southern red-backed vole

(Myodes gapperi)

Conservation Status
southern red-backed vole
Photo by Kirk Nelson
  IUCN Red List

LC - Least Concern


N5 - Secure

SNR - Unranked


not listed


Southern red-backed vole is one of the smallest voles found in Minnesota. Adults have a stocky build. They may be 4½ to 6¾ long, including the tail, and weigh ¼ to 1½ ounces, but average just 5¼ long and ounce. Males and females are similar in size. Females have 8 mammae.

The coat (pelage) is dark gray above with a broad, chestnut-brown stripe down the middle of the head and back. In the summer it is relatively short and coarse. In the winter it is long, dense, and lighter in color. The belly is gray to creamy white. Juveniles are darker than adults.

The legs are short. The feet are creamy white or buff.

The tail is short, 1 to 2 long, slender, and sharply bicolored.

The head is gray on the sides and face. The snout is short. The eyes are small. The ears are brown and short. The mouth has 16 teeth. The upper incisors are not grooved. The molars have high crowns and angular cusps.




Total length: 4½ to 6¾

Head and body: 2¾ to 4

Tail: 1 to 2






Similar Species


Lemmings are larger and have shorter tails.

On other voles the pelage is not bicolored.


Moist deciduous, coniferous and mixed forests with stumps and logs for ground cover; cedar, tamarack, and black spruce swamps, bogs with spruce and fir.




They are active both during the day and at night, but more often at night. They forage mostly on the ground but also in trees. When on the ground they use runways of shrews, moles, or other small mammals. They usually hop rather than run. They are solitary and do not form colonies or pair bonds.




Usually 10 to 12 months but up to 18 months


Life Cycle


Breeding takes place from May to September. There may be 2 to 6 litters in a year. The nest is located usually under a log, tree root, or other shelter, sometimes in a burrow created by a mole or other small mammal. Gestation lasts 17 to 19 days. The female has 3 to 8, usually 4 to 6 offspring. The young are born naked and blind. They remain in the nest less than three weeks. They reach sexual maturity at 2 to 4 months of age.




They are opportunistic feeders consuming mostly plant matter. Their diet changes with the season. In the spring they eat mostly young shoots and leaf petioles. In the summer they also eat berries. In the fall they also eat nuts and seeds. In the winter they eat seeds, roots, bark of young trees and shrubs, and food stored in their nests. Throughout the year they also eat roots, insects, snails, fungi, and lichens.


Distribution Map



4, 7, 24, 29, 30, 76.

Common Gapper’s red-backed vole (M. g. gapperi) is found in north-central and northeast Minnesota.

Loring’s red-backed vole (M. g. loringi) is found in the remaining forested areas of the state.




Common and widespread

  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 Myodini  


Myodes (red-backed voles)  

Subordinate Taxa


Arizona red-backed vole (Myodes gapperi arizonensis)

Black Hills red-backed vole (Myodes gapperi brevicaudus)

boreal red-backed vole (Myodes gapperi athabascae)

British Columbia red-backed vole (Myodes gapperi saturatus)

Carolina red-backed vole (Myodes gapperi carolinensis)

Cascades red-backed vole (Myodes gapperi cascadensis)

common Gapper’s red-backed vole (Myodes gapperi gapperi)

dark-colored red-backed vole (Myodes gapperi phaeus)

Dusky red-backed vole (Myodes gapperi obscurus)

dusky-backed vole (Myodes gapperi fuscodorsalis)

Gaspe red-backed vole (Myodes gapperi gaspeanus)

Gaut’s red-backed vole (Myodes gapperi gauti)

Hudson red-backed vole (Myodes gapperi hudsonius)

Idaho red-backed vole (Myodes gapperi idahoensis)

Kentucky red-backed vole (Myodes gapperi maurus)

Kittatiny red-backed vole (Myodes gapperi rupicola)

Labrador red-backed vole (Myodes gapperi proteus)

Loring’s red-backed vole (Myodes gapperi loringi)

Mazama Mt red-backed vole (Myodes gapperi mazama)

Mogollon red-backed vole (Myodes gapperi limitis)

northeastern red-backed vole (Myodes gapperi caurinus)

Olympic red-backed vole (Myodes gapperi nivarius)

Pymatuning red-backed vole (Myodes gapperi paludicola)

Revillagigedo Island red-backed vole (Myodes gapperi solus)

Rhoad’s red-backed vole (Myodes gapperi rhoadsii)

Rocky Mountain southern red-backed vole (Myodes gapperi galei)

southern red-backed vole (Myodes gapperi pallescens)

southern red-backed vole (Myodes gapperi pygmaeus)

southern red-backed vole (Myodes gapperi rufescens)

Stikine red-backed vole (Myodes gapperi stikinensis)

Uinta red-backed vole (Myodes gapperi uintaensis)

Ungava red-backed vole (Myodes gapperi ungava)

western red-backed vole (Myodes gapperi occidentalis)

White Mountain red-backed vole (Myodes gapperi ochraceus)

Wrangel red-backed vole (Myodes gapperi wrangeli)




Clethrionomys gapperi

Clethrionomys gapperi arizonensis

Clethrionomys gapperi cascadensis

Clethrionomys gapperi gaspeanus

Clethrionomys gapperi gauti

Clethrionomys gapperi hudsonius

Clethrionomys gapperi maurus

Clethrionomys gapperi pallescens

Clethrionomys gapperi paludicola

Clethrionomys gapperi rufescens

Clethrionomys gapperi rupicola

Clethrionomys gapperi soleus

Clethrionomys gapperi solus

Clethrionomys gapperi stikinensis

Clethrionomys gapperi uintaensis

Evotomys carolinensis

Evotomys caurinus

Evotomys fus

Evotomys galei

Evotomys gapperi athabascae

Evotomys gapperi brevicaudus

Evotomys gapperi loringi

Evotomys gapperi ochraceus

Evotomys gapperi rhoadsii

Evotomys gapperi saturatus

Evotomys idahoensis

Evotomys limitis

Evotomys nivarius

Evotomys occidentalis

Evotomys phaeus

Evotomys proteus

Evotomys pygmaeus

Evotomys ungava

Evotomys wrangeli


Common Names


boreal redback vole

Gapper’s red-backed mouse

southern red-backed vole











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



The stalk of a leaf blade or compound leaf that attaches the leaf blade to the stem.

Visitor Photos

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Kirk Nelson

    southern red-backed vole   southern red-backed vole  








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Other Videos
  Southern Red-backed Vole (Cricetidae: Myodes/Clethrionomys gapperi) on Footpath
Carl Barrentine

Uploaded on Aug 20, 2010

A very common Minnesota vole, but a species that is uncommonly observed wandering paved footpaths. I had to photograph this very young and very, very wet (after the morning's severe rain storm), and much disoriented redback vole. Photographed at the Rydell NWR, Minnesota (20 August 2010). Go here to learn more about this interesting species:

  Southern Red-backed Vole (Cricetidae: Myodes/Cleithrionomys gapperi) Altricial Young
Carl Barrentine

Uploaded on Sep 9, 2010

Photographed at the Concordia Language Villages, Bemidji, Minnesota (07 September 2010).




Visitor Sightings

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Location: Scandia, MN

  Kirk Nelson

Location: Lebanon Hills Regional Park, Dakota County

southern red-backed vole  






Created: 12/3/2015

Last Updated:

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