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Brief Summary

    Western heather vole: Brief Summary
    provided by wikipedia

    The western heather vole (Phenacomys intermedius) is a small vole found in western North America. Until recently, the eastern heather vole, (Phenacomys ungava), was considered to be a subspecies.

    These animals are similar in appearance to the meadow vole. They have short ears and a short thin tail which is paler underneath. Their long soft fur is brownish with silver grey underparts. They are 14 cm long with a 3.5 cm tail and weigh about 40 g.

    They are found in alpine meadows, open shrubby areas, dry forests with shrubs below to provide cover and tundra regions, usually near water, in British Columbia, the Yukon and the western United States. In summer, they live in underground burrows and, in winter, they tunnel under the snow. They store food for later use year-round.

    They feed on plant leaves and berries in summer and plant bark and buds in winter, also seeds and fungi. Predators include owls, hawks and carnivorous mammals.

    The female vole has 2 or 3 litters of 2 to 9 young in a nest made from grasses.

    They are active year-round, and are crepuscular.

    The population of this animal has been reduced in some parts of its range because of clearcutting of forests.

Comprehensive Description

Distribution

    Distribution
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Phenacomys intermedius (Heather vole) is found on the western mainland of the U.S. as far south as New Mexico. In Canada the vole is found across northern Canada from Labrador to the Yukon Territory. (Banfield 1974)(Fitzgerald 1994)

    Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

Morphology

    Morphology
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    The Heather vole fur is long and soft. The color varies geographically. Generally, the dorsal colors are brown to grayish, while the ventral fur is gray. The feet are white to gray and the ears can have orange hairs. The tail is slightly longer than the hindfeet (31-34 mm) and has dark fur on top and is pale on the ventral side. The total length of the animal is between 130 and 140 mm. The species closely resembles the Meadow vole; skull characteristics are often needed to help tell the species apart. The skull characteristic used is that the cheek teeth have deep lingual angles in the Heather vole. (Banfield 1974; Fitzgerald 1994)

    Range mass: 30 to 50 g.

    Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry

    Average basal metabolic rate: 0.375 W.

Habitat

    Habitat
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    The Heather vole lives in stands of spruce, lodgepole pine, aspen, and grassy meadows in montane forest, subalpine, and alpine tundra (Fitzgerald 1994). The vole usually stays close to water. The Heather vole has been seen traveling 200 yards from its nest. The understory of their habitat may contain shrubs such as blueberry, dwarf birch, and soapberry. The Heather vole has been found as high as 12,100 feet elevation in Colorado. (Banfield 1974; Fitzgerald 1994; Armstrong 1972)

    Terrestrial Biomes: tundra ; taiga ; forest ; mountains

Trophic Strategy

    Trophic Strategy
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    The Heather vole searches for green vegetation, bark of trees and shrubs, twigs, seeds, berries, and fungi. Their diet consists of leaves and fruits of willows, myrtle blueberry, snowberry, bog birch, kinnikinnnik (bearberry) in the summer months. In the winter, spring, and fall they tend to focus more on the bark and buds of willow, birch, and blueberry. The Heather vole stores food for use in the summer and winter. The food reserves are found close to the burrow entrances. (Banfield 1974; Fitzgerald 1994).

Behavior

    Behavior
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical

Life Expectancy

    Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
    provided by AnAge articles
    Observations: Unlike females, males only breed in their second year. Estimates based on the amount of tooth wear suggested that these animals live up to 4 years in the wild (McAllister and Hoffmann 1988). Without more detailed studies maximum longevity is classified as unknown.

Reproduction

    Reproduction
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Heather voles have several estrus periods per year. Most of the breeding occurs between May and September. However, the voles located at higher elevations have a shorter season than the voles at lower elevations. Heather voles have a gestation period of 19 to 24 days. The litter size varies between 2 and 9, but variation is large because of the differences in litter sizes between adult and juvenile females. Adult females produce larger litters (average 5.9), while the juvenile females produce smaller litters (average 3.8) their first season. Three litters per year is believed to be the maximum produced. The voles are born blind and deaf. They finally wander out of the nest at about 3 weeks of age. Males don't reach sexual maturity until the next spring, while females reach sexual maturity 4-6 weeks after birth. (Banfield 1974; Fitzgerald 1994)

    Key Reproductive Features: gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual

    Average birth mass: 2.18 g.

    Average gestation period: 22 days.

    Average number of offspring: 4.58.

    Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female:
    37 days.

Conservation Status

    Conservation Status
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    US Federal List: no special status

    CITES: no special status

    IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

Benefits

    Benefits
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    The only adverse affect known at this time is the Heather vole has been known to carry the virus listeriosis (Banfield 1974).

    Benefits
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    There are no known ways that the Heather vole positively benefits humans at this time.

Other Articles

    Untitled
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    The population size of this species is not well known. Scientists have found the species difficult to trap and the mortality rate during livetrapping is high. (Fitzgerald 1994)