Although ecologists have long recognized that certain mammalian species exhibit high-amplitude, often multiannual, fluctuations in abundance, their causes have remained poorly understood and the subject of intense debate. A key contention has been the relative role of density-dependent and density-independent processes in governing population dynamics. We applied capture-mark-recapture analysis to 25 years of monthly trapping data from a fluctuating prairie vole Microtus ochrogaster population in Illinois, USA, to estimate realized population growth rates and associated vital rates (survival and recruitment) and modeled them as a function of vole density and density-independent climatic variation. We also tested for phase dependence and seasonality in the effects of the above processes. Variation in the realized population growth rate was best explained by phase-specific changes in vole density lagged by one month and mean monthly temperatures with no time lags. The underlying vital rates, survival and recruitment, were influenced by the additive and interactive effects of phase, vole density, and mean monthly temperatures. Our results are consistent with the observation that large-scale population fluctuations are characterized by phase-specific changes in demographic and physiological characteristics. Our findings also support the growing realization that the interaction between climatic variables and density-dependent factors may be a widespread phenomenon, and they suggest that the direction and magnitude of such interactive effects may be phase specific. We conclude that density-dependent and density-independent climatic variables work in tandem during each phase of density fluctuations to drive the dynamics of fluctuating populations.