March 13, 2010

The Vole in the Trail

 I had an odd wildlife encounter on my winter camping trip two weeks ago.

While skiing down from the Eagle's Nest Wilderness area, I met a couple skiing up with their big dog—some kind of hair-in-the-eyes sheepdog, wearing booties, no less.

Further down the trail (a dirt road in the summer), I saw a dark lump in the snow, and my first thought was that the dog had pooped there.

Then I came alongside the lump, and it moved. It was a vole. Since we were in the mountains, I assume it was a montane vole. (Photos here.)

It froze in a ball—not the smartest strategy when you are a dark gray animal on a white background. I tapped my ski pole near it, and finally it scooted back into the snow bank.

They make runways in dense grass and burrow under the snow as well. In areas with winter snow, voles will burrow in and through the snow to the surface.

 I had been hoping to sight a moose—we saw some old tracks—but had to settle for this vole-unteer.

1 comment:

Cat Urbigkit said...

We live with voles year-round (either in the hay meadow in warmer months, or the haystack in cold months). I love photographing them, but the guard dogs eat them in one swallow ...