By Leah Duran
While strolling through an Arizona meadow, scan the ground for small, matted chutes of grass that signal runways, or escape routes, used by voles and other rodents to elude predators. When chased by hawks, owls and foxes, the Southern red-backed vole will scurry or hop along runways, jumping as high as 8 inches to clear obstacles.
The Southern red-backed vole is named for a rust-colored stripe that stretches across its back from head to tail. Gray or white fur frames its face and feet and thickens when winter arrives.
Voles remain active year-round, mainly at night, and dine with the seasons. Spring courses include grasses and leaves, while summer adds berries. Voles eat seeds and nuts in the fall, and switch to fungus and, occasionally, tree bark in the winter.
Forests and wet areas near marshes or streams across the state are prime habitats for voles, which nest under logs and brush or in burrows abandoned by other animals. Females give birth to two to eight young up to three times during their yearlong lifespan. Young voles are ready to reproduce after only three months.