The California Vole, Microtus californicus¸ are medium-sized voles found throughout California (1). M. californicus have dorsal fur that ranges from red-brown to olive-brown with black hairs spread throughout (1). Their undersides are gray and they also have a bicolored tail; black on top and gray on the underside (1). Adults are normally between 15 to 21 cm long (2). M. californicus are a primarily burrowing vole, creating subterranean nest out of grass and emerging only to feed and deficit (1). They mainly feed on grass and some flowering plants (1). While M. californicus are capable of breeding year-round, in Mediterranean-type climate, like Santa Barbara, reproduction is limited to the wet season (1). Predators include birds of prey, snakes, foxes, and even wading birds like herons and egrets (1). To aid in predator avoidance M. californicus are crepuscular, active primarily at dawn and dusk (3).
(1) Cudworth, N. L., & Koprowski, J. L. (2010). Microtus californicus (Rodentia: Cricetidae). Mammalian Species, 42, 230-243.
(2) Jameson, E. W., Jr., & Peeters, H. J. (2004). Mammals of California (Revised ed.). Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
(3) Peale, T.R., 1848. U.S. exploring expeditions 1838, 1839, 1840, 1841, 1842 under the command of Charles Wilkes, U.S.N., Mammalogy and Ornithology, p. 44. Asherman and Co., Philadelphia, 8:1-338
(Photograph) © Alice Abela