Field Guide/Mammals/Southern Red-backed Vole

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Clethrionomys gapperi (Southern Red-backed Vole)
Family: Cricetidae
Size: Length: 4.57-6.77 in (116-172 mm) Weight: 0.21-1.48 oz (6-42 g)
Description: The Southern red-backed vole has a broad reddish stripe from its forehead to its bottom, with a grayish nose and sides of the head, and a whitish, creamy belly. Its tail is bicolor, with dark brown or black and whitish or gray at the end of the tail. It has a stocky build, short ears, and small eyes.[1]
Similar Species: Its tail is more slender and has less hair than the Northern red-backed vole. Its back is also brighter and has smaller ears than the Northern red-backed vole.[2][3]

Range: It can be found in the Rocky Mountains south to southwestern New Mexico and Arizona, the Northern Great Plains to Iowa, and the Appalachian mountains to northern Georgia.
Habitat: The Southern red-backed vole inhabits moist coniferous, deciduous, and mixed forests with stumps and logs for ground cover. Some voles are found in muskegs, sedge marshes, and bogs. It nests under logs, stumps, and roots, but will use the burrows of moles and other small mammals instead of making its own nest.[3]
Diet: It is an herbivore with a diet of plants, seeds, nuts, berries, mosses, lichens, ferns, fungi, and arthropods. Southern red-backed voles have also been known to eat insects.
Activity: The Southern red-backed vole mates with more than one vole of the opposite sex, and generally does not form colonies.[3] It is active day and night, but it is more nocturnal than diurnal.[3][4]

Reproduction: The breeding season lasts about 7 months in the wild, from late winter to late fall, and gestation is 17-19 days. Litter size ranges from 2-8 young, with 1 to 6 litters per year. In 2 to 4 months young are sexually matured .[3][5]
Lifespan: Most live 10-12 months in the wild, although they have been reported to live up to 20 months. Few survive two winters.[3]
Southern Red-backed Vole, Clethrionomys gapperi

  1. Hazard, E. B. (1982), The Mammals of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN: The University of Minnesota Press, pp. 90–91 
  2. Reid, F. A. (2006), Mammals of North America, Boston, NY: Houghton Mifflin Company, pp. 308–309 
  3. a b c d e f Merritt, J. F. (1981), "Clethrionomys gapperi", Mammalian Species (146): 1–9,, retrieved September 23, 2012 
  4. Linzey, A. V.; NatureServe (2010), "Canis lupus", IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (Version 2012.1),, retrieved September 28, 2012 
  5. NatureServe (2012), "Clethrionomys gapperi", NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life (Version 7.1),, retrieved September 28, 2012