The influence of behavior and water requirements on the distribution and habitat selection of the gray-tailed vole (Microtus canicaudus) with notes on Microtus townsendii Public Deposited

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  • Microtus canicaudus Miller, the gray-tailed vole, was studied in the field and laboratory in order to clarify aspects of the relationship of this species to its habitat. All trapping and sampling was done on permanent pasture land in the William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge 12 miles south of Corvallis, Oregon. Vole runway systems were mapped. Sampling of quarter-acre plots revealed 373 vole holes per acre arranged into 39 complexes of approximately nine holes each. Complexes were located 8 feet apart and were occupied by 1.5 animals each. Trapping success for a 1-year period showed peaks of activity in February, June and October, probably associated with breeding and the dry season. Food consumption rates while eating air-dried food pellets was 4.4 grams per day or 15% of body weight per day. A seasonal difference in food consumption rates was noted. The average daily water consumption was 11.7 cc. Consumption of water per gram of body weight was 0.4 cc /g /day. The ability to undergo dehydration and withstand a reduced net water ration was also measured. Intraspecific behavior experiments suggested that there is a marked social dominance by one male over another and a high frequency of animals nesting separately, indicating a lack of gregariousness. This animal's potential as a competitive force with domestic stock and potential threat to their food source was examined. Results indicated that the gray-tailed vole, at present population levels, may be a significant competitor with domestic stock but is not a threat to its own food resources. Water availability is postulated to be a major factor in this animal's habitat selection and may limit them to more mesic areas. Extended dry periods may be critical to their survival. However, behavioral characteristics resulting in relatively solitary lives may guarantee an adequate supply of succulent plants and dew for each individual during the driest period of the year. Limited data on water uptake, food consumption and behavioral characteristics for Microtus townsendii are also presented. Townsend's vole may be more gregarious than the gray-tailed vole and more limited by water requirements. M. townsendii may be dominant over M. canicaudus where their ranges overlap.
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