Royal Saskatchewan Museum
The northern bog lemming is a small rodent related to gerbils and hamsters, two common house pets. It has brown and grey fur and a short stubby tail. It grows to an average length of 4 inches and an average weight of just over an ounce. It is an herbivore adapted to eating coarse vegetation, grasses, sedges, mushrooms, berries and occasionally insects.
The northern bog lemming’s preferred habitat is reflected in its name. It is often found in wetlands, wet northern forests, and tundra.
For being such a small creature, the Northern Bog Lemming plays a large role in the northern ecosystem. Its 3 to 4 year population cycle is linked directly to the population cycles of many of the larger carnivores in the area. When the Lemming population spikes lemmings are literally everywhere and denude much of the native vegetation. This causes the other herbivores, such as Caribou and Arctic Hare to eat lemmings because the vegetation is scarce and lemmings are so abundant and easily caught. Carnivores such as Raptors, Owls, Foxes and weasels, and others sense when the lemming population spike will occur and will produce 2 to 4 times as many young on those years because an abundance of lemmings equals an abundance of food with which to feed themselves and their young.
The Royal Saskatchewan Museum
Forsyth, Adrian. Mammals of North America; Temperate and Arctic Regions. Firefly Books, Ltd. 1999.