Voles, much like other small rodents, are never welcome guests in or around your home. Sometimes referred to as meadow mice or field mice, these little critters can do a lot of damage in your lawn and garden. That’s why it’s important to learn how to get rid of voles.
Keep these simple and effective solutions handy, so you can act fast if a pest problem arises.
These burrowing, mouse-like rodents with a rounded muzzle are shy creatures that measure 3.5 to 7 inches in length. “Voles are frequently confused with another common landscape pest, moles,” explain experts at the UMass Extension Turf Program, an extension of the UMass Center for Agriculture, Food & the Environment. “These two species are in fact completely unrelated. Moles spend nearly all of their time beneath the surface of the soil, excavating and navigating a network of tunnels which can be very disruptive to the turf surface. Aside from time spent in underground burrows, voles accomplish much of their scavenging and feeding above ground.” And that’s where the problem with voles begins.
Did you know you can use coffee grounds to critter-proof your garden? Learn about that and other humane pest control methods.
If you notice a “runaway” route on your grass (a path where the grass has been flattened), it’s likely caused by the constant traffic of voles at work. Your first move is to eliminate the environments that are attracting the voles in the first place. They love excess brush and mulch, stacks of wood, tall grasses and leaf piles. They love fallen pine needles and indulge in fallen fruit. Be sure to clean up such messes as quickly as possible to remove nesting areas and food sources for the voles.
Try these tips for getting rid of garden weeds.
If your garden is taking an unexpected hit, with plants suddenly beginning to droop, that can also be a sign of a vole problem. Protect your hard work by installing a fence. While voles are good at eating your crops and damaging your lawn, they’re not winning any awards for climbing. “Protect your plants by fencing the area with a half-inch of mesh (hardware cloth), at least 12 inches above the ground and buried 6 to 10 inches deep,” suggests The Old Farmer’s Almanac.
Check out these 15 pest control horror stories that will make you squirm.
You could also try relocating them. “Some vole trapping experts say that placing 12 to 24 vole traps for two to three weeks is the only way to make a dent in your vole invasion, explains Havahart, a leading manufacturer of wildlife control products. Be sure to place the trap where you see the activity, and use bait like bread and butter, small nuts, cherry pits, oatmeal, sunflower or similar seeds, mixed peanut butter and oatmeal or gumdrops around the traps.
If you have an infestation, even the strangest solutions may be worth a shot.
Finally, try natural deterrents. Voles despise the smell and taste of castor oil. They also hate capsaicin—the compound found in peppers that makes them taste hot and causes stinging. Make a capsaicin spray with water, hot pepper flakes or chopped hot peppers and biodegradable dish soap. Follow these steps. Spray either substance on your lawn and plants. You can also purchase coyote or fox urine. Either scent will notify the voles that a predator is in their presence, scaring them off.
Here are 11 more tips for DIY pest control.
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- How to Get Rid of Voles and Shrews in Your Garden or Lawn
- How To Get Rid Of Voles In Garden
- Damages inflicted by voles in the garden
- Identification of Voles
- Getting rid of voles in garden
- Setting up a trap
- Using Rodenticides to get rid of voles
- In Conclusion
- Voles: These Little Rodents Can do a Lot of Damage
- Voles and Mice
- Voles & Mice: How To Have A Vole-Free Garden. An Organic Solution That Works! See The Recipe Below!
- The Recipe For Organic Vole & Mouse Control
- You will also want to set mouse traps throughout your gardens to evaluate your problem.
- Need help with what to do in your garden?
- How I Kill Voles
- How to Kill Voles with Poison
- Getting Rid Of Voles – Using Vole Repellent And How To Kill Voles
- How to Get Rid of Voles
- How to Kill Voles
How to Get Rid of Voles and Shrews in Your Garden or Lawn
When it comes to rodent control, a lot of coverage has been given to rats and mice, but far less information is available on other little critters. If you’ve found yourself asking “what is a vole?” or “what is a shrew?”, then you’ve come to the right place.
The following article will examine the two creatures. It will explore vole control products and explain how to get rid of shrews and voles from lawns and gardens.
What Is a Vole?
A vole is a small, bulky, beady-eyed, mouse-like creature with a long, furry tail and distinct molars. The rodent is alternately known as the field mouse or meadow mouse. When it comes to the question of vole vs mole, the similarities stop with their names.
A small rodent, voles generally grow no more than three inches, though there are some species that reach triple that size. Other features include long whiskers, small ears, tiny feet and a modest tail. Its fur is fine and smooth — usually a brown or gray color.
Roughly 155 vole species exist worldwide. The most widespread North American species is the meadow vole, which inhabits the Great Plains, the Midwest, the Northeast, and most of Canada and Alaska.
Starting along grassland runways, a vole will dig burrows at the base of a plant, devouring roots in the process. A fast-breeding creature, female voles can produce up to 100 young within a year. Weaned from their mothers within a month of birth, voles reach sexual maturity by their eighth week. Male voles are very loyal to their mates and protective of their offspring, while mother voles are typically territorial towards other females.
As a non-hibernating species, voles are active day and night throughout the year. During full moons, however, they lie low because the light can make them visible to predators, such as foxes, snakes and owls. An omnivorous creature, the vole will feast on everything from bulbs, roots and seeds to insects, snails and slugs. The rodent is even known to eat carcasses, bones and antlers. With so many burrows to dig, the vole devours enough food each day to equal its own bodyweight. Due to the creature’s fast breeding cycle, vole infestations can spiral out of hand within weeks.
Voles in Your Lawn or Garden
Now that we’ve answered the question “What is a vole,” we need to discuss the damage these little creatures can cause. If you already have voles in your lawn, you probably know they can be a real nuisance.
The main problem with voles is that they’re elusive, fast-breeding garden-destroyers. Given the rodent’s way with roots, the vole is known to destroy plants and crops. However, most landowners don’t discover infestations until late in the game — well after a whole web of paths and burrows have been dug underground. This is because vole activity generally evades the human eye. Consequently, humans only tend to find out the hard way, such as when a group of valuable plants have suddenly died.
One of the key indicators of voles in a lawn or garden is the poor health of the grass or plants. When a crop of well-watered, healthy plants expires for no apparent reason, voles could be to blame. Bite marks on the plants could make it easier to determine whether a vole or some other critter is the culprit.
As with other rodents, voles carry numerous diseases, including hantavirus, salmonella and babesiosis. Voles also host ticks and other parasites that are transmitters of Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Due to all the damage and disease associated with the rodent, vole control is a crucial undertaking if an infestation occurs on your property.
Getting rid of voles can be a difficult task, because their burrows can be hard to spot within a garden or lawn. There are products available to make the chore easier.
Vole poisons, however, are not one of those products. They are notoriously ineffective. Not only do they offer minimal results, only licensed professionals can handle them. While there aren’t any traps specially designed to capture voles, mouse traps can get the job done.
If an infestation has hit your property, and you’re really wondering how to get rid of voles, Victor® Mole & Gopher Granular Repellent is highly effective at ridding the critters from their hiding places. This poison-free repellent is safe to use around kids and pets. The granules — when properly distributed — can penetrate burrows and send voles running from your property.
If you’re wondering how to kill voles instantly, mouse traps such as the Snap Traps by Victor® will do the trick. For maximum effectiveness, bait the traps with peanut butter or oatmeal. Then, place them in front of any holes you can spot around your garden. If after five days you don’t make any captures, reposition the traps within your yard. When you do catch voles, seal their carcasses — while wearing gloves — into Ziploc bags and throw the bags in a tightly sealed trashcan.
What Is a Shrew?
A shrew is a small mammal that is often described as looking like a mouse with a longer nose. Its sharp and spiky teeth, however, are far different from the enlarged incisors of rodents.
With 385 species, the shrew is found throughout the world — with the exception of Oceania. Its presence in South America, however, is only due to migration and is limited to the northern half of the Andes. Mole-like in terms of manner and habitat, the shrew discussed here is not to be confused with the otter or elephant shrews of Africa, the tree shrew of Southeast Asia or the extinct West Indies shrew.
A small creature, the typical shrew grows no bigger than the average mouse, though sizes can range depending on the species. The Etruscan shrew, which circles the Mediterranean, swarms Thailand and is also dispersed throughout the Arabian Peninsula, is actually the world’s smallest on-land mammal, averaging 3.5 centimeters and two grams. The Asian house shrew, which is native to Southeast Asia and the Indian Subcontinent, has introduced populations in the Philippines and Madagascar. It is the largest of shrew species, growing up to 15 centimeters in length and weighing as much as 100 grams.
A terrestrial animal that haunts trees, burrows and snow, the shrew feeds on everything from nuts and seeds to insects and worms. Though limited in vision, the creature is armed with keen hearing and a sharp sense of smell. Consuming up to 90 percent of its body weight in a given day, the shrew has one of the highest metabolisms of smaller mammals. While the shrew doesn’t hibernate, it does go into torpor during winter months. During this time, it sheds up to half its weight and morphs physically, shrinking its bones and internal organs in the process.
The shrew’s main disadvantage is its teeth, which wear down over time. This is unlike rodent incisors, which strengthen throughout the span of life.
A territorial creature, the shrew spends most of its time alone. Mating, however, occurs year-round in regions where weather permits — only in colder climates does breeding halt for winter. Females can carry as many as ten litters per year, and gestations last between 17 days and a month. A mother shrew can become pregnant again immediately after giving birth, nursing and carrying at the same time. Most shrews live between one and two and a half years.
There are certain species of shrew that are venomous, which is a rarity among mammals. Used as a defensive weapon against various animal predators, the venom is extracted from the grooves in the shrew’s sharp teeth. Highly toxic against mice, a gland-full of venom from the American short-tailed shrew can kill up to 200 of the rodents.
Humans, by contrast, stand to benefit from properties of shrew venom. Certain conditions — including hypertension, migraines and diseases affecting the neuromuscular junction — could possibly be treated by chemicals found within the venom of shrews. Scientists have also studied the benefits of peptide soricidin. Produced in the salivary glands of northern short-tailed shrews, it contains remedial properties in the treatment of ovarian cancer.
Echolocation — a rarity among terrestrial mammals — is characteristic of three species of shrew: the Eurasian shrew that spans England to northern Mongolia, the vagrant shrew local to the Pacific Northwest and the northern short-tailed shrew that’s found throughout the U.S. and Canada. Studies into the nature of shrew echolocation show that the creatures use the frequencies to scope out their habitat.
You might be wondering: What is a shrew in terms of its threat to lawn and garden owners?
How to Get Rid of Shrews
At the present time, no fumigants or repellents exist that are known to eradicate shrew infestations. On the upside, shrews are not rodents, so they don’t pose the same kinds of problems as rats or mice.
Over the span of 24 hours, a shrew might triple its body weight in bugs, mice, slugs and snails. It’s worth noting the shrew won’t intentionally eat away at the roots and bulbs of crucial plants and crops. Even though shrews are known to dig holes here and there, that damage is miniscule to the amount of crop destruction caused by the objects of prey among shrews: rodents and insects.
But in order to avoid the holes shrews can dig, the following steps will make your property less fetching to the mammal’s senses. Bear in mind that shrews love water and dark, covered hiding places.
- Place shrew-hospitable shelters away from your garden area.
- Rake up leaves and foliage. Clear away dead branches and garden waste.
- Move all brick and firewood stacks into your garage.
- Mow your lawn on a regular basis (shrews are attracted to tall grass.)
- Clear away overgrown shrubs and low-hanging tree limbs.
- Exterminate insects from your lawn and garden several times each year.
- Try best to prevent puddles from forming on your property. Don’t overwater your lawn or garden.
- Cover trash and recycling bins tightly. Keep them inside your garage until pickup day.
- Keep pet bowls inside your house. Don’t leave any food outside.
- Clean up bird feeders on a daily basis.
If you have any outdoor pets on your property, feed them once per day and clean up once they’ve finished. Shrews aren’t naturally drawn to birdseed or pet snacks, but they will resort to such food if none of their preferred choices are present. Most importantly, keep excess moisture from depositing around your property. Shrews thrive on water supplies, which also attract the mammal’s favorite prey: insects.
If you’ve followed these steps, and you’re still wondering how to get rid of shrews on your property, a cat or dog could be your best weapon. Cats, in particular, are natural predators of shrews. However, cats — like most shrew predators — won’t eat the kill because of the foul odor that shrews emit. Another repellant against shrews is the urine of predators, which marks out territory. Well-placed urine spots throughout your lawn could serve as a warning sign that your property is shrew-unfriendly.
If you happen to see a shrew, don’t corner or try to grab it. The shrew is a fighting creature, and the least it could do is give you a nasty bite or excrete its foul odor.
Note also that certain species of shrew are protected creatures in certain jurisdictions. Any attempt to trap, kill or transport such creatures could put you on the wrong side of the law. Therefore, contact your local wildlife agency to see how laws apply in your area regarding shrews. If you’re given the go-ahead to trap and kill shrews at your own discretion, one of the best ways to accomplish that would be with the use of Snap Traps by Victor®.
How To Get Rid Of Voles In Garden
Vole is another member from rodent clan that can make your yard or garden its sanctuary. Since they highly resemble with another fellow rodent mice, therefore voles are also known by the names of meadow mice and field mice.
Damages inflicted by voles in the garden
If you think that voles in the garden are not posing any threat to the wellbeing of your house then you’re mistaken. Damages they can inflict in your outdoor space can literally destroy its shape and look. Now imagine how the beautiful fascia of your house would look with the foreground of devastated garden. Instead of increasing the curb appeal of your home, a ransacked garden (thanks to the voles!) will eclipse the beautiful frontage of your house. To understand the menace of voles’ presence in the garden, one must know the details of damages that they can inflict on the green space of any house:
Voles are ardent plant eaters and this characteristic becomes the reason of fatality of many plants and other vegetations in the garden. Their masticating on the plant stems can result into girdling. In girdling the outermost bark of the stem is removed which eventually leads to the feeling of stems and can instigate the process of plant dieback.
If you grow leafy green plants such as parsley and celery in your garden and in an unfortunate turn of events your garden gets infiltrated by moles. Then you may have to say goodbye to your homegrown vegetables. Moles nibble on the roots of such plants making them unsuitable for human consumption.
Since voles face the danger of predator animals, therefore they have the habit to dig runways beneath the surface of garden. During winters, they make elaborate networks of ‘vole tunnels’ beneath the layers of snow. Once snow melts, you have to see a garden turf with uneven long stretches of excavations.
Identification of Voles
Voles are very similar in their appearance with other rodents such as mole and mice. Therefore, it is important to know the distinctive identification features of voles in order to get rid of them from your garden. Overall, they are very similar to mice but there are certain features making them distinctive:
Vole’s body is slightly longer than the body of mice. Mice have average length of 3-4 inch, while vole body can range in between 3-7 inches.
Another feature which makes them apart from mice is their extremely short tail
Their fur is also comprised of longer hairs
They get differentiated from moles with their more above-ground activities as compared to the anti-social rodent. The reproduction of voles also occurs at higher rates than of moles.
Getting rid of voles in garden
There are few effective methods to get rid of voles in your garden. They are easy to carry out and you can do them on your own.
Setting up a trap
If you are not comfortable in killing these rodents then setting up a trap in your garden can be a good option to steer clear your garden from these pesky rodents. There are two types of vole traps that you can use:
- Live Traps
They use wind-up mechanism and designed according to the natural tendency of voles to get into openings and holes. Once they get in the trap hole, they can’t get out. You can then dispose them of far from the residential area.
- Glue-board traps
If you want to get rid of voles in your garden while they are still alive then setting up various glue-boards in your garden area can be helpful. These traps are made of cardboard surfaces that are impregnated with glue mix. Often they are added with bait to lure the rodent.
Using Rodenticides to get rid of voles
If you are extremely fed up with the presence of voles in your garden then the quickest way to get rid of them is to poison them with professional products available on good pest and rodent control stores. Following are some broad classification of rodent poisons that you can choose from.
Anticoagulant-based vole killer products are very effective in getting rid of this annoying rodent. They inhibit the natural clotting of blood in voles resulting into internal bleeding in organs. These rodenticides can make your garden free of voles in 48 hours.
All these commercially available rodenticides can be used to get rid of voles in your garden. Use food baits of vegetables and fruits to lure voles towards the poisons. With all the discussed methods and tips, you can get rid of voles in your garden on your own without calling for a professional help.
Voles: These Little Rodents Can do a Lot of Damage
Q. How do I control moles? My yard is tunneled to death! And what’s the difference between a mole and a vole?
—Joe in Alexandria, Virginia
Our neighborhood has been invaded by voles, which have destroyed my grass. What can I do?
—- Antoinette in Arlington, VA
A. In the past we’ve always explained that moles create raised tunnels and voles don’t. That’s still the case, but I’ve been doing more research, and it turns out that there are many different types of voles—and some of their behaviors can be radically different than the ones we’ve discussed in the past, including a type that does damage lawns.
But let’s begin with a few things that haven’t changed: Moles—M O L E S—live exclusively underground, make raised tunnels (mostly in lawns), often leave big piles of dirt on the surface, and eat ONLY live food: earthworms, beetle grubs and cicada larvae. They may uproot the occasional plant, but they don’t eat any plants. Moles are the cause when a lawn has raised tunnels, dirt mounds and soft areas that collapse when you walk on them.
But if instead of (or in addition to) raised tunnels there are lots of little ‘runways’ about two inches wide throughout the lawn, the cause is a specific type of vole—V O L E—that eats grass blades and tramples down the area as it makes intricate above-ground pathways. The way to tell that it is not mole damage is by these distinctive chewed-down runways, lots of little holes about an inch and a half in diameter in the soil and the lack of dirt mounds.
Q. How can I rid my lawn and garden of voles? They’ve chewed the roots and stems of my shrubs and other plants and are destroying my well-tended lawn. I don’t want to use poison as I have a Labrador retriever. I’ve tried coyote urine and other repellents and even stuffing their tunnels with Juicy Fruit gum, but they’re still out there.”
—- Jeannie in West Chester, PA
A. Voles are well known for eating the roots of plants, consuming Spring bulbs and tubers underground (other than daffodils, fritillaria, and garlic, which they avoid), and for chewing on the bark of trees and shrubs—especially over the winter. Mounding mulch over the base of trees invites this damage by providing protection from predators—but snow cover can hide the little rodents just as well. That’s why new plantings should always have a six inch area of ‘no-mulch’ next to the stem and be protected by a wire cage or by wrapping the trunks with tree guards or hardware cloth—a type of small mesh metal fencing. All three forms of protection will also keep rabbits, groundhogs and deer from gnawing away.
And what about Juicy Fruit gum? There’s something I hadn’t heard mentioned in quite a few years, although ‘the Juicy Fruit trick’ has been around for decades! You generally hear it suggested for moles, which is just ridiculous, as moles are 100% carnivorous and only eat live food. I could maybe see a vole trying some out of curiosity, but I wouldn’t rely on it for control.
But I would give castor oil a try. Whenever people start to see signs of mole and/or vole damage on their lawn, I always suggest they start out with a castor oil-based repellant labeled for use on moles and voles. It doesn’t actually harm the creatures; it just chases them off by making the soil smell bad under the surface. For the best results, apply it heavily in the Spring—before the females begin mating. One female vole can easily give birth to a hundred tulip-eating offspring by the fall; their fecundity is legendary.
There isn’t good evidence that predator urines work—and their ‘collection’ is cruel in the extreme. And poisons are to be avoided at all costs; they’re a threat to children, pets, and the natural predators that can help keep these creatures under control–especially hawks and owls, which are big predators of voles.
True story: It was the beginning of Lent a few years back when my local church’s front yard started showing signs of vole infestation—lots of inch and a half wide holes near bulb and shrub plantings. They asked me for advice, and I had them change the location of the big crucifix they traditionally put out during Lent so it was right in the middle of the holes. And they added a pair of smaller crosses for the Two Thieves. By the time Easter arrived, hawks and owls had clearly taken care of the voles—the area was covered with ‘owl pellet evidence’. Raptor perches can be very effective; just a simple crossbeam about six feet off the ground right over the damaged areas.
Removing heavy mulches helps keep voles under control. (And remember—no mulch should ever TOUCH a tree or other plant!) But voles also like to hide under heavy ground covers, like pachysandra, ivy, and low-growing junipers. In situations like that, traps can help limit their numbers: Simple mouse or rat traps baited with peanut butter placed around or over their runways and holes. Cover the traps with heavy cardboard boxes with little cartoon ‘mouse holes’ cut out of the bottoms so voles can run in, but birds are kept out.
And keep in mind that the word ‘vole’ applies to a number of different creatures (which, to add to the confusion, are often referred to as meadow mice or field mice, despite the fact that they aren’t mice!). Some voles mostly make above-ground runways; others make extensive tunnel systems and do most of their eating underground. The different types can look and behave very differently, and even researchers disagree about some very basic aspects of their behavior. The one thing they all have in common, however, is that they’re nocturnal, breed rapidly, and can cause a lot of damage.
Here’s a good article about the different types of voles and their ranges (just ignore the advice to use poison baits; they are not safe for you and other living things).
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Voles and Mice
Voles & Mice: How To Have A Vole-Free Garden.
An Organic Solution That Works! See The Recipe Below!
Are Voles Damaging Your Garden?
Here’s how New Hampshire Hostas’ grower, Richard Merritt, uses an environmentally-friendly organic solution to prevent those pesky critters from destroying his extensive hosta gardens and lawn.
The Recipe For Organic Vole & Mouse Control
Large Area Applications Using A Hose-End Sprayer
- 1 Cup of Castor Oil (DO NOT USE UNSCENTED CASTOR OIL!)
- We buy our Castor Oil from Shay and Company but you can also find it on Amazon.
- 4 Oz Dish Detergent
Add the mixture to the jar of the hose end sprayer. Then fill the jar with water. Attach to your hose and thoroughly water every location that you want to deter the pests from. If your hose-end sprayer has a dial, set it to the highest setting.
Small Area Application Using A Watering Can
- 1-2 TBSP Castor Oil (DO NOT USE UNSCENTED CASTOR OIL!)
- We buy our Castor Oil from Shay and Company but you can also find it on Amazon.
- 1 TBSP Dish Detergent
Add this mixture to 1 gallon of water and thoroughly water the area to be protected.
How To Apply The Organic Vole Control
You want to water the ground, not spray it. You should thoroughly wet the soil so that the mixture penetrates a few inches into the soil. It is hard to say how much lawn and garden area the solution will cover. You just want to make sure you get the mixture into the soil.
You Do Not Have To Re-Apply After A Rain
You may want to re-apply in spring if you have damage during the growing season. Some people do and some don’t. Mostly vole and mole damage is just a winter issue as the pests are desperate for a food source.
When To Apply The Organic Vole Control
You want to apply the mixture before the ground freezes and after you have cleaned away all the leaves from your garden. This is typically after a few frosts. You can apply the castor oil mixture year round as it does not harm plants.
This Castor Oil solution is organic and will not harm wildlife or pets. It just makes those garden pests move out of your gardens!
“Using this organic solution on our hosta beds, we had zero damage last winter,
which is quite remarkable.” Richard Merritt, New Hampshire Hostas
You will also want to set mouse traps throughout your gardens to evaluate your problem.
If you are catching them daily then you know you have an infestation and need to keep trapping until you’re not catching them regularly. In the picture, you can see that we put a mouse trap into a 4″ diameter PVC pipe that we cut into 10″ long pieces. The PVC pipe keeps pets and birds from getting into the trap and also makes the vermin feel safe. We bait our traps with sunflower seeds but you could also use peanut butter although this will attract dogs so you may not want to use it.
Need help with what to do in your garden?
Q What attracts voles to gardens?
A Gardens are ideal habitats for these small mammals as they provide plenty of cover and a wide range of food sources. Sometimes, however, they come into conflict with gardeners when food supplies consist of highly valued plants, seeds and bulbs. When populations peak and food runs short, voles are more likely to become a nuisance in the garden.
Caption: Voles are usually only seen at night
Q Can you tell me more about voles?
A Voles are small mammals that sometimes feed on garden plants. They are shy nocturnal animals, so there could be more of them in your garden than you suspect. You are most likely to see them when they’re brought into the house by cats. Rats and house mice are seldom a problem in gardens, although rats may take up residence in compost bins and garden sheds. Dealing with rats is usually a job for the professional – ask your council for help.
Voles commonly live in gardens, where their vegetarian diet can cause problems for gardeners. For most of the year their numbers tend to remain low. However, in autumn they can build up high populations and cause a great deal of damage into early winter.
Q Could I mistake voles for anything else?
A Shrews, unlike voles, are predators which destroy many insects and slugs and so are helpful to gardeners. They have a thin, pointy snout, almost invisible ears, and relatively short tails. They are very small and are mainly active at night.
Caption: Shrews are very small, have a thin, pointy snout, and relatively short tails
Q What types of voles am I likely to see in my garden?
A The following can all be found in gardens in this country:
Short-tailed vole (Microtus agrestis) Unlike mice, voles have short noses and ears. The tail is one-third of the length of the rest of the vole. They are a greyish-brown colour. They are active in the day but are seldom seen and less active in the winter. Short-tailed voles are 9.5-13.5cm long and breed all summer. As many as one per square metre has been recorded. They live in rough grass, making above-ground domed nests and tunnels in the grass. They feed mainly on grass shoots but also eat other plant shoots. Fibrous straw mulches also make ideal habitats for voles to thrive in.
Bank vole (Clethrionomys glareolus) These live in banks, hedges and around shrubs. They’re 8-11cm long with reddish-brown fur and a light underside. They feed on seeds and fruit, living in similar nests and runs to the short-tailed vole.
Water vole (Arvicola amphibius) This is much bigger, at 15-20cm, and less common than the others, with dark brown fur, and brown/grey underparts. It lives around water, including garden ponds, feeding mainly on plants. Although sometimes known as water rats, water voles have blunter heads and smaller tails, and do not spread diseases or cause the same damage as land rats.
Q What damage is caused by voles in gardens?
A Seeds are often eaten by voles. They will invade the greenhouse to carry off newly sown seeds from seed trays. The seeds of trees are also often eaten by voles, but this is usually helpful to gardeners, as it prevents large numbers of unwanted seedlings from appearing.
Bulbs, corms and tubers may be consumed by bank voles, especially newly planted ones. They like tulips and crocuses in the autumn.
Fruit and vegetables may be taken by voles. Voles often feed on brassicas and will strip Brussels sprouts from the stems. They also enjoy eating roots – beetroot and stored potatoes, for example. Soft fruit is a favourite food, especially strawberries. Bank voles will even climb trees for fruit and berries.
Bark may be stripped by mice and voles at ground level. Voles are particularly well known for this, often concentrating on one particular species of tree. Beech trees are the usual favourites. Bank voles can strip bark higher up, with damage occurring at 0.6-1.8m from the ground. Shrubs and herbaceous plants are also attacked by both animals.
Banks can be undermined by the burrows of these animals, especially those of the water vole which are around ponds and streams. However water voles are rare and such damage is not common.
Q Don’t voles do some good too?
A They are important food for owls, foxes and other wildlife, so unless they are troublesome, they should be left alone. Voles also eat insects and weed seeds; in this respect, they are helpful to gardeners.
Q What can I do to deter voles?
A Seeds and bulbs can be started off indoors in pots. Fine mesh wire netting (6.5mm) and a sound concrete floor can exclude them from the greenhouse.
Outside, wire netting placed over buried bulbs and seeds can protect them. It can also be wrapped around tree stems and buried slightly to guard tree and shrub stems from gnawing.
Where pond banks are being undermined, laying wire netting on the bank should exclude the voles and protect the bank.
In extreme cases, trapping can be carried out. Bait the traps with apple or carrot for voles. Voles are more difficult to trap than mice. Cover traps with a cloche or propped-up seed trays so birds and pets are not hurt by accident.
Live-capture traps, where the animals are taken alive, can also be used. The traps must be checked every day, and trapping has to be carried on for a long period, as empty sites are soon recolonised by voles moving in from elsewhere. For this method to be effective, you have to release the trapped animals at least half a mile away, or there is a good chance they will make their way back.
Q Can I poison voles?
A No. Poisoning in the garden could present far too high a risk to pets and wildlife. Careful trapping and preventative measures should be enough to limit damage.
Q Are there dressings I can use to protect my seeds and bulbs from voles?
A The old remedies involving poisons like lead are no longer allowed and, in any case, are very risky for the gardener to use. There are no safe, effective modern substitutes.
Q Can voles be discouraged?
A Mowing long grass and cutting back vegetation will deny them cover and reduce the damage caused by voles. Avoid using cut grass and straw as a mulch, as this provides an ideal habitat for voles.
Caption: Cutting long grass will help deter voles
How I Kill Voles
I thought of titling this post How I Catch Voles, to avoid the use of the word kill, but the truth is, I don’t capture them and release them to the wild.
I don’t enjoy vole-icide, but when, the other day, I went into the garden and saw practically an entire row of almost-ready-to-be-picked, extremely delicious, purplehull peas lying rootless, wilted and yellowing, I began to question my stance on nuclear weaponry for the home gardener.
Tearing back into the house, I googled furiously, not for the first time, the subject of getting rid of these things.
I’ve used traps before and they failed to catch a single vole, so I researched deterrents, sonic devices, and even . . . poison.
The first two, apparently, don’t work. The third works, but works by causing the animal to bleed to death internally. Slowly. I don’t like what voles do to my garden, but I don’t, it turns out, want to torture them.
I leave that to our cats.
So I was back to traps. I decided to go with a better trap approach. What I did killed 14 voles in three days.
The Murderous Plot:
1. Assemble LOTS of mousetraps. I used 10 in my smallish garden.
2. Bait the traps with chunks of apple, tie them on securely. My voles love apples, but other suggestions I’ve come across include seeds, nuts, and peanut butter and oatmeal mixed together. I’ve heard voles have sensitive noses and you should use gloves when handling traps, but at least fourteen voles at last count are not deterred by my handling of the traps. It’s tricky enough baiting and setting mousetraps without being gloved. I tried it at first and got over it.
3. Locate the vole tunnels. If you have obvious vole damage, it won’t be hard to find holes in the surface of the ground that lead into their tunnels. They look like this:
4. Take a trowel and excavate around the hole. You should be able to see where the tunnel leads off into the earth, parallel with the surface of the ground. Make a mousetrap-sized space facing the tunnel.
5. Activate the trap. Place it in the hole with the bait just outside the tunnel opening. You can just see the tunnel near the top of the photo if you look hard.
6. Cover the excavated area with a board or something similar to block out most of the light coming in.
7. Check traps at least daily and replace bait after a day or two to keep it fresh and attractive.
8. If your trap has been sprung or the bait stolen, re-bait and reset. You’re getting close. Tie the bait on more securely and try again. Keep it up until the traps aren’t being sprung, even with fresh bait. After that, set a few traps out periodically to monitor for new activity, or when you see holes and/or damage.
Note: I had the privilege of being confined to a Lowe’s garden center for three hours with an Agricultural Extension Horticulture Agent during a master gardener event this week. You know I brought up my vole situation. He said he wasn’t surprised they went for the legumes (in addition to my peas, they also ate my peanuts, plants and all). Legumes are a rich source of tasty protein and carbohydrates, so if you have legumes, keep a special eye on them. The voles do.
Disclaimer: This post may contain a link to an affiliate.
How to Kill Voles with Poison
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How To Kill A Vole
Voles are small rodents that are often mistaken for other animals, but the small stature of these animals shouldn’t hide the fact that they can be an absolute pain if they find their way into a well manicured lawn. Voles dig extensive burrows and tunnels under the soil, and when these collapse the once flat and pristine lawn can become a pitted and rutted part of the garden or yard. Because of their size and color they are often mistaken for mice, and those who see the tunnels may think they are moles, but the combination of damage to plants and grasses and the signs of tunnels should indicate that voles are the problem.
Don’t Use Poison
When people find that they have a rodent infestation in their yard or garden, one of the first instincts will often be to place poison out to try and kill these pests, but this isn’t a wise move. One problem of placing poison out to try and kill voles is that it’s very difficult to ensure that it is the voles that you will be killing, rather than another animal that has happened to stray into your yard or garden. Another problem is that voles will often be quite numerous, and in order to kill off the entire population it will often require leaving out an awful lot of poison in order to achieve this.
Another problem with using poison is that it can also leave a lot of carcasses, and these carcasses will often attract animals that feed on carrion, which can be even more unpleasant than the voles themselves.
The majority of professional wildlife control experts that are asked to kill the voles in a garden will usually opt for the use of traps, with snap traps the same as those which are used to trap mice. These are usually placed near the entrance to one of the many tunnels that the voles will have in the yard or garden, and bait such as peanut butter often helps to make the trap successful. The problem with traps such as these is that voles usually live in large groups, and using traps isn’t necessarily the quickest way to deal with the problem.
Alternative Methods To Dealing With A Vole Problem
Voles are a big pest that can cause a great deal of damage, but the problem with extermination is that it is often the most expensive option for those who are trying to solve the problem. This is why getting them to leave the yard or garden of their own volition is a much better approach, and there are a number of ways to do this.
One method of getting rid of voles which has had some success is the straightforward introduction of a cat into the yard or garden. These predators are among the best hunters of rodents available, but the scent of a cat will often be enough to drive the voles to start searching for safer places elsewhere. There are some people who will advocate trying to stop up all the holes that the voles have created, but this is an option that rarely yields success. Another option if you find the voles in the area soon after they’ve arrived is to use a repellent. The problem in most situations is that by the time people have noticed the infestation, the burrow and population are already quite large. Repellent can often be hit and miss in whether it succeeds, and it will rarely work with an established population.
For most pests live trapping and relocation can work, but with voles the work involved for such a large population will rarely be practical.
More in-detail how-to vole removal articles:
Information about vole trapping – analysis and methods for how to trap.
Information about how to keep voles away – prevention techniques.
Information about how to catch a vole – remove one stuck in the house.
Information about vole repellent – analysis of types and effectiveness.
This site is intended to provide vole education and information about how to kill voles with poison, so that you can make an informed decision if you need to deal with a vole problem. This site provides many vole control articles and strategies, if you wish to attempt to solve the problem yourself. If you are unable to do so, which is likely with many cases of vole removal, please go to the home page and click the USA map, where I have wildlife removal experts listed in over 500 cites and towns, who can properly help you kill your nuisance vole. Click here to read more about how to get rid of voles.
Getting Rid Of Voles – Using Vole Repellent And How To Kill Voles
Voles are among the least talked about and most damaging of the rodents that can invade a garden. These rodents can literally overrun a yard in a short period of time, chewing their way through plant roots, bulbs, stems and seedlings, all the while multiplying at a furious rate. This can leave a frustrated gardener wondering how to get rid of voles that have taken over their yard. Vole eradication is possible with some extra effort.
How to Get Rid of Voles
Vole control starts with a clean garden. Voles will make themselves at home in heavy underbrush and weedy areas. Making sure that any overgrown areas in the garden are cut back not only discourages voles from taking up residence in your garden, it also makes sure that any voles that you do have are more vulnerable to predators such as snakes, owls,
hawks, coyotes and cats.
Another step in vole control is to locate and fill in or collapse any tunnels a burrows you may find. Their burrows tend to be short, even simply small pockets in the ground, but they may connect the burrows with extensive tunnel systems. The fewer places voles have to hide and breed, the fewer voles you will have in your yard.
You can also try using vole repellent, but because vole populations tend to grow quickly and because they frequently damage plants below the ground, vole repellent may not be very effective. If you wish to try using a vole repellent, predator urine is normally recommended. Ultrasonic rodent repellents may also be useful for getting rid of voles.
How to Kill Voles
The next step in getting rid of voles is to decide what method you will use when deciding how to kill voles in your yard.
If your yard is small, vole traps can be used. Vole traps are simply mouse traps that have been placed in the yard, particularly near where known burrow are or were.
Rodent poison can also be an effective way of killing voles. But, when using poison, be aware of the other animals in your yard. Rodent poison will not only kill voles, but can kill pets, beneficial animals and even make children ill if they unintentionally handle or eat the poison laid out for voles.
Making your garden a haven for predators of voles is also recommended. Attracting snakes and owls and keeping a pet cat can help reduce the vole population in your garden.