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Bavarian Pine Vole

Bavarian Pine Vole Our final day of Rodent Week takes us to densely-populated Europe, where the Bavarian Pine Vole was thought to be extinct. In fact, this gorgeous rendering of the vole was produced by Peter Schouten for A Gap in Nature: Discovering the World’s Extinct Animals, with text by Tim Flannery (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2001). One of three vole species that evolved after the glaciation of the last ice age split a single population into isolated groups, Microtus bavaricus was thought to be extinct after the last sighting of it in 1962: By the 1980s, its last known Bavarian habitat was paved over and turned into a hospital. But testing done in 2000 revealed that an existing vole population in the northern Tyrol, near the border between Germany and Austria, was in fact the Bavarian Pine Vole. Around the same time, an Austrian researcher at Vienna’s Natural History Museum, Frederike Spitzenberger, discovered individuals belonging to the Tyrol population in live traps she had placed in the area, and genetic testing has determined that they are, indeed, members of the species once believed to be extinct. She told a newspaper: “All the voles look like sausages with four legs. They all have tiny ears and short tails. You have to look at their teeth to tell them apart. But the only real way to tell is to examine the genetics.” Now listed as Critically Endangered by the IUCN, the vole occupies a single alpine site of mixed forest which may be threatened by habitat loss due to changes in landscape use. Despite the E.U.’s commitment to biodiversity programs such as the Natura 2000 Network, there is currently no conservation management plan for the vole. Yet Spitzenberger remains “optimistic,” telling The Guardian in 2004, “The mouse is extremely rare. Probably only a few hundred of them exist. We now have to make sure that they don’t die out.”
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