Lemming

Lemming.

Name

  • Common name: Lemming
  • Including: Nearctic Collared Lemming, Ogilvie Mountain Collared Lemming, Nearctic Brown Lemming, Northern Bog Lemming
  • Scientific name: Dicrostonyx groenlandicus, Dicrostonyx nunatakensis, Lemmus trimucronatus, Synaptomys borealis
  • Order: Rodentia
  • Family: Crecitidae

Viewing opportunities

  • Look for huge mounds of sandy soil at the entrance to a burrow, paths cleared through grasses and haystacks built up for winter feeding.
  • Lemmings may stand up on their hind feet as you walk by on the tundra and threaten you with a high-pitched whine.

Description

  • Small, round body.
  • Thick set, appears neckless, legless and earless.
  • Short stubby tails.
  • Small beady eyes, often barely visible.
  • Long, thick, grey waterproof fur.

Fast facts

  • Length: 12 cm
  • Weight: 60 g
  • Lifespan: 1 year
  • Predators: Snowy Owl, gull, Wolverine, Arctic Fox, Ermine, Least Weasels, Red Fox
  • Habitat: Tundra

Conservation status

What is conservation status?

  • Yukon: Nearctic (S3S4); Ogilvie Mountain (S2); Brown (S5); Bog (S4)
  • Global: Nearctic (G5); Ogilvie Mountain (G2); Brown (G5); Bog (G5)

Yukon population estimate

Not determined.

Behaviour

Lemmings are active day and night throughout the year. They live in colonies using scent to mark a small territory and indicate social status. Distinct calls are used to indicate alarm, threaten others, or courtship and mating.

Diet

Grasses, sedges; willow, aspen, birch twigs

Distribution

Lemming distribution map.

Sights and sounds

Lemming burrows.
Burrows.

Lemmings and people

  • The fortunes of arctic trappers depend heavily on lemming population cycles, since Arctic Foxes and other furbearing animals depend heavily on lemmings as a food source.