Natural Histories

photograph of a Sunda Pangolin

Meadow Vole

Microtus pennsylvanicus


The meadow vole is about 128-195mm long including the tail which is 40% of its body length. The head of this animal has a heavy, long skull. The fur of this animal is a reddish-blackish-brown with coarse black hairs. The fur of the underside or belly of this animal is grey-white and can sometimes be tinged with light brown. In the winter, meadow voles are more grey and dull. There is no sexual dimorphism (telling male from female visually) in this species. They are very good diggers and swimmers.


The meadow vole is the most widespread vole found in North America, expanding its range from Central Alaska to the Atlantic coast and from south of the Canadian border to New Mexico and Georgia. It is not found further west than the Rocky Mountains. This species is found in meadows, lowland fields, grassy marshes, and along rivers and lakes. Occasionally meadow voles are spotted in flooded marshes, high grasslands near water, open grassy woodlands and orchards. They build a system of burrows and grass tunnels; runways through vegetation as paths to different locations concealed from predators.

Feeding Behavior and Diet

The majority of this species’ diet consists of vegetation such as fresh grass, sedges, herbs, tubers, bulbs and a variety of seeds and grains. When feeding, meadow voles consume 60% of their body weight. Meadow voles tend to eat vegetation from May until August and in the fall they tend to eat seeds and grains. Small caches of tubers are sometimes kept during the fall. During the winter months, this species consumes bark and roots of shrubs and small trees. When available, fruit becomes a major food source, especially cranberries. Occasionally the vegetarian diet is ignored; the meadow vole is a cannibalistic species, consuming the flesh of new born young.


The meadow vole breeds year round, particularly from March-November. Twenty-one days after breeding the female gives birth to a litter of 1-9 young. The female cares for her young in the nest for two weeks until they are weaned.

Months and Times of Activity

This species is active throughout the day. During the summer, meadow voles become more nocturnal and during winter they become more diurnal. Communal nesting can occur; these groups can include individuals of different age, size, and sex groups.

Special Features, Stories, Relationships

•    This species is cannibalistic, occasionally consuming the flesh of newborn young.

•    When cornered, meadow voles become extremely aggressive and will attack.

•    The females of this species are very territorial and will defend their territories from other females. If more than one female should occur in a territory it is most likely a mother and daughters, the mother being significantly larger than the others.

•    Children’s book featuring this animal: The Tale of Jeremy Vole by Stephen Lawhead


"Meadow Vole." Department of Natural Rescouces, n.d. Web. 19 Feb. 2013.

Neuburger, T. 1999. "Microtus pennsylvanicus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed November 04, 2014 at