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Q&A

Why do I see rodents out in a gale?

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I live in a rural area around 59° north. When driving around I often see rodents darting across the roads during high winds (20-50mph), but very rarely see them when the weather is calm. Rain doesn't deter them, I see at least as many in heavy rain as in dry conditions. From the size and shape I'd say they are mice or maybe voles.

Why would this be? I'd expect small animals to seek more cover in high winds, to preserve warmth. No doubt they do cross the roads when it's calm, but it seems they are either more active or less cautious when it's windy.

I've thought of two possible explanations:

  1. The noise of the wind stops them hearing cars coming, so they don't know to hide;
  2. They're (instinctively) more active or less cautious during high winds because birds of prey are less likely to be flying. Other predators might also be less active at these times.

Any idea whether either/both of these explanations is likely to be true, or is there something else going on?

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I would guess it's that they are less likely to be nabbed by birds in those conditions. Crossing open spaces is a perilous activity for precisely the reason that birds catch rodents from above; if the weather makes flying with precision difficult, the risk is dramatically reduced.

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