|The California vole is not a rat. It is related to gophers. The subspecies Amargosa
vole, M. c. scirpensis is endangered and on the Federal and State endangered lists,
which means they are protected. This subspecies is found in the Panamint Range.
They are nocturnal and spend most of their time underground in borrows.
Voles come above ground to find food, such as seeds and will carry some of the seeds
back to their burrows to eat. They do not hibernate.
The California subspecies sometimes produce infertile offspring and this is thought to
be the result in males who are hybrids. Some biologists believe the California vole is
diverging into a separate subspecies and that this causes infertility when two voles
breed who have variations in their gene pool.
This infertility may be the cause for their numbers to decrease to the point of being
endangered. Voles are alos heavily hunted by predators such as snakes and birds.
Microtus californicus is a medium-sized vole with light gray vibrissae, gray feet, and
white near the tail. Dorsum is cinnamon-brown to tawny olive with dark brown to
black hairs; venter fur is medium gray, occasionally washed with buff. Tail is
bicolored, with black above and gray below. Microtus californicus males average 6%
longer and 11% heavier than females. Size may vary considerably across the range,
with several southern subspecies larger than more northerly subspecies.
Microtus californicus reaches a northern limit near Eugene, Oregon, and a southern
limit near El Rosario, Baja California, Mexico (Verts and Carraway 1998; Fig. 3). In
the United States, M. californicus is found in interior valleys in Oregon and most of
California, but is absent from the northwestern fog belt, northeastern sagebrush
region, and southeastern desert region of California.
The nearly continuous range of M. californicus is punctuated with isolated subspecies
in northern Baja California and the Mojave Desert, White Mountains, and Panamint
Range in eastern California.
Corwin, J. 100 Heartbeats: The Race to Save Earth's Most Endangered Species.
Steinhart, P. California's Wild Heritage: Threatened and Endangered Animals in the
Golden State. 1990.