Mice, Voles, Shrews & Moles

Small but Significant

DuPage is home to the deer mouse, meadow jumping mouse, western harvest mouse, white-footed mouse, meadow vole, prairie vole, least shrew, masked shrew, northern short-tailed shrew and eastern mole. Next to bats and chipmunks, these mammals are some of the smallest in the county with sizes ranging from the masked shrew, which weighs less than a dime, to the eastern mole, which weighs about as much as a baseball.

Mice and voles — like squirrels, chipmunks, muskrats, beavers and woodchucks — belong to the order Rodentia. This means they have two pairs of ever-growing incisors, which they use to eat nuts, seeds, fruits, leaves, grasses and insects. They also have, among other distinctive features, rounded eyes that enable them to see forward or behind, which helps them detect danger.

Shrews and moles, on the other hand, are members of the order Soricomorpha. At first glance, shrews look a bit like mice, but shrews have pointed noses, nearly hidden ears and rows of sharp teeth, among other differences. The short-tailed shrew even has toxic saliva, which it uses to immobilize its catch.

Eastern moles spend most of their lives underground. Their undeveloped eyes are hidden in their fur, so they navigate using extremely sensitive long pliable noses. Large webbed forefeet with sharp claws help them move through the dirt.

With the possible exception of subterranean moles, the mammals in this group are vital parts of raptors’ high-protein diets and supplement the diets of other predators such as foxes, opossums and coyotes. As a result, most mammals this size do not live through their first year.