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Mice, Voles, Shrews and Moles

Winnebago County is home to the deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus), meadow jumping mouse (Zapus hudsonius), western harvest mouse (Reithrodontomys megalotis), white-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus), meadow vole (Microtus pennsylvanicus), prairie vole (Microtus ochrogaster), least shrew (Cryptotis parva), masked shrew (Sorex cinereus), northern short-tailed shrew (Blarina brevicauda) and eastern mole (Scalopus aquaticus). Next to perhaps bats and chipmunks, they’re some of the smallest mammals in the county with sizes ranging from the masked shrew, which weighs roughly 0.0625 ounce (less than a dime), to the eastern mole, which weighs about 5 ounces.

Mice and voles — like squirrels, chipmunks, muskrats, beavers and woodchucks — belong to the order Rodentia. This means that they have two pairs of ever-growing incisors, which they use to eat nuts, seeds, fruits, leaves, grasses and insects. They also have, among other distinctive features, rounded eyes that enable them to see forward or behind, which helps them detect danger.

Shrews and moles are members of the order Soricomorpha. At first glance, shrews look a bit like mice but have, among other differences, pointed noses, nearly hidden ears and rows of sharp teeth. The short-tailed shrew even has toxic saliva that it uses to immobilize its catch. Being mostly subterranean, the eastern mole has no visible eyes but an extremely sensitive, long, pliable nose and slightly webbed toes, which it uses to propel itself through the dirt.

With the possible exception of moles, which spend most their lives below ground, mammals in this group are vital parts of raptors’ high-protein diets and supplement the diets of other predators, such as foxes, opossums and coyotes. As a result, most mammals this size do not live through their first year.

Deer Mouse

(Peromyscus maniculatus)

Meadow Jumping Mouse

(Zapus hudsonius)

Western Harvest Mouse

(Reithrodontomys megalotis)

White-footed Mouse

(Peromyscus leucopus)

Meadow Vole

(Microtus pennsylvanicus)

Prairie Vole

(Microtus ochrogaster)

Least Shrew

(Cryptotis parva)

Masked Shrew

(Sorex cinereus)

Northern Short-tailed Shrew

(Blarina brevicauda)

Eastern Mole

(Scalopus aquaticus)