Voles of Anchorage

I just spent a few days at a conference in Anchorage, Alaska, and had time to explore some of the numerous parks in and around the city. It’s a great place to see a few species of voles without trapping (as almost everywhere in the North, rodents are more easily seen than trapped). In June all species are active in daylight, mostly from 9 pm until 6 am.

Northern red-backed vole: common in all woodlands, but particularly in moist spruce forests with lots of rotten, moss-covered logs. The longer trails in the Botanical Garden and in Earthquake Park are good places (the former also had ornate shrews during my visit). This is the only vole in Alaska that readily goes into Sherman traps with standard oats+peanut butter bait.

Meadow vole: common on roadsides with tall grass. One good area is where Hwy 1 to Kenai Peninsula goes around the tip of Turnagain Arm (near Portage). Another is the meadow under the watchtower at Reflections Lake Loop Trail (the turnoff to the lake is signposted at Km 31 of Hwy 1 between Elkutna and Palmer).

Tundra vole: common along Reflections Lake Loop Trail, especially along the boardwalk part, and along Wetlands Trail there. I also saw a few burrows in Porter Marsh area on Hwy 1 SE of Anchorage.

Singing vole: supposed to occur at higher elevations in Chugach State Park.

Northern bog lemming: occurs in muskegs N of the airport; try the patch S of the main trail in Earthquake Park.

Brown lemming: should be common above the tree line in Chugach State Park.



  • Jon Hall

    Thanks and I look forward to checking some of these out in July… meanwhile I wasn’t sure whether you had actually seen Bog Lemmings north of the airport or whether you had been told they were there?

    By the way, I am surprised that Red-backed Voles are the only voles easily trapped. I’ve not really tried to catch most of the other species you mention, but Meadow Voles were very easy to catch in both Montana and Maine in suitable habitat



    • vdinets

      Yes, I saw one yesterday night.
      Meadow voles can be really difficult to trap in some places. In New Mexico, where I did a lot of research trapping, the only way to get them was to leave the traps in place for five days. In late spring-early summer, when there’s a lot of fresh green food, they don’t go for seeds at all. A combination of lettuce and carrot works better sometimes.

  • patrickmurtha

    All I can say is, “Voles of Anchorage” is one of the great headers of all time.

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