As the weather warms up and the winter snows melt, many people look forward to spending time out in their yards again. But sometimes the relaxing days we imagine are stopped short by the sight of burrows in the yard, a sure sign you’ve got an unwanted guest visiting: the vole. Commonly confused with mice, voles are much more destructive outside the home than within.
We’ve compiled a few facts below to help you figure out if you’ve got a vole problem and what you can do about it.
The most common sign that you’ve got a vole problem is the sight of burrows criss-crossing your yard. We see this most often in the spring, as the snow melts. Over winter these small rodents don’t hibernate, instead they are busy moving through tunnels in your lawn. This ability to move underground protects them from the snow and cold and provides steady source of food – the roots of your plants! It is not unusual to find the most vole damage after a season of heavy snowfall.
Although the tunnels can kill the grass, grass isn’t what the voles are after. They use the tunnels to get to and from plants and shrubs that they like to eat. Voles eat the root systems of plants, trees and shrubs, which can ultimately kill the plant if the voles are not removed.
Favorite foods of the vole include: junipers and ornamental shrubs, sage, flower bulbs, groundcovers, grasses and grass-like plants. Sometimes voles do venture above-ground where they can chew on the bark of trees, shrubs and plants, effectively girdling them, which also harms, and may kill, the plant. More than almost any other rodent, voles target ornamental plants, so if you notice damage to your landscaping or see plants that are not thriving as they should, particularly the smaller plants and the varieties listed above, you probably have a vole problem.
Voles are often confused with mice and are sometimes called “meadow mice”. They are similar in size, color and shape, but voles have a shorter, stouter body, rounder head and smaller ears and eyes. The most important difference however, is that voles do not venture into homes, but mice do.
Although they typically live less than 6 months, the vole is a prolific breeder. They breed year-round and females can have up to 12 litters a year, with three to six young born each time. Voles are active day and night although chances are you won’t actually see the rodents. One thing you will see however is their signature calling card – burrows and dead or dying plants.
Since voles are so prolific and relatively well-protected from predators by their burrows, they can be extremely difficult to get rid of on your own. The most homeowners can do is try to protect their trees and shrubs by wrapping them with mesh hardwire or plastic cylinders to prevent the vole from chewing on them. But remember, voles more typically attack the root systems of plants, which are impossible to fully protect.
The only truly effective way to correct a vole problem is to trap and remove the voles from the location. It’s best to call in a professional pest control company to handle this problem for you and it’s best to call in for help at the first sign of damage, before the voles get a foothold in your landscape.
A professional pest control agency will bait the yard and set up traps to catch the voles. This will be done after an on-site assessment of the problem. Treatment methods will vary depending on the extent of the damage. Sometimes a one-time treatment is effective. Other homeowners need an annual treatment and still others need several treatments to fully eradicate the voles. This is especially common in areas that are surrounded by open space because there is a constant stream of voles moving in from adjacent fields or undeveloped land.
If you think you have a vole problem, contact a professional pest control agency right away. With the proper equipment, the voles can be removed before they cause extensive and irreparable damage to your landscape.