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Creatures & RTVs

red tree voleThe Northwest Ecosystem Survey Team protects old-growth forests from logging by conducting upper canopy surveys in order to find red tree vole nests. An active nest, a presently occupied nest, calls for the creation of a 10 acre habitat buffer.  Over the years, NEST has documented hundreds of active nests.

The red tree vole is a small rodent found in the coastal mountains and western Cascades of Oregon. This vole has a unique life history and highly specialized ecological niche. Of the approximately 70 vole species worldwide, the tree vole is unique in that it lives its life in the canopy of old-growth forests rather than on the ground. Due to their arboreal nature, relatively little is known about the critter.

Red tree voles are small, usually 6-8 inches including their long tail. Their coats vary depending on location ranging from dark reddish brown towards the northern range, lightening to an orange-red and cinnamon along the southern coast. Their feet are long and wide, adapted for climbing. They are nocturnal, secretive, and vital to coastal forest ecosystems.

Douglas Fir needles are the main staple of their diet but they have been document to eat many different conifer needles.  They get their water from the needles by licking off moisture from rain, dew and fog. They don’t eat the entire needle,  there is a non edible portion called a resin duct. Hair like in nature, it is discarded or used to make their nest.  Interesting fact:  young red tree voles must eat excrement from adults to obtain bacteria to digest the needles.

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