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Montana Animal Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Montane Vole - Microtus montanus

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S5

Agency Status


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General Description
The adult Montane Vole can measure from 5 1/2 to 7 1/2 inches long, from tip of nose to end of tail. Its back will be blackish brown or black, with a gray cast to the fur. Pale, buffy sides, a whitish belly and dusky-colored feet help it blend into dry grasslands. This rodent's ears are small enough to be hidden in its fur (Foresman 2012).

Diagnostic Characteristics
Measurement of the tail helps differentiate the Montane Vole from Meadow and Long-tailed Voles. The tail is less than 50% of body length (Foresman 2012) or about twice the size of the hind foot (Zeveloff and Collett 1988).

Species Range
Montana Range

Click the legend blocks above to view individual ranges.

Western Hemisphere Range


Summary of Observations Submitted for Montana
Number of Observations: 473

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density



(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)


Usually dry grassland or sagebrush-grasslands. Will use wet meadows and marshes at high elevations when M. pennsylvanicus is absent (Pattie 1967 and Hoffmann et al. 1969).
Ecological Systems Associated with this Species
  • Details on Creation and Suggested Uses and Limitations
    How Associations Were Made
    We associated the use and habitat quality (high, medium, or low) of each of the 82 ecological systems mapped in Montana for vertebrate animal species that regularly breed, overwinter, or migrate through the state by:
    1. Using personal observations and reviewing literature that summarize the breeding, overwintering, or migratory habitat requirements of each species (Dobkin 1992, Hart et al. 1998, Hutto and Young 1999, Maxell 2000, Foresman 2001, Adams 2003, and Werner et al. 2004);
    2. Evaluating structural characteristics and distribution of each ecological system relative to the species’ range and habitat requirements;
    3. Examining the observation records for each species in the state-wide point database associated with each ecological system;
    4. Calculating the percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system to get a measure of “observations versus availability of habitat”.
    Species that breed in Montana were only evaluated for breeding habitat use, species that only overwinter in Montana were only evaluated for overwintering habitat use, and species that only migrate through Montana were only evaluated for migratory habitat use.  In general, species were associated as using an ecological system if structural characteristics of used habitat documented in the literature were present in the ecological system or large numbers of point observations were associated with the ecological system.  However, species were not associated with an ecological system if there was no support in the literature for use of structural characteristics in an ecological system, even if point observations were associated with that system.  High, medium, and low habitat quality was assigned based on the degree to which the structural characteristics of an ecological system matched the preferred structural habitat characteristics for each species in the literature.  The percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system was also used to guide assignments of habitat quality.  If you have any questions or comments on species associations with ecological systems, please contact Bryce Maxell at or (406) 444-3655.

    Suggested Uses and Limitations
    Species associations with ecological systems should be used to generate potential lists of species that may occupy broader landscapes for the purposes of landscape-level planning.  These potential lists of species should not be used in place of documented occurrences of species (this information can be requested at: or systematic surveys for species and evaluations of habitat at a local site level by trained biologists.  Users of this information should be aware that the land cover data used to generate species associations is based on imagery from the late 1990s and early 2000s and was only intended to be used at broader landscape scales.  Land cover mapping accuracy is particularly problematic when the systems occur as small patches or where the land cover types have been altered over the past decade.  Thus, particular caution should be used when using the associations in assessments of smaller areas (e.g., evaluations of public land survey sections).  Finally, although a species may be associated with a particular ecological system within its known geographic range, portions of that ecological system may occur outside of the species’ known geographic range.

    Literature Cited
    • Adams, R.A.  2003.  Bats of the Rocky Mountain West; natural history, ecology, and conservation.  Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado.  289 p.
    • Dobkin, D. S.  1992.  Neotropical migrant land birds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Publication No. R1-93-34.  Missoula, MT.
    • Foresman, K.R.  2001.  The wild mammals of Montana.  Special Publication No. 12.  Lawrence, KS: The American Society of Mammalogists.  278 p.
    • Hart, M.M., W.A. Williams, P.C. Thornton, K.P. McLaughlin, C.M. Tobalske, B.A. Maxell, D.P. Hendricks, C.R. Peterson, and R.L. Redmond. 1998.  Montana atlas of terrestrial vertebrates.  Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of Montana, Missoula, MT.  1302 p.
    • Hutto, R.L. and J.S. Young.  1999.  Habitat relationships of landbirds in the Northern Region, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station RMRS-GTR-32.  72 p.
    • Maxell, B.A.  2000.  Management of Montana’s amphibians: a review of factors that may present a risk to population viability and accounts on the identification, distribution, taxonomy, habitat use, natural history, and the status and conservation of individual species.  Report to U.S. Forest Service Region 1.  Missoula, MT: Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana.  161 p.
    • Werner, J.K., B.A. Maxell, P. Hendricks, and D. Flath.  2004.  Amphibians and reptiles of Montana.  Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company. 262 p.

Food Habits
In the Beartooths, in close association with M. richardsoni, used mostly forbs (Pattie 1967).

Estimated 1.0 to 3.4/acre in the Beartooths, mean adjacent range length of 236 ft. (Pattie 1967). Population fluctuates. Can be an agricultural pest (Banfield 1974).

Reproductive Characteristics
Begins breeding in early June (Beartooths). Adults average 6.8 young/litter, subadults 5.0 young/litter. Some young females born in spring breed as subadults; some males sexually mature in August (Pattie 1967).

  • Literature Cited AboveLegend:   View Online Publication
    • Banfield, A.W.F. 1974. The mammals of Canada. University of Toronto Press for National Museum of Natural Science and the National Museums of Canada, 438 pp.
    • Foresman, K.R. 2012. Mammals of Montana. Second edition. Mountain Press Publishing, Missoula, Montana. 429 pp.
    • Hoffmann, R.S., P.L. Wright, and F.E. Newby. 1969. Distribution of some mammals in Montana. I. Mammals other than bats. Journal of Mammalogy 50(3): 579-604.
    • Pattie, D.L. 1967. Dynamics of alpine small mammal populations. Ph.D dissertation. University of Montana, Missoula. 102 pp.
    • Zeveloff, S.I. and F.R. Collett. 1988. Mammals of the Intermountain west. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, Utah.
  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View Online Publication
    Do you know of a citation we're missing?
    • Allen, K.L., T. Weaver, and D. Flath. 1994. Small mammals in Northern Rocky Mountain ecosystems. Unpubl. report to Bureau of Land Management and United States Forest Service, August 31, 1994. Montana State Univ., Bozeman. 54 pp.
    • Anderson, S. 1959. Distribution, variation, and relationships of the montane vole (Microtus montanus). 97 pp.
    • Belk, M. C., Smith, H. D., and J. Lawson. 1988. Use and partitioning of montane habitat by small mammals. J. Mammal. 69(4):688-695.
    • Butts, Thomas W., Western Technology and Eng., Helena, MT., 1993, Continental Lime Indian Creek Mine, Townsend, MT. 1993 Life of Mine Wildlife Reconnaissance. June 1993. In Life-of-Mine Amendment. Continental Lime, Inc., Indian Creek Mine & Plant. Vol. 2. October 13, 1992.
    • Carlsen, Tom, and Rick Northrup, 1992, Canyon Ferry Wildlife Management Area Final Draft Management Plan. March 1992.
    • Clark, T.W. and M.R. Stromberg. 1987. Mammals in Wyoming. University of Kansas Museum of Natural History, Public Education Series Number 10. xii + 314 pp.
    • Douglass, R. J. 1976. Spatial interactions and microhabitat selections of two locally sympatric voles, MICROTUS MONTANUS and MICROTUS PENNSYLVANICUS. Ecol. 57: 346-352.
    • Douglass, Richard J. 1973. Spatial interactions and microhabitat selections of two locally sympatric voles, Microtus montanus and Microtus pennsylvanicus. Ph.D. Thesis, Montana State University, Bozeman. 48 pp.
    • Eng, Robert. L., 1976?, Wildlife Baseline Study [for West Fork of the Stillwater and Picket Pin drainages]
    • Feldhamer, G.A. 1979. Vegetative and edaphic features affecting the abundance and distribution of small mammals in southeast Oregon. Great Basin Nat. 39:207-218.
    • Findley, J. S. 1951. Habitat preferences of four species of Microtus in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. J. Mammal. 32(1):118-120.
    • Foresman, K.R. 2001. The wild mammals of Montana. American Society of Mammologists, Special Publication Number 12. Lawrence, KS. 278 pp.
    • Hayward, G. D. and P. H. Hayward. 1995. Relative abundance and habitat associations of small mammals in the Chamberlain Basin, central Idaho. Northwest Sci. 69(2): 114-125.
    • Hodgeson, J.R. 1972. Local distribution of Microtus montanus and Microtus pennsylvanicus in southwestern Montana. J. Mammal. 53(3): 487-499.
    • Hodgson, J. R. 1972. Local distribulion of Microtus montanus and M. pennsylvanicus in southwestern Montana. J. Mammal. 53:487-499.
    • Hodgson, James R. 1970. Ecological distribution of Microtus montanus and Microtus pennsylvanicus in an area of geographic sympatry in southwestern Montana. M.S. Thesis, Montana State University, Bozeman.
    • Hoffmann, R.S. and D.L. Pattie. 1968. A guide to Montana mammals: identification, habitat, distribution, and abundance. University of Montana, Missoula. 133 pp.
    • Kritzman, E.B. 1977. Little mammals of the Pacific Northwest. Pacific Search Press, Seattle, WA.
    • Medin, D. E. and W. P. Clary. 1991. Small mammals of a beaver pond ecosystem and adjacent riparian habitat in Idaho. USDA, Forest Service, Res. Paper INT-445.
    • Murie, J. O. 1971. Behavioral relationship between two sympatric voles: Relevance to habitat segregation. J. Mammal. 52(1):181-186.
    • Pattie, D.L. and N.A. M. Verbeek. 1967. Alpine mammals of the Beartooth Plateau. Northwest Science 41(3): 110-117.
    • Pearson, Dean E., et al., ???, Small mammal community composition, relative abundance, and habitat selection in native bunchgrass of the Northern Rocky Mountains: implications for exotic plant invasions
    • Pinter, A. J. 1986. Population dynamics and litter size of the montane vole, MICROTUS MONTANUS. Can. J. Zool. 64:1487- 1490.
    • Purdue, J.R. 1984. Note on the distribution of some mammals in the Pryor Mountains, Carbon County, Montana. Proc. Mont. Acad. Sci. 44:21-24.
    • Reid, F. 2006. Peterson Field Guide to Mammals of North America, 4th Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company: Boston and New York, 608 pp.
    • Rowsemitt, C. N., C. J. Welch, M. C. Kuehl, R. E. Moore and L. L. Jackson. 1988. Hormonal regulation in preputial gland function in male Microtus montanus, the Montana vole. Comp. Biochem. Physiol. 90A: 195-200.
    • Rust, H. J. 1946. Mammals of northern Idaho. J. Mammal. 27(4): 308-327.
    • Sera, W. E. and C. N. Early. 2003. Microtus montanus. American Society of Mammalogists, Lawrence, KS. Mammalian Species No. 716:1-10.
    • Thompson, L.S. 1982. Distribution of Montana amphibians, reptiles, and mammals. Bozeman: Montana Audubon Council. 24 pp.
    • Thompson, Richard W., Western Resource Dev. Corp., Boulder, CO., 1996, Wildlife baseline report for the Montana [Montanore] Project, Lincoln and Sanders counties, Montana. In Application for a Hard Rock Operating Permit and Proposed Plan of Operation, Montanore Project, Lincoln and Sanders Counties, Montana. Vol. 5. Stroiazzo, John. Noranda Minerals Corp., Libby, MT. Revised September 1996.
    • Welsh, C. J. 1985. Species-typical lipids from the body surface and preputial glands of the sympatric voles Microtus montanus and M. pennsylvanicus: characterization and identification. Ph.D. thesis, Montana State University, Bozeman. 83 pp.
    • Welsh, C. J., R. E. Moore, R. J. Bartelt and L. L. Jackson. 1988. Novel, species-typical esters from preputial glands of sympatric voles, Microtus montana and M. pennsylvanicus. J. Chem. Ecology 14:143-157.
    • Williams, O. 1955. Distribution of mice and shrews in a Colorado montane forest. J. Mammal. 36(2): 221-231.
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Citation for data on this website:
Montane Vole — Microtus montanus.  Montana Field Guide.  Montana Natural Heritage Program and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.  Retrieved on May 23, 2016, from