Steppe Lemmings

The Steppe Lemming is also called the Sagebrush Vole and has the Latin name "Lagurus lagurus".

They range from the Ukraine to western Mongolia and Sinkiang where they live in burrows within the steppes, from which they take their name.

Adults grow to a length of 9-13cm and a weight of around 30g

Housing I house my colony of about 15 individuals in a 30 inch aquarium. The floor is covered in wood shavings and straw. This gives them places to bury themselves. They have a rodent bottle stuck on on the wall of the cage for water and lots of cardboard tubes for tunnels. There is also a plastic plant pot which they use as a hide. As lemmings can not climb very well it does not have a lid.
I have read that as colonies increase in number they are prone to bursts of aggression. Fortunately I have not experienced this is yet. However, like most rodents certain rules should be observed. Firstly NEVER introduce a new animal to the colony. It will be killed.
I have heard of a colony of 16 females kept happily in a 30-inch tank without aggression. On the other hand males are often very aggressive towards each other. It is therefore suggested that only a limited number of males be kept in any cage. While lemmings may be aggressive towards each other they seem to love people. Mine come out of hiding when I enter the room and run to my hand when I put it in their cage. They never bite unless I have had food on my hands and they can smell it.

Feeding I feed my lemmings on straw, fresh greens, dried grass, bird seed, all mixed with a shop bought hamster mix. I used to offer the food in a glass bowl but they would climb in the bowl and empty it out. I now put the food at one end of the cage which is easier to spot clean as needed.

Breeding Most people have heard of the population explosions of lemming. It is not surprising when you know that sexual maturity is attained at only 3-4 weeks of age! In the wild they are seasonal breeders, producing young only in the spring and summer months. However in captivity they will breed all year round. They can reproduce every 21-25 days and produce litters of 2-10 (an average of 8.1).
The numbers of lemmings in my colony has grown very quickly. In late September 2003 I bough two males and two females. Unfortunately they were not from the same cage so one pair killed the other pair. In hindsight I should have started two colonies in separate cages. The result was one pair of lemmings by the 1st of October 2003. Soon these had 2 babies. Then a few weeks later I noticed some more babies under some straw. By early February 2003 ( only 20 odd weeks later ) I had 18 adults and several babies. It soon got to the stage that every time I cleaned the cage out there were more young adult lemmings. ( Nice problem )

I found an item on the net some time ago. Not sure were it came from but I saved it because it interested me.
Cool Facts:Lemmings are known for their wide fluctuations in population numbers; populations can explode anywhere from 100 to even 1,000 times their original size. It is a four-year "boom and bust" cycle whose key is the stoat, ( not jumping off cliffs) a specialist predator whose only source of food is the lemming.
What seems to happen is that as the lemming numbers go up so does the stoat population. Each stoat can kill lots of lemmings. One day the stoats are eating lemmings faster than the lemmings can reproduce. Lemming numbers plummet. Then there is no food for the stoats ( who specialise in eating only lemmings). The result is lots of stoats die because they can not get enough food. In fact the stoat numbers drop to very low levels. This gives the lemmings time to increase in number again. As the population of lemmings expands there is more than enough food for those stoats, and the whole thing starts again.

Here are some photos of my lemmings.
BELOW My lemmings like to cuddle up together!


copyright @ Stephen Sharp 2004