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Underground Intruders: Detecting and Managing Vole Infestations

Wild house mouse on top of jar.

Introduction

While mice might be the more commonly known rodents, voles can be equally troublesome if they find their way into your living space as they can cause severe damage. These small, burrowing mammals can wreak havoc on gardens, lawns, and plants. Identifying vole infestations early is essential for effective control. In this article, we’ll delve into the characteristics of voles, their habits, the damage they can cause, and methods for control using live traps and suitable bait.

Vole Facts and Characteristics

Voles, often referred to as meadow mice, meadow voles, or field mice, are small rodents belonging to the Microtus genus. These small mammals resemble mice but have a more stout body, shorter tail, and rounded snout. Unlike mice, voles are primarily herbivores, which means they feed on plants rather than a variety of foods. These creatures reproduce rapidly, with some species being able to have multiple litters in a single year.

Diet of Voles

Voles are strict herbivores and feed on a variety of plants, including grasses, roots, seeds, and bark. Their herbivorous diet allows them to cause significant damage to gardens, lawns, and fields of agriculture.

Habitat and Behavior of Voles

Xmall heap of earth with a hole representing a vole burrow.

Voles are adept at burrowing, and they create an extensive network of tunnels beneath the ground. They often construct surface runways through vegetation, which are visible as worn-out paths. These runways provide them with both shelter and easy access to their food sources. Voles are also known for their tendency to gnaw on tree bark during the winter months, causing damage to young trees and shrubs.

The Consequences of Vole Infestations

Voles may be small, but their impact can be significant:

  1. Garden Damage: Voles can devastate gardens by consuming plants and their roots, damaging crops and ornamental plants alike.
  2. Lawn Destruction: Their underground tunneling can create unsightly and damaging runways in lawns.
  3. Tree and Shrub Harm: Gnawing on tree bark during the winter can weaken or kill young trees and shrubs.
  4. Crop Loss: In agricultural settings, vole activity can result in reduced crop yields and economic losses.

Recognizing Vole Presence

Identifying whether voles have invaded your property requires attention to several indicators:

  1. Surface Runways: Look for worn-out paths through grass and vegetation providing ground cover, often accompanied by chewed plant stems.
  2. Gnaw Marks: Young trees with gnawed bark, particularly near the base, are a strong indication of vole activity.
  3. Holes and Burrows: Check for small, round openings near the base of plants or along edges of lawns.
  4. Feeding Signs: The consumption of plant material and roots can cause noticeable damage to garden plants.

Effective Control: Live Traps and Baits

Sherman Traps live capture folding  animal trap #SFA for voles.

#SFA folding live capture animal trap for voles.

When tackling a vole infestation, employing appropriate methods is crucial. Two primary strategies for vole control are live traps and carefully selected baits:

  1. Live Traps: Live capture traps designed for rodents can be used to catch voles humanely. Place traps in areas with obvious vole activity, such as near runways or burrow entrances.
  2. Baits: Bait traps with vegetation that voles commonly eat, such as pieces of carrot or apple.

Choosing Effective Baits

Selecting the right baits for voles enhances the success of your control efforts:

  1. Fresh Vegetables: Carrots, apples, and sweet potatoes are attractive to voles due to their natural diet.
  2. Grains and Seeds: Rolled oats and sunflower seeds can also serve as enticing baits.

Preventing Future Vole Incursions

After dealing with a vole infestation, take steps to prevent their return:

  1. Eliminate Habitat: Trim tall grasses and vegetation near structures to minimize ground cover hiding spots and shelter.
  2. Use Barriers: Place physical barriers, such as wire mesh, around the base of young trees to prevent gnawing and reduce damage.
  3. Maintain Landscaping: Regularly monitor and maintain your lawn and garden to minimize conditions that attract voles.

Conclusion

Voles may not be as well-known as mice, but their presence can still cause considerable damage to your outdoor spaces. By familiarizing yourself with the signs of vole activity and employing effective control methods like live traps and suitable baits, you can address vole infestations in a humane and timely manner. Remember, prompt action is key to mitigating the destruction these underground intruders can cause to your gardens, lawns, and plants.