Voles

How to Identify and Get Rid of Voles

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Voles drive gardeners and homeowners crazy! Find out how to identify and get rid of them.

What Is a Vole?

Voles are small rodents that are also known as field mice or meadow mice due their similarities to mice. Two common species of voles in North America are the prairie vole and the meadow vole. Meadow voles are more widely distributed, but prairie voles are more common in prairie areas. They are very similar, and methods for controlling them are mostly the same.

Voles can cause extensive damage in your backyard garden. Not to be confused with mice, which often don’t cause quite as much damage, voles are happy to eat a wide variety of your plants as well as the bark of some trees. If you’ve noticed your plants being munched, be on the lookout for these cute but pesky creatures.

Identification

How to Identify Voles

We’re talking voles, NOT moles. Voles are small, stocky rodents similar to field mice. They have small rounded ears that are often hidden by their fur, small eyes, and short tails. Their fur is generally thick and light brown to gray. Voles love fields with lots of weeds and coverage. They are active both day and night, especially evening and early morning hours.

Vole Damage

You’ll know voles by the snake-like tunnels that you’ll see all over your lawn. They’re very active in the spring and then their manic tunneling subsides. They love to burrow underground and will eat bulbs and root vegetables. If you have partially eaten carrots, potatoes, etc., you may have a vole problem. They also nest at the base of trees and shrubs which can cause damage to the roots, especially as they tend to chew the bark. 

Control and Prevention

How to Get Rid of Voles

Here are a few tips for getting rid of voles. Try some of these methods for your garden:

  • Try live vole traps near vole runways or the nesting sites at the base of trees and shrubs. Bait traps with peanut butter. Set baits midday to early evening when voles get more active. Reset the traps as often as necessary until you eliminate the population. Relocate voles to a faraway field. The key to trapping is persistence.
  • If you have an extreme problem, you can bait voles with a registered rodenticide. Consult your local garden center or professional critter control agency.
  • Bulb control? You can discourage voles from nibbling on bulbs by adding gravel to the planting hole (surrounding the bulbs). When you plant bulbs, drench or powder them with a fungicide to keep voles at bay. Plus, check our list of rodent-proof bulbs. Or, learn how to plant your bulbs in the fall.

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Photo Credit: Washington State University. Many of the same methods that you use to get rid of mice can be used to get rid of voles; after all, voles are commonly referred to as “meadow mice” or “field mice.”

Prevent Moles

  • Voles like dense, heavy vegetative cover, mulch, and weeds because it provides them with food and protects them from predators. Make your yard inhospitable to voles! Cut back brush, mow, weed, and create a clean space.
  • Voles in the veggie garden? These little critters aren’t very good climbers. Protect a garden by fencing the area with a half-inch of mesh, at least 12 inches above the ground and buried 6 to 10 inches deep.
  • Another great control method is an outdoor cat.

See more about common garden pests like mice and moles.

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