Species Profile

Woodland Vole

Scientific Name: Microtus pinetorum
Taxonomy Group: Mammals
Range: Ontario, Quebec
Last COSEWIC Assessment: November 2010
Last COSEWIC Designation: Special Concern
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Special Concern


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Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Woodland Vole

Woodland Vole Photo 1
Woodland Vole Photo 2

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Description

The Woodland Vole (Microtus pinetorum) is a small vole with an average body mass of 26 g and a length of about 120 mm. Its short tail makes up less than 20% of the length. Woodland Voles are adapted for fossorial (underground) living; they have thick short fur and their eyes, ears and tails are relatively small. Although colouration varies, they are generally dark chestnut dorsally and light grey underneath. Woodland Voles are considered pests in orchards in the US. They reach the northernmost edge of their range in Canada. (Updated 2017/05/31)

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Distribution and Population

The Woodland Vole occurs throughout eastern North America, south to the Gulf of Mexico. They reach the northern edge of their range in southern Québec and southwestern Ontario. Less than 2% of their global range occurs in Canada. There is a large unsurveyed area with some potentially suitable habitat between the ranges in each province. (Updated 2017/05/31)

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Habitat

Woodland Voles are commonly associated with deciduous forests but also inhabit scrubby sand dunes, swamps, and orchards. They are influenced by the amount and type of cover, soil moisture and soil type, preferring areas with dense herbaceous vegetation and friable soils with low saturation. Fragmentation of habitat has occurred in southern Ontario over the past century and overall forest cover is low. In the areas where Woodland Voles occur, forest cover is much higher than average and there has been little change since the last assessment. (Updated 2017/05/31)

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Biology

Woodland Voles are semi-fossorial, spending most of their time in underground burrows. They live in small communal groups with overlapping home ranges and common nest sites. Home range sizes are similar for males and females (mean = 45 m2). Dispersal appears to be driven by saturation densities, where individuals of both sexes disperse to gain reproductive opportunities. Maximum dispersal distances are estimated to be 300 m and may be enhanced through the use of edge and hedgerow habitats. Woodland Voles mature later and produce smaller litters (mean = 3) than most other Microtus. The breeding season extends from May to October, with females producing 1-4 litters per year. Survival is low, with most individuals probably living less than 6 months. In Canada, voles likely have a variety of predators including shrews, raptors, and snakes. Woodland Voles do not hibernate or use torpor in winter; instead they nest communally and cache food. Fossorial living provides protection from temperature extremes and predators. (Updated 2017/05/31)

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Threats

Habitat loss and degradation resulting from urban development, agricultural intensification and forest harvest are the most important current threats to the Woodland Vole in Canada. Urban growth will have a greater effect in areas where humans are already concentrated and is likely to cause more habitat loss in Ontario than Québec. Habitat loss due to agricultural intensification is an issue in southern Ontario. (Updated 2017/05/31)

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Protection

Federal Protection

More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.

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Recovery Progress and Activities

Summary of Progress to Date The Woodland Vole is confined to small areas of habitat and recent research suggests that these areas are being lost at a steady rate. Summary of Research/Monitoring Due to the Woodland Vole’s low population densities and its fossorial lifestyle of digging and burrowing, it cannot be monitored easily. Populations of Woodland Voles were found within the counties of Elgin, Kent, and Haldimand-Norfold during inventories conducted in 1986. However, voles were not located during surveys within Walpole Island, Wellington County, and the Waterloo region in 1986, or within the Hamilton-Wentworth municipality in 1991. Summary of Recovery Activities Conservation land agreements are being developed by government agencies with private land owners which will secure Woodland Vole habitat from development. The Ontario government reinstated Ontario’s Managed Forest Tax Rebate Program to protect and enhance woodlands. URLs Ontario’s Biodiversity: Species at Riskhttp://www.rom.on.ca/ontario/risk.php?doc_type=fact&lang=&id=286 Natural Resources Canada: Forest-Dwelling Species at Riskwww.cfs.nrcan.gc.ca/sof/sof98/spart4_e.html

Documents

PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

5 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Woodland Vole Microtus pinetorum in Canada (2011)

    The Woodland Vole (Microtus pinetorum) is a small vole with an average body mass of 26 g and a length of about 120 mm. Its short tail makes up less than 20% of the length. Woodland Voles are adapted for fossorial (underground) living; they have thick short fur and their eyes, ears and tails are relatively small. Although colouration varies, they are generally dark chestnut dorsally and light grey underneath. Woodland Voles are considered pests in orchards in the US. They reach the northernmost edge of their range in Canada.

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Woodland Vole (2011)

    This small, rare mammal has a Canadian range restricted to highly fragmented areas of southern Ontario and southern Quebec.  However, a lack of adequate monitoring effort and quantification of threats made the re-assessment of this species difficult. There is no evidence to suggest its status has changed since it was last assessed.  Threats appear to be limited and not imminent or increasing. 

Management Plans

  • Management Plan for the Woodland Vole (Microtus pinetorum) in Canada (2015)

    The Minister of the Environment is the competent minister under SARA for the Woodland Vole and has prepared this management plan as per section 65 of SARA. To the extent possible it has been prepared in cooperation with the provinces of Ontario (Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry) and Quebec (Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs du Québec).

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2010 - 2011 (2011)

    Under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to “assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species”. COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings during the past year assessing the status or reviewing the classification of a total of 92 wildlife species.

Recovery Document Posting Plans

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada's Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan (2016)

    Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan identifies the species for which recovery documents will be posted each fiscal year starting in 2014-2015. Posting this three year plan on the Species at Risk Public Registry is intended to provide transparency to partners, stakeholders, and the public about Environment and Climate Change Canada’s plan to develop and post these proposed recovery strategies and management plans. However, both the number of documents and the particular species that are posted in a given year may change slightly due to a variety of circumstances. Last update March 31, 2017