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Vole, or Field Mice, or Meadow Mice, as they are called, are usually classified as a pest species because the dig up yards and set up a network of surface tunnels. They also eat landscaping plants. The most common complaints include the following:
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How to Get Rid of Voles - The first question you should ask yourself is: Do I have a vole problem or a mole problem? Though commonly interchanged, these two animals are very different. Voles and moles are tunnel dwellers, and the difference is in the food they eat and the subsequent damage that comes from their diets. Voles primarily eat roots and bulbs. Their tunnels and burrows will span through an entire yard, but are virtually unseen by the innocent homeowner. Mole tunnels are characterized by large, ugly mounds of freshly dug earth on top of the grass. Unlike voles, moles primarily eat insects and earthworms, and their tunnels are created close to the surface to find the grubs and bugs they so like to eat. If you have suddenly noticed your plants and shrubs dying off with no evidence of an intruder, chances are you have a vole problem. Large mounds of dirt and obvious tracks through the yard will mean you are best served seeking mole control.
Now that you’re certain you have a vole issue, you’re probably wondering how to get rid of them when they leave no obvious sign of their passing. This can be difficult. Voles are subterranean dwellers, and you are not likely to catch them above ground. Cats and other predators will be of little help to you in this situation. Vole poison is available and is an effective means of controlling a vole population. The catch to this method is that this particular poison is regulated by the federal government, and a special permit is required for purchase. The average homeowner will not be able to buy vole poison over the counter in a farm store. Because of the extensive damage and potentially overwhelming number of voles in a single yard, poison is the most effective means of control and will require the use of a professional.
If you’re determined enough, you can try to catch voles on your own, though this task may be very labor intensive and time consuming with little results. The first step in trapping a vole is to find an area where the vole is active. Because they tunnel underground, you will need to locate an area suspicious of activity. Dead plants, stripped trees, and dead tracks in your yard are all good places to start. Before you get right to trapping, test to site for activity. Remove the sod over the tunnel in a small area, no larger than a hand’s width. Take a piece of apple and place it in the hole. Cover the hole with a pot or other protective cover. If you check back in a day and something has eaten the apple, you know you have a good spot to place your trap. Another suggested way to determine tunnel activity is by the physical appearance of the tunnel walls. A smooth, deep tunnel suggests frequent passage. Long, straight tunnels are also thought to be active, leading from one food plot to another.
There are a variety of lethal traps on the market, most of them body gripping traps. These same traps can be used in the elimination of problem moles. Take the trap and place it in the tunnel. The trap will be small and designed for this purpose. Be sure to anchor it in place. Cover over the hole with sod and mark the area to be checked daily. Do not be discouraged if you don’t catch a vole on the first day. These animals have a massive underground burrow network, and it may not be practical for every tunnel to be travelled every day.
Trapping voles on your own can be reasonable if your yard is small and the damage is minimal. If, however, you have a large property and are seeing obvious death of plants and trees, professional intervention is advised. In this one instance of nuisance control, poison is the most effective means of removal.
VOLE BIOLOGY & INFORMATION
Voles are small rodents that are very small and rotund and a more commonly called field mice even though they are not mice. Voles resemble mice, but they are much smaller, with shorter tails and smaller eyes and ears. Voles are also commonly mistaken for other small rodents such as rats, shrews and even gophers. However, voles are different in appearance and behaviors and are usually a brownish color with white and/or gray bellies and pink/gray hairy tails.
Voles are common in North America, but are found in other parts of the world also. Voles will take up residence in many different places such as abandoned mole tunnels (leading people to misidentify them), abandoned fox or rabbit burrows or in homes. Really, the vole can be found anywhere that is close to an available food source that is dry and cozy. Voles will not usually enter into homes or basements because they are unable to climb very well. This is very bad news for the unfortunate home owner that has an infestation of voles because they are very destructive and reproduce quickly.
Voles come into their sexual maturity in as little time as a month and their gestation period only lasts for 3 weeks. This makes a vole likely to have anywhere between 6-10 liters of young per year and if you can do the math that means you could have a big vole problem very quickly. Voles are monogamous and mate for life making the male and the female equally responsible in raising the young. The life span of the Vole is very short with many not living past the first year of life. This short life expectancy is probably due to the high number of predators that this small rodent has, some of them including: foxes, owls, hawks, crows, weasels, cats, dogs, snakes and raccoons.
Voles have a varied diet and are considered omnivores. However, their favorite things to eat happen to be your plants. You can bet you have a vole infestation when all of your outdoor plants die suddenly. Voles have excellent tunneling/burrowing abilities and will dig under the plant and eat all of the roots until the plant is dead. They will eat the roots of almost any plant whether it is flowers, trees or shrubs. Voles will also scavenge on the dead carcasses of other small animals like mice, rats and small birds. They will also eat fruits, nuts and grains if they are available.
Their diet is also dependent on the time of year. Voles do not hibernate and are active at all times of the day and night which allows them to maximize their consumption of food. In the winter time, they will make their homes exclusively out of the shallow burrows that they dig right under the surface of your yard.
These small critters are very social animals. Not only do the male and female stay in the same burrow or den to raise their young, but several adults will live in the same burrow or den. Voles operate off of the premise that it takes a village to raise a litter of young voles. This is unusual behavior in terms of rodent interactions, but this system seems to work well for the vole population seeing that they are a very successful species even though they have an incredibly short life span.
Voles are considered destructive pests by any landowner or gardener because they destroy the roots of all plants they encounter which are very hard to restore to their previous condition. Even though there are many different ways that you can get rid of your invasive vole population, it is very hard to exterminate them completely without the help of a professional.