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    We used video cameras to observe the activity patterns and behavior of three female red tree voles (Arborimus longicaudus) and their young in arboreal nests in western Oregon. Observation periods at the three nests were 63, 103 and 148 days. All three voles were primarily nocturnal, but occasionally foraged for brief periods during the day when they had large young in the nest. The median time when voles began and ended activity was 95 min after sunset and 1-68 min before sunrise, respectively. The median amount of time spent outside the nest at night was 27 min (range = 0-712 min), and most of this time was spent foraging. Nocturnal activity consisted primarily of long periods inside the nest interspersed with short periods of intensive foraging, during which voles ran out of the nest, harvested cuttings and hauled them back to the nest. Cuttings were stored inside the nest or on top of the nest. The mean number of foraging bouts per night was 3.4 ± 0.1 (range = 1-13), and the mean number of cuttings harvested per night was 20.4 ± 3.5 (range = 0-75). Females harvested more cuttings when they had large young in the nest and there was no evidence that they ate anything but the needles and bark of the cuttings that they brought to their nests. All three females produced litters while we observed them (1, 2, and 3 litters, respectively). Juveniles first began to explore outside the nest when they were 30-35 days old and dispersed when they were 47-54 days old. During the last two weeks before they dispersed the juveniles spent considerable time outside the nest at night, becoming increasingly adept climbers and gradually beginning to harvest their own food. Dispersal of siblings occurred on the same night and appeared to be precipitated by female aggression towards the young.

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    Forsman, Eric D.; Swingle, James K.; Hatch, Nicholas R. 2009. Behavior of red tree voles (Arborimus longicaudus) based on continuous video monitoring of nests. Northwest Science. 83(3): 262-272.


    Arborimus longicaudus, red tree vole, arboreal mammals, diel activity pattern, dispersal

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