|Florida Nature: Rodents (2)|
With over 2000 living species placed in about 30 families, rodents are
by far the largest order of mammals. Rodents range in size from the
pygmy mice to capybaras, the largest of which weigh over 150 pounds.
Some Florida rodents spend their entire lives above the ground in the
canopy of trees; others seldom emerge from beneath the ground. Some
species are highly aquatic, while others are equally specialized for
life in deserts. Many Florida rodents are to some degree omnivorous;
others are highly specialized, eating, for example, only a few species
of invertebrates or fungi.
Meadow Vole- The Meadow Vole, or "Field Mouse," is a small, common rodent that lives in grassy fields, woodland, marshes, and along lakes and rivers. It is five to seven inches long, counting the tail, and usually weighs only and ounce or two. Meadow Voles' color can vary from yellowish-brown to reddish-brown to blackish-brown. They are normally gray on their underparts. Meadow Voles make nests in clumps of grass, using materials such as dry grass, sedges, and weeds. From their nests, they build "runways," like tunnels beneath the grass and plants. Meadow Voles are most active at night during the Summer, and during the day if its Winter. They are less active when there's a full moon. Meadow Voles' diet includes many things, including grasses, sedges, seeds, flowers, leaves, roots of shrubs and small trees, bark, tubers, bulbs, and sometimes insects. Most Meadow Voles live a year to a year and a half. Meadow Voles breed frequently. It is common for a vole to have 12 litters a year. Anywhere between one and eleven young is normal.
Round-tailed Muskrat- Round-tail muskrats are distinguished from the muskrat by two characters: they are noticeably smaller and have a round tail, not a laterally compressed tail. The coarse outer fur of the round-tailed muskrat is dark brown and glossy. The dense underfur is a rich brown at the tip on the back and shifts to gray at the base, pale buff belly. The round-tailed muskrat resembles a small muskrat, from 15 - 21.5 inches in total length. The tail is round instead of flattened on the sides like muskrats. Round-tailed Muskrats inhabit freshwater marshes in peninsular Florida and south-central and southeastern Georgia. As many as 48 muskrats per hectare have been recorded in the Everglades. They seem to prefer water about 12-18 inches deep. Round-tailed muskrat construct roundish houses about 7 to 24 inches in diameter at the surface of the water, with two underwater entrances that are called plunge holes. The Muskrats are nocturnal and are most active shortly after dark. The stems of aquatic grasses form the bulk of round-tailed muskrat's diet. When water levels are low, muskrats can burrow into wet mud and survive for a significant period of time. Bobcats and some snakes and birds prey on these rodents.
Southeastern Pocket Gopher-Pocket gophers are beautifully adapted for life underground. These chestnut-colored rodents have small ears and eyes, and can chew and dig their way through compacted soil and roots with the help of large, incisor teeth and long, curved claws on enlarged forelimbs. The lips close behind the front teeth, which prevents dirt from entering the mouth. The "pocket" part of their common name refers to two fur-lined cheek pockets or pouches, which have external openings on either side of the mouth. The pouches are used to transport food and nest material. Pocket gophers are only 10-12 inches long from nose to tip of tail but they are capable of digging tunnel systems that may extend for 500 feet or more, although 145 feet is the norm. As they dig, they push piles of loose dirt to the surface, a characteristic that has earned them the name "sandy mounders" or "salamanders." Shallow tunnels generally run parallel to the surface and provide access to their diet of roots and tubers, while nest and food storage tunnels are deeper. Pocket gophers plug tunnel openings to prevent snakes and other predators from entering. Pocket gophers are solitary animals and, except for females nursing young, do not share a tunnel system.
Woodland Vole- Woodland voles have a combined head and body length of between 83 and 120 mm; the tail ranges from 15 to 40 mm in length. They weigh between 14 and 37 grams. There is almost no sexual dimorphism within the species. The dorsal region varies from light to dark brown in color. The ventral surface is whitish or silvery. Their bodies have become modified for their partially subterranean habitat by a reduction of the eyes, external ears, and tail. Their foreclaws are also somewhat enlarged for digging. Woodland voles live in deciduous forests in eastern North America, including Florida. They are surface burrowers, moving through thick leaf mold and loose soil. Woodland voles are surface burrowers, normally going no deeper than 100 mm below ground. They may also use the burrows of mice, moles, and large shrews. They are active at any time of the night or day. There seems to be strong sociality between males and females, and they are usually bonded in monogamous male-female pairs. Mating generally takes place from spring through fall with a peak in late spring to early summer. Some woodland voles may breed throughout the year if they live at low altitudes or experience mild winters. About 21 days after breeding takes place, a litter of between 3 and 7 young is born. The litter size can range from 1 to 13 newborns.
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