Voles are harbingers of bad news: finding them on your property is a sudden sign you’re going to be out of both time and money trying to eradicate an unwanted infestation. Voles destroy your plants by gnawing on both roots and leaves, and not only can they make your property an eyesore, they can put you at risk of injury if you twist your ankle stepping in one of their many holes. Furthermore, the loss of your beloved garden can be costly and devastating. Finding ways to eliminate them once and for all can seem elusive, but fortunately, there are several reliable methods you can count on to rid your property of this greedy scourge.
Many people are surprised to discover that voles are their own unique species. Some people haven’t even heard of voles before, which can make proper identification tricky. Learning to distinguish voles from other rodents can help save you time and money when it comes to extinguishing these invaders from your land.
Voles vs. Moles vs. Gophers
Believe it or not, “vole” isn’t just a regional name for “mole” – they’re actually totally different creatures altogether! At a glance, it can be hard to know the difference between moles and voles and gophers, but by knowing these key identification features, you’ll be able to quickly tell these different animals part when you encounter them on your property.
- No digging claws.
- Shaggy grey-brown coats.
- Omnivores that eat plants and bugs.
- Large, beady eyes.
- Do not make mounds.
- 4-to-10 inches long.
- Lacks digging claws.
- Stores food in the pouches in their cheeks.
- Herbivore and eats primarily crops.
- Leaves enormous fan-shaped mounds (up to 6 feet tall).
- Dirt-colored short, coarse fur.
- Beady eyes.
- 7-12 inches long.
Further details about gophers can be found here.
- Not actually rodents.
- Has digging claws.
- Almost strictly carnivore and eats bugs.
- Leaves moderately sized mounds, aka, “molehills”.
- Smooth coats with white markings.
- Virtually blind.
- 6-8 inches in length.
Knowing these differences will make proper identification of these animals a breeze. By arming yourself with this knowledge, you’ll be able to plan your assault against the infestation of pests in your yard.
Distinguishing Between Voles, Field Mice, and Shrews
While there are many distinct features that make voles stand out from gophers and moles, it may be somewhat confusing to encounter a field mouse or a shrew and not know its classification.
“Field mouse” is regarded as interchangeable with “meadow vole, ” but this is actually a misnomer. While voles are rodents, they are not mice.
If you encounter a true field mouse on your property, be sure to take note of its features that set it apart from the meadow vole:
- Not actually a vole.
- Burrows tunnels.
- Strict herbivore and eats seeds and flowers.
- No mounds.
- Large eyes.
- Brown bodies with white bellies.
- 5-12 inches in length.
For more info about field mice check out this article.
- Not a rodent (related to moles).
- Digs tunnels.
- Primarily carnivore and eats earthworms.
- No mounds.
- Elongated snout and small eyes.
- Uniform brown color.
- 2-4 inches long.
To find out more details on shrews, go here.
While it may seem excessively nuanced to take the time to identify shrews and field mice, it is quite beneficial to know the profiles of these small animals so you may take measures to keep them from infiltrating your garden and lawn.
The good news is that if you find a shrew, you can breathe easily. They are a minimal threat to your garden and may be beneficial, as they’re more interested in picking off the bugs from your plants than actually eating the plants themselves.
How to Control
There is no one singular approach to controlling voles. If you have a vole problem, it’s best to take a multi-pronged approach to getting rid of them. Some control methods may include preventative maintenance whereas others may be more direct and forceful. The best method for you is largely contingent on the extent of your infestation.
Some methods you may choose to implement may include:
Regardless of which manner you use, you can be confident that there are multiple correct ways to rid your property of the voles. Don’t let indecision paralyze you in fear and prevent you from getting started in removing them. Click here to learn more about how to get rid of voles naturally.
Signs of Voles in Your Lawn and Garden
Voles leave little paths of destruction when they barge in on your turf. You may start to notice gradual little signs of them adding up on your property, or you may simply wake up one day, step outside, and discover that your lawn and garden have been utterly destroyed seemingly overnight.
A vole in your yard can quickly become hundreds of voles. Voles are prolific breeders, and once the word gets out to other voles that your garden is easy pickings, they’ll bring their detestable neighbors along for a free meal.
Some of the more common signs of voles include:
- 1″ to 2″ runways crisscrossing your lawn.
- Several holes without mounds.
- Dead plants with missing root structures.
- Plants with pointed tips remaining on the end.
- Spongy soil from the underground tunnels.
- A sudden increase of curious cats.
- Collapsed plants.
- A destroyed harvest.
Voles aren’t culinary snobs – your prized flowers are as equally likely to get devoured as your vegetable garden. Even worse, a vole goes right for the underground roots and bulbs, which can kill the plant completely. There is nothing worse than carefully growing a tree for fresh fruit then discovering that it was consumed from the bottom up!
In the Garden
Be sure to target your approach for vole elimination directly where they are congregating. For instance, a vole in your garden may need to be handled differently than a vole you find in your lawn or yard.
Voles in your garden are targeting your crops and your flowers, so you’ll need to take steps to not only prevent them from getting in the first place, but you’ll want to deter them once they’ve arrived. For more information on how to keep voles out of garden areas, click here.
In some parts of the world, voles are considered a protected species. Some vole breeds are endangered, so take extreme care when identifying them for removal. While most species are invasive and perfectly acceptable to exterminate, you may want to check with your local agencies if you find one.
- Keep voles out in the first place. Build a perimeter fence around your garden made out of wire mesh hardware cloth. Be sure to install it a half foot underground, as well, to keep them from slipping underneath it.
- Weed your garden. Voles love to hide in tall grasses, but by keeping weeds at bay, you’ll be discouraging them.
- Plant your bulbs in empty yogurt containers (with drainage holes). This keeps voles from attacking the bulbs.
- Cage your most cherished plants in their own enclosure. Even if the vole is able to slip into your garden, it’ll be harder to cross another barrier.
- Plant flowers and bulbs that are deterrents to voles. Hellebore are toxic to voles but create beautiful blooms. Daffodils and grape hyacinths are considered disgusting to voles and they’ll shun them.
By following these steps, not only will you keep voles out of your garden in the first place, if they do sneak in, they’ll get the hint firmly and hightail it out as quickly as they arrived.
In the Lawn and the Yard
- Eliminate underbrush. Voles like to remain hidden, so by getting rid of weeds, you’ll be taking the first step in getting rid of them.
- Mow the lawn. For the same reason you’ll want to get rid of underbrush, keeping your grass short exposes voles and makes them want to leave.
- Form a gap between mulch and trees. Voles like to devour roots, but by getting rid of their cover, your trees will be safer.
- Remove vole tunnels. You can use a tilling device, steam, or even a garden hose to drown the voles out.
- Set out traps. You can use snap traps or humane traps if you prefer, but capturing voles is a sure way to eliminate them.
These methods are guaranteed to completely get rid of voles in your yard. By following these steps, you’ll be able to reclaim your property and enjoy your land once more.
Vole Pest Control
Different types of voles may be treated differently. If you’re aiming to keep voles off of your property, be sure to tailor your methods to the type of vole you encounter. Pine voles and meadow voles are two extremely common types of voles you may find, but you can be certain to rid yourself of them by identifying them and removing them.
Pine voles are relentless – many of the more reliable methods that the typical person may want to use against voles simply do not work against pine voles.
For some reason, standard repellents and frightening devices have no strength against pine voles; they’re simply impervious to them. To learn more about vole repellent, click here.
Instead, you’ll want to either trap pine voles or poison them. Try:
- Placing snap traps in the vicinity where you found them. Bait them with oatmeal or peanut butter to be most effective.
- Use larger traps. “Museum special” traps are larger and used in forestry applications.
- Place the traps near foundations of buildings or on their runways. That’s certain to lead to their capture.
- Drop zinc-phosphate (if legal in your area) poison capsules at the openings of their tunnels or along their runways.
Meadow voles are extremely common. They’re easier to tackle versus pine voles, and the aforementioned methods for vole control is quite effective for them.
If you’ve taken all precautions to get rid of them, including modifying their habitat and setting up perimeter fences, you can also trap them using conventional snap traps. You can learn more about vole traps by clicking here.
Set the traps by their runways; they never stray far from them. You may also place poison bait by their tunnel openings. You can also use repellents and natural methods to keep meadow voles at bay. For instance, cats are natural predators to voles and make excellent companions!
Products You can Use
Traps, poisons, repellents, and baits are all proven ways to control voles.
You should use traps and poisons, but if you’re looking for more unconventional methods to control voles, consider using:
- Cat litter,
- Chewing gum,
Actually the Best Way
While prevention is the best way to control voles, poisons and snap traps are a close second. To read more about vole poison, click here. Keep your lawn manicured and your plants protected, but short of that, consider using long-acting anticoagulant (LAACs) poisons.
- They’re safest to humans and pets because they require repeat exposure.
- It keeps blood from clotting, leading to a gradual death to the vole.
- There’s less likely risk of secondary poisoning; pets who eat a vole who died by LAAC is less likely to be harmed.
- There’s a known Vitamin-K based antidote.
Regardless of the method you use to control voles on your property, you can be confident that you will be successful if you follow these suggestions. If you are seeking more advice on how to get rid of voles, click here. There are both wrong ways and right ways to combat them, but by prudently only utilizing verified methods, you can quickly eliminate those unwanted voles and return to a serene life with a beautiful lawn and garden.