Thursday, November 2, 2017
A cautionary tale about gardens and baby voles
Last week I decided to go to the Botanical Gardens here in Montreal to hopefully photograph the last remaining butterflies of the summer.
I had just arrived and was noticing that many of the flower beds had been turned over and the annuals had been uprooted and removed. My hopes of finding butterflies started to fade and I thought I might find a few caterpillars instead.
I was glancing over the cool, wet earth (it had rained considerably the day before) and suddenly noticed something very small that was moving. It was the size of a fat caterpillar but it was pink and I thought it might be some rare species. Then I saw to my horror that it was a newborn vole. It was completely hairless and was wriggling and squirming. I looked around the flower bed for others and found another one that was a few feet away and saw, on closer examination, that it was bleeding.
Now I searched frantically for more but never found any. I took some tissues from my pocket and scooped them up to try to warm them and dry them off. Then I called the SPCA. The staff member at first thought that I should leave them there for the mother to find them but the whole area was denuded of cover (vegetation) and I imagined she had fled when the first spading of the earth began. I had no way of knowing whether she would or could return (she could also have been injured) and the little ones would have died slowly of starvation and/or exposure.
The only action I felt I could take was to transport them in a tissue lined box (which I always carry in my backpack) to the SPCA for humane euthanasia. These tiny creatures clung to each other throughout the trip and I was so saddened that I couldn't offer them anything better.
Here is a photograph from the Internet (royalty free) of a newborn vole which looks exactly like those I found.
I urge all gardeners to consider that voles can have a litter this late in the year and to take great care when removing plants. Unfortunately voles make above-ground nests so they are very vulnerable.