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Mediterranean Pine Vole (Microtus duodecimcostatus)

Diputación de Málaga
Topillo común baja ARL

Mediterranean Pine Vole (Microtus duodecimcostatus)

Reproduction Zeal Topping Hibernation
Animal Life > Mammals


It is a small sized (head-body length 8 to 11 cm) rodent (animal with a pair of incisors teeth in continuous growth). It has short and brown ochre coat, grey on the flanks and on the belly. Its legs (2 to 3,5 cm) and tail are very short. It is adapted to subterranean life: it does not need any tail to climb, jump or maintain its balance. Its eyes and ears are very small, and nearly hidden in the coat. Its whole anatomy is a perfect design to help it move underground. Males and females only slightly differ with a bigger size of the former.

Where does it live?

It prefers open spaces like meadows, forest edges or herbaceous irrigated crops  with moist soils but not oozing with water that would flood the underground tunnels that it constructs.  It especially avoids very compact soils, such as those supporting cattle's trampling. It is often present in crops with relatively high plants and isolated scrub, and absent from lands with very short plants since it is a sign of intensive grazing.  It lives from the sea-level to high mountains.

How does it live?

It is an herbivore animal feeding on bulbs, tubers, roots and in general on the plant’s underground parts. It builds subterranean tunnel systems dug under the ground, very ramified and with entrances and exits that it usually covers with characteristic small conical grounding amounts (molehills). The tunnels leads to breeding and storing rooms. It does not bear air currents in its tunnels, since it alters humidity conditions. If a molehill is taken off, they immediately make a new one. Molehills are also used to conceal tunnel entries and exits, preventing them from predators. They are colonial and gregarious animals. It is a common and abundant species, being able to rise densities of 300 to 900 vole burrows per hectare.  They are active by day as well as at night.

How does it reproduce?

Voles can mate all year round, especially if it has been raining enough, since this helps food abundance and makes it easier to dig. The female usually calves from 2 to 3 live offspring per litter. Pregnancy lasts 24 days. The little voles are sexually active a few months after their birth. Their life expectancy barely reaches 2 years.

Where can we see it in Málaga?

It is present in the whole province, being abundant and common in areas with adequate habitats. On the Great Path (Gran Senda), we can observe it for example on stages 6 to 11 and 22 to 24. It must be looked for in forest edges with high grass but no cattle.

Curious facts

Voles have been and still are a source of concern for farmers.  Actually the species causing the most damage is not the Mediterranean vole, but when colonies are very numerous, they can also damage crops. The solution does not consists of poisons nor miracles. Formerly, the priests included the voles in the rituals of exorcism, because they considered necessary the hand of God to bless the earth and rid it of these animals. However, more than by divine action, the control of voles depends on the good health of the ecosystem: avoiding pesticides, preserving natural vegetation, and controlling waste accumulation ... and letting the predator community working normally. The poison use helps reduce voles and it also affects predators, as well as the health of people who will finally consume the farm produce. 

Similar species

Although it is a very characteristic species, almost unmistakable, it may also be confused with a mouse at a glance. Voles are very easily differentiated from mice. They do not have a tail, their body is more compact, the legs are much shorter, the snout is rounded and very slightly marked, the ears barely stand out from the head.

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