Vole Facts - Questions & Answers
Do I have voles or moles?
This picture shows signs of mole activity. Moles feed on
earthworms and grubs in the lawn and their tunneling activity
raises the soil into ridges. Their most active tunnels occur
along a permanent structure such as a driveway or walkway.
Below you can see the hills or mounds around their exit holes.
Moles and voles cause different types of damage. Moles make raised burrows in your lawn, ground cover, and shrub areas and their tunneling activity raises the soil into ridges. They are searching for worms and grubs to eat - not roots.
Here are pine vole
tunnels just under the mulch and burrow entrance holes.|
Voles on the other hand, cause damage to plants. They feed on plant roots, flower bulbs, your favorite hosta varieties, and the growing tissue of shrub and tree roots. Above ground foraging voles make clipped pathways in the lawn areas as well as gnaw and girdle trees and saplings at the ground level.
Below ground foraging voles such as the pine vole
like to make tunnels or runs along house foundations, stone walls, and among
perennials and groundcovers. They are also attracted to fallen birdseed from
feeders. Look for their presence by locating their circular burrow entrances
not more than 1" -1 ½" in size and by lifting mulch to reveal long narrow
trenches or runways that are serpentine, and that wind around obstructions.
A burrow system may house many voles. Their tunnel system makes the soil feel
soft and spongy under foot. Many times moles are blamed for this damage because
voles can use mole tunnels to reach plant roots and bulbs.
Above ground foraging voles such as the
Meadow vole, are found mostly above ground
in taller grasses, lawns and cover. They make a network of surface trails
in the grass and grass clippings or thatch that are linked to underground burrows.
A cluster of many burrow entrance holes is a common sight in lawn and
pasture areas where Montane voles are present.
How did voles get in my yard?
Voles are part of the natural landscape. Voles can cause extensive damage
when they move into our turf and landscaped gardens in search of food and
shelter. Where you live and the surrounding habitat will determine what type
vole may invade your landscape. Below ground
foraging voles tend to be more abundant at the edges of forested land
than in interiors. Homeowners living in wooded subdivisions are surrounded
by the native habitat of voles. Each year young voles venture forth from
their parent's nest and burrow systems to find their own territories.
Newly planted landscapes, with succulent plants and mulch, provide ideal
locations for establishing new colonies by dispersing voles.
Above ground foraging voles prefer open
grassy pasture-like areas as well as orchards. Overgrowth and heavy
vegetation surrounding lawn areas are ideal areas for voles to hide and
invade your property. See Habitat
Modification to learn how to help deter them.
Are there different kinds of voles, and which ones are most likely to damage my landscaped garden?
There are 23 species of voles throughout the United States with eight species
that are most prevalent and cause significant economic damage. (See Vole -- Basic Information and follow the
links to determine which vole type you are most likely to have.)
The pine vole and the
meadow vole are two of many that can cause problems in home landscaped
gardens. Meadow voles spend most of their lives above ground, living in
and feeding on grasses, and they can girdle small trees and saplings at
ground level. Tall fescue in orchards and lightly grazed pastures are
typical habitats. Unless you have the conditions for the meadow vole to
live, you are not likely to have problems with them, whereas the pine vole
loves to infest our landscaped gardens. Pine voles spend most of their
lives under the ground in burrow systems feeding on plant roots. The
VOLE CONTROL Bait Station System
is designed to control all vole types
What is a pine vole and what does it look like?
Pine voles (Microtus pinetorum) are rodents, commonly called mice. Their natural habitat is the shrubby edge between the woods and meadow openings where they dwell under the dense mulch. They are about 3 inches long, weigh 1 ounce or less, and have reddish brown fur, a short ½ inch tail and tiny ears and eyes that are not visible. You are more likely to see signs of voles than the voles themselves, but sometimes you may see one scurry from one planting bed to another.
This is a shrew. A shrew will only eat insects and doesn't cause problems in the home landscape. It has dark grey fur, a pointed nose, and it doesn't have large front digging feet as does a mole. It can use vole and mole tunnels to get around. There is no need to try to control shrews.
What does a pine vole burrow system look like?
Imagine a network of winding trails or long narrow trenches or runways that are serpentine, and that wind around obstructions under the mulch and within a few inches of the soil surface, with the nest located centrally, about 12" under ground.
How many voles are there in a colony, and what makes up a colony?
There may be two adults, several juveniles, and a nest with up to 5 babies in a family colony. Adults are thought to defend their home habitat or territory from invasion by other voles.
What approximate size area does a colony of voles comprise?
A below ground foraging vole colony
may occupy an area of 30 feet in diameter, or so. The shape of their
home range need not be circular, but in orchards a colony claim the
area within the drip line of a mature apple tree.
An above ground foraging vole colony
may occupy a territory of 100 feet in diameter surrounding their
Can below ground foraging voles travel above ground from one planting bed to another?
These voles do occasionally go above ground to explore new food sources and disperse to new territories.
Are voles active year round?
Unlike many other small mammals, voles do not hibernate. Instead, they are active throughout the year. And depending upon where you live, voles can have four or five litters each year, and in warmer climates can reproduce year-round. Due to this prolific ability to reproduce, voles can grow their population quickly.
Can I control voles under snow cover?
Voles are active year round and can be controlled year round.
When snow arrives, above ground foraging voles can tunnel under the snow
and be protected from predators. These voles can destroy your turf as well
as gnaw the base of your shrubs and trees. Close mowing in the fall before
snow arrives can reduce damage to the lawns. It is best to anticipate vole
problems and start controlling them before snow arrives. The
Vole Control Bait Stations will work under snow cover for all vole
types, however, if the snow is too deep (over 8"), you will be unable to
monitor the stations effectively and access to replenish the bait will be
Notice the trails left in the lawn after a recent snow melt. Voles
will move into areas that they usually will not if they are under
the protection of snow cover.
(Picture provided by B. Gudddat)
Can I control voles with Integrated Pest Management (IPM)?
You can deter vole populations and reinfestation, especially
voles that forage above ground, by making
their habitat less suitable for them. (See --
What are the reproductive characteristics of pine voles?
Female pine voles have a gestation period of about 24 days, have an
average litter size of 2.8, and produce four to six litters per year.
They reach sexual maturity at 37 to 38 days and have a reproduction
life span of 15 to 18 months. (You do the math. That can be a lot of
voles!) Vole numbers fluctuate from year to year and under favorable
conditions their populations can increase rapidly.