The red tree vole is a small arboreal mammal found throughout the moist coniferous forests of western Oregon and northwest California. As an arboreal mammal, the red tree vole lives the majority of its life over a hundred feet high in the canopy of old-growth Douglas fir trees feeding on needles. Tree voles are an important prey species in forest ecosystems for many species including the northern spotted owl. Because of the vital role the species plays, vole population trends generally reflect the health of mature forest ecosystems.
Vole nest sites are extremely vulnerable to logging which can remove the nest tree altogether, or expose nests to windthrow and climate fluctuations, which will kill the resident population. As a result of the vole’s critical role in forest ecosystems and vulnerability to logging, discovered nest sites were generally protected with a ten acre buffer. Dedicated citizens and scientists have committed years and even decades to climbing old-growth Douglas firs in order to search for and protect this critical species. Through these extensive efforts the vole has been and continues to be one of the most critical protected species throughout Oregon.
Despite efforts taken to protect the species, vole populations in the northern Oregon Coast Range have recently been found to be in danger of extinction as a result of continued logging and habitat fragmentation. Despite being a small critter, the vole plays a massive and vital role in protecting and restoring the health of our forest ecosystems. We need to protect the vole to keep forests wild.