If you have experienced the havoc these tiny little creatures can cause, you are not alone. Voles are small animals that can dig large labyrinths of tunnels, crisscrossing all over your lawn and garden. Voles love chewing on everything in their path, from stems of young vulnerable trees to the ornamental woody vegetation.
These little critters also create damage to the turf, as homeowners are certain to find in the early spring months. If you suspect a vole problem, here are ways of eradicating voles in the yard and garden.
What attracts voles to your yard?
There are several things that voles find attractive in your yard and garden. Before attempting to get rid of voles, we need to know what brought them there in the first place. Here are some items in your yard that are attracting voles:
- Areas that are dense, with thick vegetation, weeds, and meadows, are all places voles are attracted to. These are ideal areas that offer protection and allow them to reproduce.
- Using mulch to fertilize lawns and having an excessive brush.
- Voles love places that act as ideal hiding spots from natural predators. Such as corners near trees, piles of wood, gardens, and shrubbery.
- Bushes should be trimmed and the lawn mowed. This discourages voles from taking up residence.
- Voles also love to hide under trees and fresh snow cover.
- Voles love seeds. Therefore, bird feeders are an open invitation for these little rodents. Also, voles eat berries. Besides feeding, they like to use seeds and berries as nesting material. Moles are also attracted to grass seeds and berries.
- Voles are omnivores. Therefore, they enjoy eating peanut butter and other protein food sources.
What damage does a vole do?
Voles form a labyrinth of underground tunnels that are shallow and two inches in width. The biggest indication of a vole's presence is the opening in the burrows above the ground. These are attached to runways and often can be obscured, partly by ground cover or grass.
Other signs are areas of the lawn that will have dead sections in them. This is caused by the animal eating the roots as they tunnel beneath. Garden plants will also suffer because voles consume the bulbs underground and the leaves and stems above ground.
More signs of vole damage
You might notice trails in trampled or clipped grass, droppings, or plants suddenly dying, all identifying voles. There might also be gnawed marks on shrubs, around a tree base, on vegetables, and on garden plants. The extensive damage created to roots by voles results in the leaning and crowning of the tree.
Voles will continue to be active even in winter. They will eat anything underground, including plant roots, bark, and bulbs. Continuing to do damage while being hidden by a blanket of snow. Homeowners are not aware of this activity until the snow melts and it is revealed come to the Spring.
How can Vole Damage be Averted?
Homeowners often need assistance in repelling voles from wreaking havoc in the garden and yard. The best way to prevent them from entering is to make it less appealing. A common attractant is dense vegetation. Vole pests love excessive vegetation growth. They prefer areas less open because it guards them against predators.
Maintain a neat yard
Ensure all weeds are removed, leaves rakes and the grass is mowed, and prunes the shrubs. Make some form of the buffer that surrounds areas where your garden is, and keep it cleared of any debris.
The bark and roots of young trees voles love to feast on. Avert from using heavy mulch. This will discourage their nibbling on the bark. Typically, the use of a four-foot-tall buffer will be sufficient because voles dislike eating in open areas. Pick up any fruit that has fallen right away when you have trees that are fruiting.
How to Fix the Damage
During the spring months, voles pose the ability to cause the worst damage. As far as repairing this damage, once a vole population is under control, the plants repair themselves.
A vole runway and burrow can be demolished by using a rototiller or shovel. Dead voles will be less encouraging for future vole populations. Any bare spots or dead grass should be reseeded. This will repair the places in lawns in which the widest vole runways have been destroyed.
What Scent Will Keep Voles Away?
If you prefer natural repellents to prevent voles, the best one to use is castor oil. Like other animals and humans, they dislike the smell and taste of castor oil.
A little bit of castor oil sprinkled around your property will keep these rodents away. They also hate capsaicin, it is the compound that is extremely potent and gives peppers their spice flavor.
What are the Characteristics of a Vole?
A vole is a little mammal that spends its life equally underneath as well as on top of the ground. They grow to around five to seven inches in length when reaching full maturity. Feeding on vegetation voles find in your yard and garden, tunneling through the ground, eating roots along the way.
Problems a Vole Creates
Most vole species are similar to mice, shrews, and moles and provide their own specific issues as a pest. Voles look like field mice, which makes it hard to recognize them. Unlike moles, who spend the majority of their life underground, a vole also ventures above ground. Voles have often been confused for being field mice or meadow mice. However, mice are capable of creating the intricate runways, burrows, and tunnels that a vole does. For this reason, it is imperative to distinguish the difference between mice and voles.
A vole has certain characteristics to aid in recognizing them. Such as shorter tails and smaller features of their facial areas. They also have smaller snouts than other ground-dwelling rodent or mammal. The body of a vole has a potato shape. It is round and stocky. It has brown to black colored hair, with a belly of a darker shade. Similar to other species of rodents, they have short claws on their small feet. Their small teeth are extremely sharp, allowing them to gnaw on bark and other vegetation.
What are the Species of Voles?
There are three species of voles--the Prairie Vole, Meadow Vole, and Long-tailed Vole. This next section will go into depth about each of these types of voles species.
The average length of an adult Meadow Vole is around 6.5 inches. The hair of both females and males is multi-colored, with hues of brown, gray, and orange. This species of vole is discovered to be living in the upper regions of North America. They are located all over the top sections of the United States and Canada and even south to Georgia.
Meadow voles enjoy open spaces, such as the grassy meadows they are named for. This provides them with the needed materials for nesting and burrow coverage. Similar to most species of voles, they are active during the day and night, as well as all year long. Although it may appear they are much more active during the day in winter and at night in the summer.
March until November is the mating season for Meadow Voles. This is when the female vole becomes much more aggressive, particularly when in contact with humans.
The next species of voles is the Prairie Voles. This little guy gets to be about 7 inches in length as an adult. Their hair has yellow tinges in it and is dark brown to black in color. Depending on what colors are dominant, its hair might even have tips that are a darker color.
This species of Voles are normally seen in the Mid-United States regions, even as far north as Canada. Yet, rarely will you find them in Tennessee, Oklahoma, and south of northern New Mexico.
A habitat of preference is prairies, hence their name. Places where lots of weeds are growing and pastures. They prefer to live wherever the grasses are drier and shorter.
Just as other rodents, these guys prefer the summer to the winter months but will remain active year-round.
Including a tail, which is about 30% of their total size, these little rodents grow to be about 10 inches long. Many confuse them for being a mouse because of the size of their tail. Their hair is dark colors, from brown to black.
You can find the Long-tailed Vole in regions of Canada and the Western United States. They are less particular about where they live than the other vole species. However, they do prefer water banks, meadows, areas with lots of grass, and forests.
They are primarily nocturnal and active throughout the entire year. They are not known to create as much damage to property as the other voles do because they don’t tunnel underground much.
Voles vs. Mice: What’s the Difference?
The biggest difference between these two rodents is their ears and eyes. While mice have large ears and eyes, the voles are much smaller.
A vole has a tail that is shorter than a mouse's. The tail of a mouse can be almost two times its body’s entire length.
Lastly is the snout. A mouse has a pointed snout, not as pointed as that of a shrew, but pointed. Whereas the vole has a blunt, rounded snout to aid in digging tunnels.
What is the Life-Cycle of a Vole?
From the spring until fall is how long the mating season for Voles last. However, it normally starts in later spring, and the early fall is when it ends. A female Vole’s gestational period last about 16 to 24 days. The average litter size is about three to eight “pups”.
Newborn pups will remain with their parents for a short time following birth. After just 13 days, the female is sexually mature and ready to reproduce her own pups. The life cycle of a vole is short, only about a year long.
How do you recognize Vole Populations?
In just two short years, a vole population can reproduce up to fifty-two thousand voles. These small rodents are continuously active, night and day. Not even taking time out for hibernation in the winter, like some animals.
During the course of their life, they will make several tunnels and burrows. All connect to a labyrinth filled with runways, which offer the colony protection.
Voles closely resemble mice, except for a shorter tail, smaller size, gray tint, and rounded nose. Yet they are often called field mice or meadow mice. In addition, vole populations increase at a much greater rate than a mouse does.
What are the signs of a vole infestation?
A population of voles can increase or decrease over the course of many years in certain regions. However, it is imperative you are able to recognize a vole infestation in order to know how to remedy the damage.
Some more well-known signs of vole damage are the surface runways they create. These are swaths of grass which are trampled and clipped in an irregular course. Sometimes these runways are made of soil only. They are normally around a half-inch wide and form the burrow entrances. You can recognize the burrow entrances by a hole that is clean and round and around 1.5 inches in diameter. The production of fruit on trees is often halted or delayed by the vegetation voles damage caused by these surface runways.
How to repair the damage created by vole runways?
When your lawn is damaged by voles, you need to fix it and get it restored right away. A few ideas to get the job accomplished include:
- Using a rake, gently break up any excrement and debris within the vole runways; this encourages growth.
- Use some topsoil to fill in the pathways made by the voles.
- Any chewed-up grass and thin areas must be re-seeded and fertilized.
- Trees and shrubs that have been chewed up by voles should be fertilized and pruned.
For extreme vole damage, you should call a professional lawn service that handles ornamental lawn and turf care. Additionally, when you want to know how to get rid of voles, contact A.N.T. Pest Control New Lenox.
How to Control a Vole Population
The best way to discourage voles from moving into your yard and invading your garden is to cut back any overgrown shrubs. They love places that protect them from known predators, such as cats, snakes, coyotes, hawks, and owls.
An additional way to help with vole control is to find and destroy their burrows and tunnels. The burrow is normally small pocket, that are short and shallow within the earth. However, sometimes they are quite advanced and extend outward into a complex system of tunnels.
The main idea is to eliminate as many voles hideouts as possible for these rodents to breed and live in. The use of live mouse traps for trapping voles and later to relocate voles to another area. Always wear gloves when in contact vole urine and feces.
How to control a severe vole infestation
With a severe infestation, there are many effective vole repellents, such as castor oil, for getting rid of voles in the yard or garden. One of these methods is live traps. Live vole traps work well for the removal of chipmunks, ground squirrels, and other rodents. The best thing about a live trap is that it is completely humane. Live traps are not fatal or injurious to the creatures. It is a form of mouse trap that allows capture and release.
Other forms of Vole Repellent
However, with a bigger infestation of voles, live traps might not be most feasible. Although excellent for the handling and control of small numbers of voles, you will require professional assistance for a severe infestation.
When you do use live traps, ensure you take the critter far away from your property, so it cannot make its way back. In addition, don't forget always to wear gloves when you clean and set up trap and the animals it captures. You can also spread some peanut butter on a mouse trap as another way to get rid of them.
More ways to get rid of them
With a little effort, it is possible to eradicate voles from taking over your garden and yard. These pests will make the dense underbrush and sections of your garden with weeds their home. Ensure these parts of your yard and garden are clear of any uncut brush to discourage voles from making your garden home. In addition, clearing away brush will make voles more vulnerable to their predators, such as cats, coyotes, owls, snakes, and hawks.
Alternative Pest Control
Suppose the above methods for evicting these rodents don’t work. You will need to take alternative measures and run into a near pest control expert. When you do not want to hurt or kill the voles, you will need to use live traps.
This method works great for the removal of a few individual animals. Just ensure you take them far enough away that they cannot find their way back.
Install fencing around a garden
To protect the garden and trees in the yard from pesky voles, put in some mesh fencing. Usually, ¼ inch will do the job. Ensure to install this around the entire perimeter of the garden. Also, to protect young trees, install some tree guards to deter voles naturally.
This will protect young trees from any roots that are girdling due to vole presence. They will wreak havoc on young trees. Use a ¼ inch mesh, plastic cylinders, or sheet metal to wrap around the tree bark.
In addition, create a vole barrier that goes out at a minimum of 12 inches on top of the ground. It must also be buried down a minimum 3 inches deep to avert their underground burrowing.
Create some Physical Barriers
If you want to repel voles, you must install barriers that are going to prevent them from entering. Creating physical barriers is the best way to keep voles out. If you have fruit trees, you need to ensure to pick up and clear away any fallen fruit.
Call a Professional
When you want to know how to get rid of voles, your best bet is to call a professional. A.N.T. Pest Control New Lenox knows the best methods of vole control. We understand what voles eat and what voles hate. We can treat vole hotspots and set live vole traps or bait traps with the right vole bait to prevent voles from returning.
When the vole numbers are getting out of control, call A.N.T. Pest Control New Lenox. We can guarantee to control vole numbers and stop severe vole infestations in their tracks!