Living Organisms / Animalia / Craniata / Mammalia / Rodentia / Muridae / Clethrionomys / Species
Clethrionomys glareolus - Bank vole (Click photographs/illustrations: full picture & further details)
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General and References

Alternative Names (Synonyms)

  • Red-backed vole
  • Wood vole
  • Red vole
  • Campagnol roussâtre (French)
  • Rötelmaus (German)

Alternative species names (the second part of the binomial species names): [Genus] alstoni; [Genus] bernisi; [Genus] bosniensis;  [Genus] britannicus; [Genus] caesarius; [Genus] cantueli; [Genus] curcio; [Genus] devius; [Genus] erica; [Genus] fulvus; [Genus] garganicus; [Genus] gorka; [Genus] hallucalis; [Genus] helveticus;  [Genus] hercynicus; [Genus] insullaebellae; [Genus] intermedius; [Genus] istericus; [Genus] italicus; [Genus] jurassicus; [Genus] makedonicus; [Genus] minor; [Genus] nageri; [Genus] norvegicus;  [Genus] ognevi; [Genus] petrovi; [Genus] pirinus; [Genus] ponticus; [Genus] pratensis; [Genus] reinwaldti; [Genus] riparia;  [Genus] rubidus; [Genus] rufescens; [Genus] ruttneri; [Genus] saianicus; [Genus] sibericus; [Genus] skomerensis; [Genus] sobrus;  [Genus] suecicus; [Genus] tomensis; [Genus] variscicus; [Genus] vasconiae; [Genus] vesanus; [Genus] wasjuganensis (B141).

Names for new-borns / juveniles

Names for males  
Names for females  

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General Appearance

Typical vole: small rodent with blunt muzzle, small eyes and small ears. Back rich reddish-brown colour, and bicoloured tail about 50% of body length (B142, B144, D30).

Similar Species

  • Distinguished from mice by much blunter muzzle and shorter tail.
  • Distinguished from Microtus agrestis - Field vole by reddish-brown colour (for juveniles, by longer tail and larger ears).
  • Distinguished from Arvicola terrestris - Water vole by smaller size and by colour.

(B142, D30).

Sexual Dimorphism --

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Species Author

Debra Bourne

Major References

Husbandry references:

(UK Contacts)

(Further Reading)
Click image for full contents list of ELECTRONIC LIBRARY

  • --

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TAXA Group (where information has been collated for an entire group on a modular basis)

Parent Group

  • Voles (Rodents)

Specific Needs Group referenced in Management Techniques

  • Voles (Rodents)

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Husbandry Information


Individual Techniques linked in Wildpro

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Appearance / Morphology

Measurement & Weight

Length Head-body length 100-110mm (B142); 3.2-5.4in./ (B144).
Height --
Adult weight General 0.51.4oz./15-40g (B144).
Male Mean 26.1g (B142).
Female Mean 21.9g (B142).
New-born weight 2g (B142); 0.06oz./1.9g (B144).
Growth rate --

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General Skull: Mean length (condylobasilar) 23.3mm (B142).

Nose: Blunt muzzle (D30).

Ears: Not very large, but visible (D30).

Dentition (Teeth) Molars open-rooted initially, with roots developing later (B142).
Eyes Small (D30).

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Legs and Tracks

  • Four toes on forefeet, five toes on hindfeet (B142). 
  • Hind foot length: mean 16.8mm (B142).

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  • Dorsal dark, ventral pale. 
  • About 50% of head-body length (D30).
  • Length:1.4-2.8in./3.5-7cm (B144).

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Coat / Pelage

Adult Female
  • Dorsal: rich red-brown (chestnut), may grade into flanks grey.
  • Ventral: creamy-grey (silver-grey to creamy-buff).

(B142, B144, D30)

Variations (If present) Clethryonomys glareolus skomerensis (Skomer)
  • Dorsal bright in colour;
  • Ventral cream (B142).
  • 4-6 weeks old first post-juvenile moult. 
  • Adult moult peaks spring and autumn but may occur any time. 
  • Moult proceeds ventral to dorsal.


New-born / Juvenile Juveniles greyish brown (B142).

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Neonate (New-born) Characteristics

Blind and naked (B142).

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Detailed Anatomy Notes
(Summary information provided for pertinent species-specific data cross-referenced in Wildpro)

Reproductive: four pairs of nipples(B142, B147).

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Life Stages / Natural Diet / Physiology

Reproductive Stages

Breeding Season
  • March to October; also in winter (B142).
Oestrus / Ovulation
  • Induced ovulation (B142).
  • Become pregnant either post-partum or not until after end of lactation (B142).
Gestation / Pregnancy
  • 18-20 days, longer with larger litter, up to 17 days recorded (B142);19-20 days (B144).
Parturition / Birth --
Neonatal development
  • Birth: Naked, blind, incisors partially erupted.
  • Three days: dorsal skin darkening.
  • 4-10 days: coat develops.
  • 12 days (approximately): eyes open.
  • 17-18 days: weaned.
  • 16-19 days: thermoregulatary ability developed.
  • 28-30 days: all molars erupted.


Litter size
  • Usually 3-4, maximum seven (B142);1-10, usually 4-5 (B144).
Time between Litters / Litters per year
  • 3-4 weeks between litters (B142).
Lactation / Milk Production
Sexual Maturity
  • In females: may occur in year of birth; earliest pregnancy in laboratory by 31 days. Suppressed by presence of mature females. Late born females become sexually mature in following year (B142).
  • Females 1-1.5 months, males 2 months (B144).
Longevity In wild: more than 18 months recorded, although less than 50% past 4 months; in laboratory: 40 months recorded (B142). 4 years 11 months recorded in laboratory (B147).

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Natural Diet

Basically herbivorous.
  • Fleshy fruits, seeds.
  • Leaves of woody plants, but also leaves of herbs.
  • In winter eat dead leaves.
  • Also: fungi, moss, roots, flowers, grass, insects, worms.
  • Lichens in winter and spring in Scandinavian taiga coniferous forests.

(B142, B144)

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Detailed Physiology Notes
(Summary information provided for pertinent species-specific data cross-referenced in Wildpro)

Temperature --
Pulse --
Respiration --
Faeces Often brown or black, up to four times longer than wide, rounded. May be found in small groups (B142).
Haematology / Biochemistry --
Chromosomes 2n = 56, FNa = 56 (B142).
Other --

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Feeding Behaviour

  • Store food, particularly in late autumn and winter.
  • Seeds with relatively thin testa are most likely to be stored.
  • Generally scatter-stored.

(B142, B147)

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Parental Behaviour


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Social Behaviour / Territoriality

  • Females: exclusive home ranges.
  • Males: home range larger, overlapping with several females' ranges.
  • Immatures: smaller home ranges than adults.
  • Sexually mature males fight one another.
  • Males most aggressive in breeding season.
  • Dispersion by both sexes in spring and early summer (time of sexual maturation).
  • Greatest dispersal from natal site where good habitat.
  • Territory size 0.1-1.2acres/0.05-0.5 hectares, (B144).


Inter-specific --

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Sexual Behaviour


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Predation in Wild

  • Tawny owl, sparrowhawk, barn owl, stoat, polecat, mink, marten, wildcat, cat, fox.
  • Viperus berus - Adder important in eastern Europe.

(B142, B144)

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Activity Patterns

  • Walk and run - 'scurry'.
  • Run for cover when in light.
  • Good ability to orient back to home range.
  • Make surface runways in low cover, also make burrows.

(B142, B147)

Circadian Active day and night.
  • Summer: active day and night, peaks dawn and dusk.
  • Winter: reduced night-time activity.

(B142, B144, B147)

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Habitat and Range

General Habitat Type

Areas with good vegetation cover; forest, scrub and tundra
  • Mature moist mixed deciduous woodland with thick shrub or field layer preferred - especially densely covered clearings and margins.
  • Riverine forests and banks of brooks (found at high density).
  • Moist but deforested regions: parks, gardens, hedgerows, grasslands.
  • In Britain: woodlands as described above, also in grasslands, young deciduous tree plantations, conifer stands, hedgerows.
  • In dense bracken and bluebells on Skoemer.
  • In Europe: also taiga conifer forests, spruce plantations.
  • Montane forests in south of range.

(B51, B142, B143, D30)

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Nests / Burrows / Shelters

  • Burrows with nest at 2-10cm deep in ground.
  • Nest of leaves, moss, feather in woodland, made from grass and moss in grassland.
  • Breeding nests found in tree trunks as well as below ground.


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Distribution and Movement (Migration etc.)

Normal Western Palearctic: forest belt from British Isles to Lake Baikal. Northern Asia Minor and parts of Central Asia.
  • Europe: Arctic circle southwards to northern Spain, Italian mountains, Balkans. Atlantic and Baltic islands, but not Mediterranean islands.
  • In Britain: throughout mainland, also islands: Handa, Raasay, Mull, Bute, Anglesey, Ramsey, Skomer, Isle of Wight, Jersey.

Sea level to 2,400m.

(B51, B142, B143, B147)

Occasional and Accidental --

In Ireland: in south-west (B142, B143)

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Intraspecific variation

Several (more than 30) subspecies varying in coat colour, size, and tail length, also shape of third molar and shape of skull.

Britain and north-east Europe forms darker, while south-eastern populations paler. Marginal and mountain forms larger with relatively longer tails.


  • Clethryonomys glareolus glareolus (e.g. British mainland)
  • Clethryonomys glareolus caesarius (Jersey)
  • Clethryonomys glareolus skomerensis (Skomer)
  • Clethryonomys glareolus alstoni (Mull)
  • Clethryonomys glareolus erica (Raasay)

(B142, B143)

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Conservation Status

Wild Population -
  • Common, with both cyclic and non-cyclic density fluctuations depending on area (B142, B143, B144).

  • In Britain: native, very common. Pre-breeding population estimate of about 23,000,000, with 17,750,000 in England, 3,500,000 in Scotland, 1,750,000 in Wales. Population estimate of this widely-distributed species was based on a limited amount of data and considered likely to be inaccurate by up to 50% in either direction (B221).

General Legislation --
CITES listing --
Red-data book listing --
Threats Large-scale loss of hedgerows may cause significant declines (B221).
Captive Populations --
Trade --

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