Voles drive gardeners and home owners crazy! You’ll know voles by the snakelike tunnels all over your lawn. Here’s advice on how to identify, prevent, and control your vole population.
What’s the Difference Between a Vole and a Mole?
First off, voles are not moles! People confuse the two animals because they both tunnel through your yard. You might not have seen either critter since they’re usually underground, but they look very different. Voles (Myodes) are small, stocky rodents similar to field mice. In fact, a vole might look like a mouse at first glance. In contrast, moles are NOT rodents. Moles are all nose and mouth. And they have big feet used in digging! See our Mole page.
Voles 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. 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.
Vole Diet: Plants!
Voles, similar to other rodents, have a mainly vegetarian diet. Voles mainly eat stems and blades of lawn grass—so it’s usually vole tunnels that you’ll see near the surface of the yard. Moles have a mainly carnivorous diet. (Moles are beneficial in many ways. They help plow the soil and eat grubs and insects!)
It’s helpful to know this difference not only because it will help you identify the damage (see below) but also because a vole bait would use peanut butter whereas moles would be more interested in an insect or earthworm.
If it helps, remember that their frenzied activity does subside. Vole populations cycle, and about every 3 to 5 years there will be a population boom. Mild winters with good snowfall can help to increase vole populations.
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.”