Voles: The Grass Eating Rodents, You Didn't Know Existed!
April 4, 2018
Meet the Vole. According to experts there are over 100 species living in North America, Europe and Asia. There are 23 species in the US alone. They live about 3-6 months, weigh approximately 2 oz and grow to be 4-9” long, including the tail.
They make their homes in complex burrow systems made up of tunnels and surface runways where adult and young live together in nests made of dry grass. In the winter, they may have temporary above ground nests in the deep snow.
They live as part of a colony and settle in prairies, mountains, forests, semideserts, meadows, steppes and alpine areas.
Voles feed on seeds, roots, stems and leaves. Their favorite foods are bulbs, alfalfa, bark, seeds, seedlings, herbaceous plants and of course, lawn grass!
Voles are very active creatures. They’re up day and night, don’t hibernate and reproduce all year, with larger numbers during the spring and summer. They produce 5-10 litters per year with 3-6 young per litter. That’s a lot of mouths to feed on your grass, especially in the winter!
How to Spot Vole Damage
Like their neighbor, the mole, the vole spends most of its time underground, so very seldom do you get a chance to see them. You can however, learn to identify the difference between mole and vole damage.
Voles dig surface runways. These are irregular paths of clipped or trampled grass or soil about 1-2” wide. These are narrower than those made by moles.
Voles make holes in the lawn. These are clean round holes about 1.5” wide. They are often in line with the surface runways. These differ from mole holes in that, the area around the hole is clean vs. a mole hole which usually has a mound of dirt next to it. These holes are also smaller than a mole’s.
Voles damage roots and gnaw on bark and stems. These marks can be observed on the bottom of trees and plants.
One of the telltale signs that a Vole has been munching on your plants is observing yellow, wilted plants. The plants turn yellow due to the lack of roots and hence, nutrients and water.
How to Get Rid of Voles
According to Havahart, the best way to reduce voles is to:
Identify Their Living Area – Look for surface runways, holes, gnawed bark and stems. Also consider the amount of damage. This will tell you how big of a problem you have.
Choose the Right Control Method – Whether you want to trap them, repel them using castor oil-based products or use a physical barrier, make sure it’s the most effective method for the size of the problem. Normally, more than one type of control method is used to increase the chance of success.
Reduce Food and Cover – Voles like areas with lots of vegetation for food and cover. Reduce these areas by mowing your lawn and getting rid of weeds. Remove brush, bushes and shrubs. Till the soil and mulch to keep them free of tunnels and surface runways. Lastly, make sure you pick up fallen birdseed.
If you have questions about voles or any other lawn pest, give us a call at (201) 891-4131 & (845) 986-8836. We’ll be more than happy to answer your questions.