prairie vole

(Microtus ochrogaster)

Conservation Status


No Image Available

  IUCN Red List

LC - Least Concern


N5 - Secure

S3 - Vulnerable


Special Concern

Species in Greatest Conservation Need


The head and body are 3½ to 5 long. The coloration does not change in the winter. The coat (pelage) is grayish-brown to dark brown with black-tipped and tawny-tipped hairs, giving it a grizzled appearance. The back is somewhat darker than the sides. The underside is yellowish. The legs and feet are yellowish brown.

The tail is 1 to 1¾ long and bicolored.




Head and body: 3½ to 5

Tail: 1 to 1¾






Similar Species

  Meadow vole (Microtus pennsylvanicus) pelage does not have a grizzled appearance. The belly is not yellowish. The tail is longer, 12 5 to 23 5 long. Where the ranges overlap meadow vole will be in wetter areas.  

Prairies, fields, thickets, railroads. Dry areas.




Adults are active mostly during twilight.




Less than one year


Life Cycle


Prairie voles are reproductively monogamous but not sexually monogamous. They form pair bonds that last a lifetime, but will mate with other voles if the opportunity arises. Breeding takes place year-round but mostly in the spring and fall. Two to four litters are produced each year. There are usually 3 or 4 offspring per litter though there may be as few as 2 or as many as 7. Gestation lasts 20 to 23 days. The offspring reach sexual maturity at 5 to 6 weeks. Adults usually live less than one year but may live up to two years.




Diet consists mostly of grasses, tubers, roots, seeds, and when available, insects. In the winter they sometimes eat the bark of woody shrubs.


Distribution Map



4, 6, 7, 29, 30, 76.

Prairie vole (M. o. ochrogaster) is found only in southeastern Minnesota.

Least meadow mouse (M. o. minor) is found in the remainder of the state except the northeast.





  Class Mammalia (mammals)  
  Subclass Theria  
  Infraclass Eutheria (placental mammals)  
  Magnorder Boreoeutheria  
  Superorder Euarchontoglires (primates, rodents, and allies)  
  Grandorder Glires (rodents and rabbits)  
  Order Rodentiia (rodents)  
  Suborder Myomorpha (mice, rats, and hamsters)  
  Superfamily Muroidea (muroids)  


Cricetidae (hamsters, voles, lemmings, and allies)  


Arvicolinae (voles, lemmings, and muskrats)  
  Tribe Microtini (microtine voles)  


Microtus (meadow voles)  
  Subgenus Pedomys  

The genus Microtus was formerly included with Arvicola in the broadly defined tribe Arvicolini based on morphological similarity. Recent molecular genetic analysis showed that the two genera are not “sister taxa.” In 2006, Microtus was moved to the new tribe Microtini that now contains seven other genera, all with rootless, ever growing molars and crown cement.


Subordinate Taxa


Hayden vole (Microtus ochrogaster haydenii)

least meadow mouse (Microtus ochrogaster minor)

Louisiana vole (Microtus ochrogaster ludovicianus)

Ohio prairie vole (Microtus ochrogaster ohioensis)

prairie meadow vole (Microtus ochrogaster austerus)

prairie vole (Microtus ochrogaster ochrogaster)

prairie vole (Microtus ochrogaster similis)

prairie vole (Microtus ochrogaster taylori)




Arvicola austerus

Hypudaeus ochrogaster

Microtus ludovicianus


Common Names


prairie vole










The coat of a mammal, consisting of fur, wool, or hair, and including a soft undercoat and stiff guard hairs.

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Other Videos
  The Prairie Vole (Microtus ochrogaster)
Carl Barrentine

Uploaded on Mar 13, 2011

Photographed at the Kellys Slough NWR, North Dakota (13 March 2010).




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