voles have a monogamous mating system.

Mating System: monogamous

Mating generally takes place from spring through fall with a peak in late spring to early summer. Some woodland voles may breed throughout the year if they live at low altitudes or experience mild winters. About 21 days after breeding takes place, a litter of between 3 and 7 young is born. The litter size can range from 1 to 13 newborns. Females are polyestrous and may have several litters in a year.

Breeding interval: Woodland voles may breed several times a year.

Breeding season: Mating generally takes place from spring through fall with a peak in late spring to early summer.

Range number of offspring: 1 to 13.

Average number of offspring: 3 to 7.

Average weaning age: 17 days.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); viviparous

Average birth mass: 2.32 g.

Average gestation period: 21 days.

Average number of offspring: 3.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)

Sex: female:
98 days.

Females make nests in underground burrows, shallow surface depressions, or under rocks and logs. Nests are globular in shape and lined with shredded vegetation. They are approximately 150 mm in diameter. Young are helpless at birth and are weaned in about 17 days.

Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)

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Breeds mid-February to mid-November, probably year-round. Oklahoma: apparently all year, with peak October-May; 1-4 litters per year; litter size is 1-5 (average 2.6) (Caire et al. 1989)

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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 sparsely distributed in natural habitats, it is abundant where associated with orchards and agricultural lands, very widespread, and there are no major threats
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Some populations at the edge of the range of this species are considered to be threatened or--as is the case in Michigan--of "special concern." However, woodland voles are common throughout most of their range and sometimes considered agricultural pests.

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: special concern

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Some populations at the periphery of the range of this species are considered to be threatened or--as is the case in Michigan--of "special concern." However, woodland voles are common throughout most of their range and sometimes considered agricultural pests.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: special concern

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N3 - Vulnerable

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
Woodland voles tend to be sparsely distributed in natural habitats, densities usually are highest in orchards during fall. The average population density is up to 2.4 per hectare (Miller and Getz 1969). Recorded densities range up to 15 per hectare, although they likely reach higher numbers in orchards. There is a rapid turnover of individuals in a population.

Population Trend
Stable
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Threats

Major Threats
There are no major threats to this species.
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Its range includes several protected areas.
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Management Requirements: The most effective means of reducing damage in orchards is to reduce vole population with rodenticides (toxic baits) (Tobin and Richmond 1993). These, however, may be hazardous to nontarget species (see Swihart 1990), and proper selection, timing, and application are essential for obtaining the best results (Tobin and Richmond 1993). Regarding vole management in fruit orchards, Tobin and Richmond (1993) recommended frequent close mowing of ground vegetation during the growing season and establishment of a vegetation-free zone under the canopy to reduce vole carrying capacity.

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

During a severe winter woodland voles may cause damage to trees. In orchards these animals may strip the bark from the roots and lower trunks of fruit trees.

Negative Impacts: crop pest

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

There are no known direct positive effects of woodland voles on humans. Because they are important prey for many species, they help maintain a thriving ecosystem.

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Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

During a severe winter M. pinetorum may cause damage to trees. In orchards these animals may strip the bark from the roots and lower trunks of fruit trees.

Negative Impacts: crop pest

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Economic Uses

Comments: Sometimes regarded as a pest; can do serious damage to nurseries and orchards. May damage apple trees by removing bark from roots, especially in winter.

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Wikipedia

Woodland vole

The woodland vole (Microtus pinetorum) is a small vole found in eastern North America. It is also known as the pine vole.

Description[edit]

The woodland vole have a head and body length of ranging between 3.25-4.75 in (83–120 mm) with a tail length ranging for .5-1.5 in (15–40 mm). The weight of the vole ranges between .5-1.3 oz (14–37 grams). It has a brown (light or dark) dorsal region with a whitish or silvery underside. The eyes, external ears and tail have been reduced to adapt to their partially subterranean lifestyle.

Ecology[edit]

The woodland vole lives throughout the eastern United States, ranging as far as Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.[2] They inhabit deciduous forests, dry fields, and apple orchards. Voles prefer wooded areas with high vertical vegetative stratification but also evergreen shrubs, ground cover, and old fallen logs.[3] Deciduous forests with moist, friable soils are suitable for burrowing and voles are most abundant in these habitats. However, they can also be found in other habitats from dry fields to the edges of coastal bays.[4] In addition, apple orchards are a favorite habitat. The root systems of trees are an important food source for vole and thus tree spacing affects the density of vole populations.[4]

Voles prefer to live in soils ranging from loam/peat moss mixtures, to gravel or stone soils, but not very dry soils.[4] Alfisol and Ultisol soil types are particularly favored due to being favorable to the vole’s burrowing system.[2] Voles feed on both the roots and stem system and the vegetation of plants, as when as fruits, seeds, bark, subterranean fungus and insects.[4] Because they feed on roots and tubers, voles do not need to drink water much.[3] Voles cache food, primarily during the winter.[5] Voles spent most of their time underground in their burrow systems and seldom venture into the surface. This makes them safe from hawks and owls.[4] Other predators of voles include snakes. They are also susceptible to eco-parasites like lice, fleas, mites, and chiggers.[4]

Social behavior and reproduction[edit]

Woodland voles live in family groups in burrow systems in home ranges around 14.75-17.75 in (40–45 cm).[4] The burrows are exclusive to the family groups, however a groups usually does not need to defend its burrows as other voles usually will not invade them.[6] The size and location of the home range and dispersal of groups are limited by neighboring family groups.[6] Family groups of the vole are made of a breeding female, a breeding male their 1–4 offspring and sometimes a few other member that serves as helpers.[4][6][7] Helpers are immigrants from other groups. Group emigration is uncommon and dependant on whether there available positions in other groups.[6] Staying in a group as a non-breeding individual is beneficial as burrow systems are major investments and a limited resource.[6]

In the north, the breeding season last from March to sometime between November and January. In the south, the breeding season continues throughout the year.[4] In order to enter estrus, a female must sense chemosignals in a male and have physical contact.[8] Because females are dispersed with little overlap of different colonies, polygamy is rare among voles. In addition, breeding female in a family group will stress the reproduction of female helpers.[9] Females are fiercely loyal to their partners and are highly aggressive towards unfamiliar males.[7] A young female vole usually first conceives around 105 days but can conceive as early as 77 days. A female will develop a vaginal plug after copulation which last for three days.[4] Gestation lasts 20–24 days with 1–4 litters produced per year, each with 1–5 young.[4] When a vole’s partner dies, it is replaced by an unrelated individual. This results in a conflict between the surviving parent and its offspring of the same sexes for mating opportunities.[9] A new male in a group gives a non-breeding female a chance to breed although the resident breeding female is still an obstacle.[9]

Interactions with humans[edit]

Woodland voles create high economic loss through the damage they cause to apple orchards.[7] Vole feeding costs apple growers annual losses of nearly $50 million.[6] As such farmer see them as pests. Urban environments have little impact on vole habitat selection.[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Linzey, A.V. & Hammerson, G. (2008). "Microtus pinetorum". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2009.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 4 February 2010. 
  2. ^ a b Haner, T. W., Ferrar, R. W., and Schnell, G. D. (1999). "Range extensions of the woodland vole (Microtus pinetorum) and two other species in Northwestern Oklahoma". The Southwestern Naturalist 44: 407–409. JSTOR 30055245. 
  3. ^ a b c McPeek, M. A., Cook, B. L., and McComb, W. C. (1983). "Habitat selection by small mammals in an Urban Woodlot". Trans. Kentucky Academy of Science, 44, 68–73.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Whitaker, J. O., and Hamilton, W. J. (1998). Mammals of the Eastern United States, 3rd ed. Comstock Publishing Associates: Ithica, NY.
  5. ^ Geyer, L. A., Kornet, C. A., and Rogers, J. G. (1984). "Factors affecting caching in the pine vole, Microtus pinetorum". Mammalia 48 (2): 165–172. doi:10.1515/mamm.1984.48.2.165. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f Lapasha, D. G., and Powell, R. A. (1994). "Pine vole (Microtus pinetorum) movement toward areas in apple orchards with reduced populations". Journal of Horticultural Science 69: 1077–1082. 
  7. ^ a b c Geyer, L. A., Beauchamp, G. K., Seygal, G., and Rogers, J. G. (1981). "Social behavior of pine voles, Microtus pinetorum: Effects of gender, familiarity, and isolation". Behavioral and neural biology 31 (3): 331–41. PMID 7013754. 
  8. ^ Solomon, N. G., Vandenbergh, J. G., Wekesa, K. S., and Barghusen, L. (1996). "Chemical cues are necessary but insufficient for reproductive activation of female pine voles (Microtus pinetorum)". Biology of reproduction 54 (5): 1038–45. PMID 8722624. 
  9. ^ a b c Brant, C. L., Schwab, T. M., Vandenbergh, J. G., Schaefer, R. L., and Solomon, N. G. (1998). "Behavioral suppression of female pine voles after replacement of the breeding male". Animal behaviour 55 (3): 615–27. PMID 9515051. 
  • Musser, G. G. and M. D. Carleton. 2005. Superfamily Muroidea. pp. 894–1531 in Mammal Species of the World a Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. D. E. Wilson and D. M. Reeder eds. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.
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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: Has been included in genus Pitymys by some authors; however, genic data do not support generic separation of this species from other North American Microtus (Moore and Janacek (1990) and recent taxonomic lists include this species in Microtus (Hall 1981; Jones et al. 1992; Baker et al. (2003), Musser and Carleton, in Wilson and Reeder 1993, 2005).

Van der Meulen (1978) regarded subspecies nemoralis and parvulus as species distinct from pinetorum, as have some other authors, whereas Whitaker and Hamilton (1998) regarded all as inseparable. Musser and Carleton (in Wilson and Reeder 1993, 2005) indicated that further study is warranted.

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