Field mice, or meadow voles, occur throughout most of the United States, Canada and in parts of Mexico. Field mice are typically brown or gray, have tails that measure a third the length of their bodies and have little ears that barely peek out of their heads. These critters prefer to stay close to their burrows, which provide them with food and protection from predators.
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Field mice have adapted to live in diverse environments. They are found in fields, meadows, marshes, orchards and along the banks of rivers and lakes. These critters are able to live in different environments since they are versatile in their means of mobility, from swimming to digging and scurrying. Field mice typically won't travel more than a few feet away from their nesting tunnels, since everything they need is within close proximity. Males tend to wander more than normal during breeding season, which puts them at risk for predation.
Field mice set up territories, which are especially important during breeding season. A female's territory typically measures no more than a quarter of an acre, while a male's territory can measure more than three times the size of a female's territory. A male's territory overlaps several female territories, which enables males to travel short distances to find females to mate with. Male field mice will not actively defend their territories, but they will fight with other males if they happen to encounter them. Females are very protective of their territories, especially while raising offspring.
Field mice build dome-shaped nests out of materials like clumps of dry grasses and weeds. These nests are commonly built in shallow underground tunnels known as burrows. Leading to and away from these tunnels are runways, which are visible passages through plant materials like leaves and grasses. Field mice also build nests above ground in dense, grassy areas or in hollowed-out logs. Above-ground nesting areas are also surrounded by runways in several directions. Field mice frequently travel these runways to forage for food.
Field mice are more active at night than during the day, especially during the summer. During this time, they forage for foods like grasses, seeds, roots, bark and insects near their nesting areas and runways. As the seasons change and food becomes scarce in the fall, their feeding preferences change from leafy greens to seeds. Field mice eat a lot of food during the day, since they typically do not store food in their tunnels. It's not uncommon for a field mouse to eat its body weight in food each day.
- Fairfax County Public Schools: Meadow Vole
- University of Michigan: Microtus pennsylvanicus
- University of California, Davis: Voles (Meadow Mice)
- State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry: Meadow Vole
- University of Michigan BioKIDS: Meadow Vole
- Penn State University: Microtus pennsylvanicus
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