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Introduction and questions about mouse and vole tracks

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  • pjhav
    Hello! I am a new member to the group, so I wanted to introduce myself. I am a PhD student at UC Davis with an interest in wildlife distributions and have
    Message 1 of 3 , May 15, 2011
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      Hello!

      I am a new member to the group, so I wanted to introduce myself. I am a PhD student at UC Davis with an interest in wildlife distributions and have projects in Argentina, China, and California, looking at various different things. I happened to look up if there were any groups on tracking, and was happy to come across this site.

      For our project in California, we are using track plates to look at small to medium size mammal use in a corridor between Auburn and Truckee, CA, and we have a lot of small rodent tracks. Some people have helped identify some of the tracks, so we know we have both mouse and vole in the area, but when my assistants and I are trying to ID, we are having difficulty telling the difference between the two, and I was hoping that some people out there may have some advice. I can send some images, but I think that descriptions on what to look at to tell the difference would be a better place to start. Then, after the descriptions, we can try to make some IDs and then maybe send photos for verification that we have the ideas down?

      Thank you for any advice!

      Paul Haverkamp
    • Jonathan Goff
      Vole tracks generally have toes that are longer, more thin and fingerlike - often (but not always) showing the whole toe. Deer mice generally have a more
      Message 2 of 3 , May 15, 2011
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        Vole tracks generally have toes that are longer, more thin and fingerlike - often (but not always) showing the whole toe. Deer mice generally have a more bulbous toe pad, often you don't see the full toe, just the heel pads and the ends of the toe but if you do see the whole toe the end will usually be larger than the rest of the toe relative to how it appears in vole tracks. In my neck of the woods vole tracks are usually a bit larger than mouse tracks, though that would presumably depend to some extent on which species of mouse and vole are common in your area.
        My experience of their tracks is seeing them in the mud, sand, etc. so I am not sure how fully that transfers to their tracks on track plates. For example, I wouldn't be surprised if the full length of the toe doesn't show up quite as much for voles on the plates as it does in the soil. It can take some practice to learn to see (and be confident in) the difference. Even then you may find some tracks that are difficult to place firmly in one side or the other though for the most part it is not difficult to identify a decent set of tracks once you develop the skill.
        Sign is another useful thing to use to distinguish species, though might not be useful depending on how your study is setup. Vole sign is fairly distinctive. My experience with voles is with species that like to live mostly in grassy areas. In such places it is common to find runs created by them amidst the grass, generally there will be clipped grass here and there throughout the runs as well as piles of (or dispersed) scat. Their scat is generally fairly uniform and tubular, composed of vegetative material. I haven't found piles of mouse scat like that in the wild, though I have found it plentifully scattered in some places. Mouse scat is a similar shape to vole scat, but less uniform in shape and consistency, presumably due to its varied diet.
        There are a few tracking field guides available that should be useful resources. One of my favorite's is Mark Elbroch's Mammals Tracks & Sign, David Moskowitz's book Wildlife of the Pacific Northwest is another great one which while technically not covering California, has a lot of species overlap.
        Jonathan

        To: animaltracks@yahoogroups.com
        From: pjhav@...
        Date: Sun, 15 May 2011 18:56:30 +0000
        Subject: [Animal Tracks] Introduction and questions about mouse and vole tracks




























        Hello!



        I am a new member to the group, so I wanted to introduce myself. I am a PhD student at UC Davis with an interest in wildlife distributions and have projects in Argentina, China, and California, looking at various different things. I happened to look up if there were any groups on tracking, and was happy to come across this site.



        For our project in California, we are using track plates to look at small to medium size mammal use in a corridor between Auburn and Truckee, CA, and we have a lot of small rodent tracks. Some people have helped identify some of the tracks, so we know we have both mouse and vole in the area, but when my assistants and I are trying to ID, we are having difficulty telling the difference between the two, and I was hoping that some people out there may have some advice. I can send some images, but I think that descriptions on what to look at to tell the difference would be a better place to start. Then, after the descriptions, we can try to make some IDs and then maybe send photos for verification that we have the ideas down?



        Thank you for any advice!



        Paul Haverkamp


















        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • pjhav
        Thank you for the advice Jonathan! We will definitely look at this and try some IDs. paul
        Message 3 of 3 , May 16, 2011
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          Thank you for the advice Jonathan! We will definitely look at this and try some IDs.

          paul

          --- In animaltracks@yahoogroups.com, Jonathan Goff <olpabas@...> wrote:
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          > Vole tracks generally have toes that are longer, more thin and fingerlike - often (but not always) showing the whole toe. Deer mice generally have a more bulbous toe pad, often you don't see the full toe, just the heel pads and the ends of the toe but if you do see the whole toe the end will usually be larger than the rest of the toe relative to how it appears in vole tracks. In my neck of the woods vole tracks are usually a bit larger than mouse tracks, though that would presumably depend to some extent on which species of mouse and vole are common in your area.
          > My experience of their tracks is seeing them in the mud, sand, etc. so I am not sure how fully that transfers to their tracks on track plates. For example, I wouldn't be surprised if the full length of the toe doesn't show up quite as much for voles on the plates as it does in the soil. It can take some practice to learn to see (and be confident in) the difference. Even then you may find some tracks that are difficult to place firmly in one side or the other though for the most part it is not difficult to identify a decent set of tracks once you develop the skill.
          > Sign is another useful thing to use to distinguish species, though might not be useful depending on how your study is setup. Vole sign is fairly distinctive. My experience with voles is with species that like to live mostly in grassy areas. In such places it is common to find runs created by them amidst the grass, generally there will be clipped grass here and there throughout the runs as well as piles of (or dispersed) scat. Their scat is generally fairly uniform and tubular, composed of vegetative material. I haven't found piles of mouse scat like that in the wild, though I have found it plentifully scattered in some places. Mouse scat is a similar shape to vole scat, but less uniform in shape and consistency, presumably due to its varied diet.
          > There are a few tracking field guides available that should be useful resources. One of my favorite's is Mark Elbroch's Mammals Tracks & Sign, David Moskowitz's book Wildlife of the Pacific Northwest is another great one which while technically not covering California, has a lot of species overlap.
          > Jonathan
          >
          > To: animaltracks@yahoogroups.com
          > From: pjhav@...
          > Date: Sun, 15 May 2011 18:56:30 +0000
          > Subject: [Animal Tracks] Introduction and questions about mouse and vole tracks
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          > Hello!
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          > I am a new member to the group, so I wanted to introduce myself. I am a PhD student at UC Davis with an interest in wildlife distributions and have projects in Argentina, China, and California, looking at various different things. I happened to look up if there were any groups on tracking, and was happy to come across this site.
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          > For our project in California, we are using track plates to look at small to medium size mammal use in a corridor between Auburn and Truckee, CA, and we have a lot of small rodent tracks. Some people have helped identify some of the tracks, so we know we have both mouse and vole in the area, but when my assistants and I are trying to ID, we are having difficulty telling the difference between the two, and I was hoping that some people out there may have some advice. I can send some images, but I think that descriptions on what to look at to tell the difference would be a better place to start. Then, after the descriptions, we can try to make some IDs and then maybe send photos for verification that we have the ideas down?
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          > Paul Haverkamp
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