Hey, who did that?! While walking in the woods this week, we noticed freshly scraped-off bark at the base of this yellow birch tree. It looks a little bit like abstract wildlife artwork, but in these cold winter months, our Vermont woodland animals are more concerned about… food! The scraping reached about two feet above the snow pack, about the height that a snowshoe hare might reach- our first suspect. But upon closer inspection we found marks from very small teeth, in randomly alternating directions. These marks are characteristic of voles, the little rodents notorious for chewing bark of orchard trees. So how did this little critter, just over 6” from nose to tail and not especially good at climbing, reach so high up a tree? In recent weeks, warm temperatures have caused our snowpack to settle many inches. Before that, voles may have been able to dig tunnels to parts of the tree still buried in snow!
Learn more about our three native vole species in the VT Small Mammal Atlas.
(References: Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage. Editors, Scott E. Hygnstrom, Robert M. Timm, Gary E. Larson. 1994. University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 2 vols.)