Voles Creating Havoc in Your Yard?
If you spend time and money caring for your yard, it can be incredibly frustrating to see tunnels dug through your beautiful grass by critters. Many people in this area deal with a vole problem year-round. Do not despair! There is hope of restoring your yard and getting rid of these rodents.
What is a Vole versus a Gopher?
Voles are often confused with gophers or moles. A vole is a rodent, small with thick dark brown fur sometimes called a field mouse. Voles are different because they eat a vegetarian diet which includes stems and blades of lawn grass. They have no interest in bug or earthworms. For this reason, you will see their tunnels dug all through the surface of a lawn, unlike a mole who digs underground.
Gophers are actually much larger than voles. They are more likely to create deep, long tunnels in your yards leaving large mounds of dirt indicating where they come up from the ground. Voles will not leave mounds at the end of their tunnels. A single gopher can dig 200 to 2,000 feet of tunnel and make a mess of a yard or garden area in a short time. They have small eyes, short brown fur and use their senses and whiskers to navigate through dark tunnels in search of food. Gophers also each root, and grasses meaning they can do a lot of damage to your plants, trees, and shrubs. However, you will know you are dealing with a gopher rather than voles if you see the mounds of dirt popping up all around your yard. Usually, gophers stay in their burrows alone, unlike voles who reproduce multiple times in one mating season.
How to Determine If You Have a Vole Problem
Shallow snake-like tunnels, about two inches wide weaving through the surface of your grass is a big indication you have a vole problem. Springtime seems to be the worst for vole populations, but they continue to tunnel through all year long if not controlled. You will not see any mounds of dirt if you have a vole population. They do not dig into the dirt, they eat their way through the grass.
Vole will eat up vegetables that grow near the ground, such as potatoes, carrots or all root vegetables. They will destroy flower bulbs, tree roots and even the bark near the base of trees and shrubs. Young, unestablished trees and shrubs are often knocked over and destroyed because voles will eat up their entire root system.
Look for bite marks around visible portions of the tree bark or vegetables. The vole bite will be approximately ¼ of an inch thick and leave side by side marks.
Vole populations cycle, which means every 3 to 5 years you will see a large increase in their population. Harsh winters or diseases can help control the population but do not eliminate them. Many homeowners neglect to get control of voles before snowfall and find their lawns have been tunneled and eaten all winter long by large groups of voles.