March 23, 2015

Of the Vole and Shrew

The unusual become common place during hard winter months.  This year, the first winter my family has lived in Schroon Lake NY of the Adirondacks, we have been visited by many amazing animals.  Our son William greatly enjoys watching and learning about each and every visitor.  From the red squirrel to the birds.  Each have become familiar and looked forward to.

The surprise of the winter has been an adorable, fuzzy vole and a highly veracious shrew.  Our new friend the vole would dart out from the snow bank, grab a mouth full of seeds and dart back in, like he was playing a game of peek-a-boo.  The shrew would pounce on the sunflower seeds like a cat on a mouse. It is amazing how much energy they have.

Adirondack Shrew, J. Parnapy
The Shrew  is possibly a Least Shrew (Cryptotis parva), however since I can't get close enough to see the teeth, I can't be 100% certain.  Not much research has been conducted on shrews, thus little is known.  We do know that they are generally nocturnal, when they will feed on moths and beetle larva, earthworms and spiders.  There are a few species of shrews in the Adirondacks. These include the rare Pigmy Shrew, the Masked Shrew, Water Shrew, Smokey Shrew, Long-tailed Shrew and the Short-tailed Shrew.  The Short-tailed Shrew is the only mammal in the Adirondacks with a venomous bite.

As William slumbers during nap time, our friend the vole is playing his game of pee-a-boo again. The Woodland Vole (Microtus pineterum) uses tunnel systems like the one in the snow that is used to gain access to the sunflower seeds.  While voles store food in caches, the high fat content sunflower seeds are a tasty treat.  Voles will eat; roots, tubers, forbs, grasses, fruit, bark, fungi, insects and seeds.  They can breed at any time from late March through August, with 1-4 litters produced a year with between 1-6 young.  That can equal many voles.  The Adirondacks are home to the Meadow Vole, Red-backed Vole and the Rock Vole.

These unique and amazing creatures have given my family countless hours of enjoyment and wonder. It will be interesting to see what other new animals visit this coming year.

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