Voles have small ears, blunt snouts, and short tails relative to the deer mouse. We have 13 species in Oregon (not counting the muskrat which I have described separately). These species are adapted to a variety of habitats and range in size from 5-10".

The meadow voles (Microtus sp.) generally have distinctive runways and burrows in the grass. Other species have less obvious sign. For example, the red tree vole lives its life in the canopy of the mature douglas fir forest and leaves only a few slender resin ducts from the needles it eats in the duff around the tree. While voles are active all winter, they stay in the subnivean zone under the snow so tracks are uncommon.


The table below lists the preferred habitat of each vole species in Oregon and suggests the typical sign to expect.


Habitat and Distribution

Typical Sign

(Microtus townsendi)

Moist habitats of western Oregon

Clipped runways in grass or sedges, 2-3" diameter

(Microtus montanus)

Mountain meadows of eastern Oregon

Clipped runways in grass, piles of clipped grass stems w/o seed head

(Microtus oregoni)

Moist forest and clearcuts in coast range and western Cascades

Burrows, sometimes creating ridges similar to moles

(Microtus californicus)

Clearcuts and grassland in southwestern Oregon


(Microtus canaudus)

Agricultural land in Willamette Valley

Runways and burrow

(Microtus longicaudus)

Dry upland meadows

Runways and burrows

Richardson's water
(Microtus richardsoni)

Riparian areas of Cascades

Burrows (3" diameter) near stream, well worn trails strewn with cut grass and sedge

Western red-backed (Clethrionomys californicus)

Old growth with deadfall in coast range and western Cascades


Gapper's red-backed (Clethrionomys gapperi)

Dense spruce-fir forest with deadfall in Wallowas

4" round grass nest

Sagebrush (Lemmiscus curtatus)


Clusters of burrows

Red tree vole
(Phenocomys longicaudus)

Arboreal in Douglas fir, coast range and western Cascades

Resin ducts discarded when eating Douglas fir needles

(Phenocomys intermeditus)

Varied and widespread but uncommon

Shallow burrows under logs or rocks

White footed
(Phenocomys albipes)





Look for clipped grass


Unlike most small mammals, voles have an alternating stride. However, the stride can switch to a bound.

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