Monday, 25 October 2010

Vole trouble

Our city-dwelling tom cat, Baron aka Bagger, has discovered in himself the capacity to catch mice. Catch, you understand. Very gently, he brings back all items to the front door. And if the door is open, he brings them inside and places them on the floor for us and his sister to admire. As of yesterday afternoon, a fully alive vole is somewhere lurking under the furniture, or in the firewood stack, or maybe someone may discover him when they put on a shoe. Bagger's sister RonRon is a student of wildlife, and watches the vole's progress with great interest, but so far has made no attempt to catch one herself. She prefers to find a warm spot and curl up "asleep" (waiting for the main chance).

We could have at least six species of vole in our environment. Bagger has already brought us a specimen of the Campagnol Souterrain microtus subterraneus. We know this as the Mining Vole because of its little tunnels everywhere, a few inches below the ground and in the floor of the barn before we concreted it. It is more properly known as the Common Pine Vole. How dull. Who thinks of these names?
The little chap running around our living room looked bigger than the Mining Vole and is possibly a Common Vole [Campagnol des Champs] Microtus arvalis or Short-tailed Field Vole [Campagnol Agreste] Microtus agrestis – if and when we catch him, we’ll have him in a dentists chair and look at his teeth! We have two live traps down [a Longworth small mammal trap, baited with “Snacky Cracky” – a sugar-and-nut confection from Lidl that has proved irresistible to small rodents in the past] and a commercial "multi-capture" trap. A couple of years ago, a band of brothers took it in turns to venture into our kitchen – a series of wood mice, all male, went straight for the trap and the Snacky Cracky. Unfortunately before we put the trap down, mouse number one spent some time in the kitchen, sampling this and that. An intellectual mouse, he nibbled the spine of the dictionary. Thirsting for refreshment as well as knowledge, he chewed the foil capsule on a bottle of Cremant de Loire!
Tim encountered a Bank Vole [Campagnol Roussâtre] Clethronomys glareolus out in the meadow. We saw a Water Vole in the millstream but whether it was the Northern Campagnol Terrestre Arvicole terrestris or the Southern Campagnol Amphibe Arvicole sapidus species, goodness knows. Once upon a time, they were both Arvicola amphibius. The lumpers and splitters have been at it again!

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