Voles are small ground-dwelling rodents, which are also referred to as “meadow mice” because of their mouse-like appearance at first glance. Mature voles measure about 5-8 inches long, including the tail; they have a compact, heavy body, short legs, a short-furred tail, small eyes, and partially hidden ears. While young voles are uniformly gray; adult ones are chestnut-brown mixed with black, and their underparts are dark gray. Their feet are brownish, and the thin hair covering their tails is dark on the upper surface, changing gradually to a lighter gray beneath.
Not sure if you have a vole problem? Or maybe you want to learn more about how vole control works. Check out the following information to clarify some questions you may have.
Should I be concerned about Voles?
Voles are very common in yards and fields; they are one of the most damaging rodents that can invade a garden. A small vole problem can quickly become a larger one since they are active and breed year-round. Voles may cause extensive damage to ornamentals and tree plantings by girdling or chewing their way through plant roots, bulbs, stems, and seedlings.
Besides taking over your yard and the damage voles can cause to gardens, they can be a health risk. They do carry several diseases such as Hantavirus, Salmonellosis, Rabies, and some others that are transmitted by rodents; humans can contract these diseases by coming into contact with feces, urine, or saliva from infected voles. Fortunately, since voles don’t tend to get indoors, it’s less likely for you to catch any of these diseases. They can also introduce parasites like fleas, mites, and ticks onto your property.
Signs of a Vole infestation
Voles spend a considerable amount of time aboveground but they spend most of their time below ground in their burrow system; although you can see one in the yard sometimes. The following are signs that can help you identify a vole infestation:
- Runway systems; voles girdle usually in the fall and winter but their runways are seen in early spring just after snowmelt. These runways are usually about 1-2 inches wide by 3/8 inches long and 1/16 inches or deeper and are typically found in grassy areas. They enter and exit the tunnels through golf ball-sized holes. Active runways will have lots of vole droppings and pieces of vegetation on their surface.
- Damage to lawn; voles also tunnel through any root system, causing damage to trees and shrubs. Seeing young trees or shrubs leaning over may be a sign of voles damaging them. They can also eat flower bulbs from below the ground as they’re near the surface. You are most likely to see damage in your lawn when local populations peak, which can occur cyclically every three to five years.
How to identify Voles or Moles?
Voles and moles can be confused sometimes, but they are actually different. The following are the main differences between these two creatures:
- While voles are rodents, moles are not, they are small mammals.
- Voles are herbivores, and they only eat plants, and moles feed on earthworms that live in the garden soil.
- Voles look like mice and moles have long snouts with large, clawed feet.
- As mentioned before voles make above-ground tunnels, while moles create characteristic “molehills” which look like mounds of dirt in your yard.
- Voles damage or even kill plants as they feed on them, while moles are not interested in plant life because they are carnivorous.
Why do I have Voles on my property?
Since voles are active the whole year and do not hibernate, they don’t typically seek shelter inside of buildings as mice and rats do; so you are not likely to see them inside your property. As it was mentioned before voles feed on vegetation and plant roots, which is the main reason they would invade your yard. They need an environment rich in nutrients in order to survive because they have to eat their body weight in food every day. The vegetation in yards won’t only supply their feeding needs, but will also provide them with hiding places. They will also look for sources of water, so they might choose properties that also have moist areas or are near lakes, swamps, etc.
Tips to prevent and get rid of Voles
As it was mentioned before, voles do not usually get inside homes but you may have to deal with them out in your garden. We have listed some methods you can try in order to help you handle or prevent an infestation:
- Remove vegetation and debris; voles don’t feed out in the open, having lots of clutter like leaves or fallen trees will attract them.
- Protect plants; wrap the lower trunk of young trees with wire mesh or plastic tubing, you can also fence your garden with wire mesh.
- Spray or sprinkle irritants; voles hate the taste and smell of some of the following: castor oil, garlic, onion, ammonia, and nitrogen fertilizer. Sprinkling a little bit around your property will repel them; you can also try sprinkling some in the vole tunnels if you have active voles. However, you need to reapply if it rains.
- Trapping; using traps to relocate the voles can be helpful in reducing the population but will probably not get rid of them.
- Pets; having cats or dogs will probably discourage voles from coming to your yard.
- Avoid feeding birds; bird feeders will attract voles since they can serve as nesting areas for them.