Wildlife Damage Management, Internet Center for


Date of this Version

March 1981


Published in Proceedings of the Fifth Eastern Pine and Meadow Vole Symposium, Gettysburg, PA, March 4–5, 1981, Ross E. Byers, editor. Copyright © 1981 Geyer and Kornet.


Several behaviors of pine and meadow voles were studied, specifically those affecting the role of taste in ingestion. These behaviors include: 1) caching, 2) gnawing, 3) grooming, and 4) taste aversions.

Male pine voles cached more than females, particularly when housed with females. Solitary females more than those housed in mixed sex pairs. When presented with peanuts and pine dowels in one-hour tests, pine voles cached peanuts first; the addition of flavorants did not affect the sequence in which they were cached. In six-hour tests, however, sucrose— and oil-soaked items were cached first.

Gnawing by pine voles, like caching, was enhanced by the addition of oil and fruit extract to dowels and rootstocks. However, flavoring dowels with bark homogenates did not alter the extent of gnawing.

Durations of auto- and mixed-sex pairs of voles after one vole had been unilaterally-coated with a gel. Consistently, soiled voles groomed more than did clean voles, licking the soiled side of their fur more than the clean side. The clean vole groomed the soiled partner more than himself, suggesting that soiled fur is a powerful stimulus for both auto- and hetero-grooming. Adding tastants to the gel before applying it to the fur did not alter grooming durations in either species.

A taste aversion to saccharin was induced in pine voles and meadow voles via drinking water. When voles were later coated unilaterally with a saccharin- flavored gel, grooming duration was unaffected by the taste aversion treatment. Attempts to induce a taste aversion via grooming a saccharin- flavored gel from the fur did not succeed.

Taken together, these studies demonstrate that various non-feeding behaviors can result in ingestion of a material, however, that vole responses to tastants vary with different behavioral contexts. Grooming behavior might be exploited as a means of delivering toxicants to the fur for the control of vole populations.