Orkney vole (Microtus arvalis orcadensis)

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Orkney vole
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Orkney vole fact file

Orkney vole description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderRodentia
FamilyMuridae
GenusMicrotus (1)

The Orkney vole is an endemic subspecies of the common vole (Microtus arvalis), which is found only in the Orkney Islands, Scotland. It is larger than the common vole, and is similar in appearance to the field vole (Microtus agrestris), but has shorter paler fur (2). Like all voles it has a stocky body with a blunt, rounded snout.

Size
Head-body length: 9 - 12 cm (2)
Tail length: around 3 - 4 cm (2)
Weight
14 - 90 g (3)
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Orkney vole biology

The Orkney vole is active during the day and night, but it tends to be more active during the day (3), and usually returns to its burrow to rest every 3 hours (2). These voles feed mainly on leaves, stems and roots of grasses and other plants, and seem to preferentially feed on plants with high nitrogen content (3).

The breeding season occurs between March and November, and successive litters consisting of between 1 and 6 young are produced each month. The young voles breed in the year after their birth, and typically die before the end of that year (3). Main predators are domestic cats and various birds of prey; in fact, Orkney voles represent a very important component of the diet of the Orkney Islands' birds of prey (2).

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Orkney vole range

Found on the islands of Rousay, Mainland, Sanday, Westray and South Ronaldsay in the Orkney Islands, Scotland. The subspecies was introduced to the islands 5,000 years ago, possibly on the boats of Neolithic settlers (3).

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Orkney vole habitat

Inhabits old peat cuttings, grassy areas, drainage ditches, road verges and other linear habitats (3).

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Orkney vole status

Not legally protected in the UK. No conservation designations (4). The common vole, Microtus arvalis, is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List (1).

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Orkney vole threats

At present the population of this subspecies is very fragmented, in small patches of natural or semi-natural habitats. Linear habitats such as fence lines and road verges act as corridors, linking fragmented patches of habitat together and allowing voles to pass between sites (3). As this subspecies is so reliant on these linear habitats, their removal or alteration could therefore impact hugely upon Orkney vole populations (3).

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Orkney vole conservation

There is currently no conservation action targeted at this species. It is not protected by law (3).

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Find out more

For more on this species see:

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact: arkive@wildscreen.org.uk
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Glossary

Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Subspecies
A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (September, 2009)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. People’s Trust for Endangered Species - Orkney voles (August, 2002)
    http://ptes.org/index.php?page=160
  3. Macdonald, D.W. and Tattersall, F.T. (2001) Britain's Mammals: The Challenge for Conservation. The Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Oxford University.
  4. The Environment Agency. (1998) Species and Habitats Handbook. The Environment Agency, Bristol.
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Image credit

Orkney vole  
Orkney vole

© Pat Morris / www.ardea.com

Ardea wildlife pets environment
59 Tranquil Vale
London
SE3 0BS
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 208 318 1401
ardea@ardea.co.uk
http://www.ardea.com

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