The Lemming is a small animal in the rodent family. It weighs between 1.1-4 ounces and is between 2.5-5.9 inches in length. It has long, soft fur and, unlike other rodents, it is conspicuously colored. The lemming lives in underground burrows, digging 3-4 feet below the surface. It is active throughout the year and during the winter months it eats the cached reserves that it has collected during the warmer seasons. It is an herbivore. The lemming is a solitary animal, coming together only to mate and when rearing their young. They breed during the winter months and each female will have 2 to 3 litters during this time. The young mature in about 3 weeks and they will immediately begin to breed. The lemmings are good swimmers and will attempt to cross rivers and streams in persuit of food. Periodically, large numbers of dead lemmings are found in the water and the prevailing belief was that they committed mass suicide. This is now known to be untrue, the lemming is just a poor judge of distance, and at times attempts to swim bodies of water that are more than their tiny bodies can handle. The lemming has several predators, including owls, foxes, wolves and ermines. Another characteristic unique to this rodent is the fact that they react aggressively to predators and will attack them. They have also come after unsuspecting people who just happen to be hiking in lemming territory. So be careful when you’re out hiking. You probably never heard of a lemming attack on a human because people are just too embarrassed to report being terrorized by something that looks like a miniature gerbil.
Small mammals of the Denali, Alaska area: The Lemming