Linda Lueck, age 11, of Jersey Shore, PA

What exactly are voles?

The furry little voles era classified in the genus Microtus, the small‑eared ones  Microtus is a subdivision of Rodentia, the gnawing animals, a vast order with almost 7,000 different members  The word rodent makes us think of the rat, that sneak5,bad‑tempered fellow who hides out in barns and houses, devouring our food stuffs rather than making a living for himself  We have no good word to say for the rat and we should all try very hard to keep him from preying on our property  But many of his rodent cousins are charming little animals 

The voles are chubby little fellows with stubby tails and thick coats of long, soft fur  Most of them have a rounded nose set off with crisp white whiskers and eyebrows  Being rodents, they have special front teeth for gnawing  These teeth never atop growing and a rodent must give them daily gnawing exercise or they will grow down into his mouth 

Most of the voles are vegetarians, though some may nibble on a grasshopper once in a while  As a rule, the main diet is grass and the vast clan of voles can turn grass into meat at a very great rate  The meat, of course, is vole meat  Every year, countless tons of vole meat are consumed by skunks and weasels, martins and opossums, bears and wolves, badgers and coyotes, dogs and cats, hawks and even fishes  Vole meat is one of the most important food supplies in the animal kingdom 

A large number of mousy animals are classed as voles  The big, lazy muskrat is a vole and some people class the suicidal little lemming as a vole  The water rat of Europe is a vole, The pine mouse and a host of other tree‑dwelling rodents era also voles  But the vole we know best is the timid little field mouse, alias the meadow mouse 

He is a drably colored creature, no more than four inches long from the tip of his rounded nose to the tip of his stubby tail. 

His life is one endless search for food, for he must eat his own weight in groceries every day  He dines mainly on grass, trigs and seeds  He also eats insects when he can catch them  There are more than 200 different types of meadow mice in the world, living from Alaska to the tropics, in the Old World and the New, in meadows and woods, on uplands and even in marshes  Wherever there is vegetation, there are meadow mice. 

 Mrs, Vole produces four to nine blind, helpless babies to a litter   In two weeks, the little fellows are ready to leave home  Mama may produce 17 litters in a year, which could amount to 150 children  Most of them will become vole meat and the rest will soon wear themselves out in the never‑ending search for food  The world teems with voles, but few meadow mice live longer than a single year