Vole Facts – What is a vole, and how does it look like?

How To Get Rid Of Voles In Your Yard And Garden [2023]

A vole is a tiny creature belonging to the Microtus genus and is classified as a rodent. They are found across different regions of the globe, including North America, Asia, and Europe. These animals possess a compact body with short legs, a small tail, and a coat of fur typically colored gray or brown. They have relatively small eyes and ears. Voles mainly live on plant-based diets comprising roots, seeds, and grasses, serving as a significant food source for predators like owls, hawks, and foxes. These animals are occasionally considered pests due to the damage they cause to gardens and crops.

Image by Hans from Pixabay

Different vole species

There are various species of voles, each with its unique scientific name. Here are some examples:

  1. Meadow vole (Microtus pennsylvanicus): One of North America’s most widespread vole species, found across the continent. It has a round-eared, blunt-snouted appearance, with a brown or gray coat.
  2. Bank vole (Myodes glareolus): A small vole species discovered in Europe and Asia, with a reddish-brown coat and pointed snout.
  3. Southern red-backed vole (Myodes gapperi): This species can be found mainly in North America’s eastern and central regions. It has a dark reddish-brown coat with a lighter-colored belly and tail.
  4. Montane vole (Microtus montanus): Montane voles are a vole species found in the mountainous areas of North America, particularly in the Rocky Mountains. They have a brownish-gray coat with a short, hairy tail.
  5. Taiga vole (Microtus xanthognathus): This vole species can be found in the forests of boreal areas in North America, Europe, and Asia. It has a reddish-brown coat and a short tail.

These examples illustrate several different types of voles, each with unique characteristics and habitats. There are many other vole species found across the globe.

Description of Damage

Can Voles Damage My Lawn and Yard?

Voles are known to inflict damage on gardens and crops. Their plant roots and stems consumption can stunt growth, reduce yield and even cause plants to die. Furthermore, they can consume bulbs, tubers, and seeds, preventing plant germination and growth. Their burrowing habits can also cause soil disruption, erosion, and unsightly holes in lawns and other landscaped areas. These vole burrows can attract additional predators, such as snakes and rodents, which can be problematic for homeowners.

Image by Rolf Tischer from Pixabay

How Do I Know If I Have Voles in My Yard?

If you suspect voles have taken up residence in your yard, there are several signs to look for:

  1. It is common to see small openings in soil caused by voles digging shallow burrows below the surface.
  2. Look for two-inch-wide pathways in your lawn or garden created by the voles’ movement through the vegetation. You may also see damage to your plants, such as gnawed stems or missing leaves, fruits, or flowers. Voles may also leave piles of cut grass or other vegetation on your lawn.
  3. The presence of voles’ predators, such as snakes, owls, or hawks, may indicate the presence of voles.

Damage Control

If you believe you have voles in your yard, taking action immediately is essential to avoid further damage. You may hire a pest control professional or implement vole control measures yourself, such as trapping or fencing.

Vole Reproduction and Lifespan

Voles have a relatively short lifespan in the wild, usually lasting about 3 to 6 months. However, some species may live for up to 2 years in captivity. Voles are known for their fast reproduction rate, with female voles reaching sexual maturity at around four weeks old.

Female voles can produce multiple litters each year, with each litter typically containing 3 to 6 offspring. They do not have a specific breeding season. They can reproduce throughout the year, leading to high population densities in areas with suitable food and habitat resources.

Voles can breed throughout their lifespan, contributing to their rapid population growth. However, environmental conditions and predation can affect their reproductive success and survival rates.

Image by Eveline de Bruin from Pixabay

Vole Habitat and Population

Voles can thrive in various habitats, including meadows, grasslands, woodlands, marshes, and agricultural fields. They prefer areas with plenty of vegetation cover and well-drained soil, which provide good conditions for burrowing, foraging, and nesting.

The size and density of vole populations are heavily influenced by environmental factors, such as food availability, predators, and weather conditions. Voles can rapidly reproduce and establish large populations in areas with favorable conditions. Conversely, areas with limited food sources or high levels of predation may result in lower population densities.

Voles are an essential component of the ecosystem, as they are common prey for predators such as hawks, owls, snakes, and foxes. Additionally, their burrowing activity can help to improve soil health and nutrient cycling by aerating the soil and enhancing water infiltration.

However, in certain circumstances, high vole populations can pose a nuisance, particularly in agricultural settings where they can cause crop damage. In such cases, controlling measures, such as fencing or trapping, may be necessary to manage vole populations and minimize harm.

Photo by Stuart Bartlett via Unsplash

How to Remove Voles

Voles can cause significant harm to gardens, lawns, and crops. Their burrowing habits can damage plant roots, disrupt soil, and even cause the demise of plants in your garden. Although voles play a vital role in the ecosystem, it may be necessary to control their population to protect your property. There are several humane methods to banish voles:

  1. Live Trapping Live trapping is an effective and humane method of eliminating voles. Place the traps where voles are active and bait them with peanut butter and rolled oats. Once captured, the voles can be released into a more suitable environment.
  2. Natural RepellentsNatural repellents can help deter voles from your property. Planting certain herbs, like mint or lavender, around the perimeter of your garden can be effective. You can also apply castor oil to the soil, which creates an unpleasant environment for voles.
  3. Protect Young TreesVoles tend to chew on the bark of young trees, causing damage or death. Protect all young trees in your garden by wrapping their trunks with wire mesh or plastic sleeves.
  4. Other trapsTraps, like snap traps, can also be effective, but they are less humane than live traps. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using traps to avoid harming other animals or pets.
  5. Contact a Pest Control ProfessionalIf the vole infestation persists, contacting a pest control professional may be necessary. They can assess the situation and provide practical and humane solutions to control the vole population.

How do Rodent Control Professionals Get Rid of Voles?

Rodent control professionals use various methods to eliminate voles, depending on the severity of the infestation. They may use live traps, snap traps, or other traps to capture voles. Additionally, they might suggest the usage of rodenticides only in areas where non-target animals are unaffected. Please not that we do not recommend the usage of rodenticides, though! So you should reconsider this approach yourself. They are harmful not only to the voles targeted but also to other wildlife in your garden. They are also unsafe to use around children and pets!

To prevent vole infestations, professionals may recommend removing clutter and debris from your property, keeping your lawn and garden well-maintained, and sealing any entry points to your home or shed.

Vole Control

In conclusion, voles can be a nuisance, but they are a crucial component of the ecosystem. If you need to control their population, consider several humane methods. Using the proper techniques, you can effectively and humanely control voles while maintaining the balance of the ecosystem.

How do you fix a vole-damaged lawn?

Fixing a vole-damaged lawn involves a few key steps:

  1. Identify the Damaged Areas.The first step is to find all areas where voles have caused damage. Look for small holes in the soil and pathways where voles have been moving through the grass.
  2. Level the soil. Use a rake to level the ground in the affected areas, removing any bumps or mounds created by vole burrows.
  3. Reseed or Re-sod.Reseed the damaged areas with new grass seed or lay down new sod to fill in the affected areas. Make sure to choose grass species well-suited for your climate and soil type.
  4. Water and Fertilize. Water the newly seeded or sodded areas regularly to encourage grass growth. Apply fertilizer as necessary to promote healthy growth.
  5. Prevent Future Damage. Use vole control measures such as trapping, fencing, or natural repellents to prevent future damage. You can also keep your lawn healthy by regularly mowing, fertilizing, and watering it. A healthy lawn is less likely to attract voles.

It’s important to note that vole damage can sometimes be mistaken for damage caused by other factors like disease or insect infestations. If you’re unsure of the cause of the damage or if the damage is severe, it’s best to consult further steps with a professional.

Photo by Heather Wilde via Unsplash

FAQS about Vole Rodents

Are voles dangerous?

Voles are not considered dangerous to humans. They are small rodents that feed mainly on plants, seeds, and roots. Although they can cause damage to lawns, gardens, and crops, they do not directly threaten human health.

However, voles can indirectly contribute to health risks by carrying disease-carrying ticks, like the black-legged tick that carries Lyme disease. These ticks can feed on voles and then bite humans, transmitting the disease.

Furthermore, voles can be a risk to pets, as they create burrows and tunnels in lawns that can cause injury or broken bones to pets if stepped into.

Overall, voles are not dangerous to humans. Still, they can contribute to health risks and should be managed to prevent property damage and minimize the risk of disease transmission.

What are the differences between moles and voles?

Moles and voles are both small mammals that live underground and can damage lawns and gardens, but they differ in several ways.

Appearance: Moles have dark, velvety fur, small eyes, and pointed snouts. Their front paws are broad, shovel-like, and adapted for digging. They have no external ears, and their tails are short and hairless.

Voles have brown or gray fur, rounded ears, and a blunt snout. They have smaller front paws than moles, and their tails are longer and furry.

Diet: Moles primarily eat insects, grubs, and earthworms. They have high metabolic rates and require a significant amount of food each day.

Voles, in contrast, are herbivores and mainly feed on plants, seeds, and roots. They occasionally eat insects and snails but consume less protein than moles.

Burrowing and Behavior: Moles are solitary animals creating deep tunnels underground to search for food. They can cause damage to the roots of plants and trees.

Voles, on the other hand, create shallow surface tunnels and runways just under the soil. They are social animals and often live in colonies, and their burrowing can cause damage to the root systems of plants and grass.

Moles and voles have distinct appearances, diets, and burrowing behaviors. It’s essential to correctly identify the animal causing damage in your yard to select the most effective control measures.

Please also check out our blog post to learn more about the difference between voles and moles.

What does a vole eat?

Voles are herbivorous animals that primarily feed on plants, roots, and seeds. Their diet can vary depending on the time of year and food availability. During the summer, they may consume herbaceous plants such as grasses and clovers, while in the fall, they may eat seeds and nuts. When other food sources are hard to come by in winter, voles may feed on the bark and roots of trees and shrubs. They may also occasionally eat insects and snails, although these are not a significant part of their diet. Overall, voles are well-suited to feed on various plant materials and play an essential role in many ecosystems as herbivores.

How do you know if you have voles?

To determine if you have voles in your yard, look out for the following signs:

  1. Tunnels and Runways: Voles create shallow surface tunnels and winding runways beneath the soil, which are noticeable by narrow paths in grass or vegetation.
  2. Chewed Plants: Voles may feed on the roots, bark, or leaves of plants, which can lead to damage or even death of young trees and shrubs.
  3. Holes: Voles create small, dime-sized holes in the soil as they burrow underground, which can be seen near runways or areas of chewed vegetation.
  4. Droppings: Vole droppings are small, pellet-shaped, and can be found near their burrows or along their runways.
  5. Paw Prints: Vole paw prints may be visible in soft soil or snow, as their front feet have four toes, and their hind paws have five toes.

You likely have voles in your yard if you notice any of these signs. It’s important to immediately take action to control their population to prevent further damage to your property.

Is a vole a mouse or a rat?

Voles are not mice or rats, although they are often confused with these animals due to their similar size and appearance. Voles belong to the Cricetidae family of small rodents, which also includes lemmings and hamsters. While voles share some physical characteristics with mice and rats, such as their small size, they have several distinctive features. Voles have rounded ears, short tails, and blunt snouts. Unlike rats, voles do not have long, pointed tails, and they have smaller front paws than mice. Voles also have different dietary habits and burrowing behaviors than mice and rats.

field mouse vs vole
Field mouse image by Kerstin Kaufmann from Pixabay

How are the looks of a field mouse and meadow mouse different from voles?

Field mice, meadow mice, and voles are all small rodents, but they have distinct physical differences. Here are a few examples:

  1. Ears: Field mice and meadow mice have noticeably more prominent ears than voles, which have smaller, rounded ears.
  2. Tail: Field and meadow mice have longer tails than voles, which have short tails.
  3. Snout: Field mice and meadow mice have pointed snouts, whereas voles have more rounded, blunt snouts.
  4. Body shape: Field mice and meadow mice have a slender body shape with longer legs, while voles have a more compact body with shorter legs.
  5. Fur: Field mice and meadow mice have a smoother coat of fur than voles, which have a more shaggy and coarse coat.

Although field mice, meadow mice, and voles may appear similar at first, noticeable physical differences distinguish them from one another.

meadow mouse
Meadow mouse image by SimoneVomFeld from Pixabay

Can a vole get in your house?

It’s improbable for voles to get inside a house since they’re outdoor creatures that live in fields, gardens, and meadows. Voles create shallow surface tunnels and prefer to stay near their food sources, which are typically plants and vegetation. However, voles can enter a house through gaps or holes in the foundation or walls, although this is not common. Other rodents are more likely to enter a home, such as mice and rats. To prevent rodents from entering, it’s crucial to seal up any gaps or holes in your house’s foundation or walls.

What are voles good for?

Voles play a crucial role in various ecosystems as herbivores, seed dispersers, and prey for other animals. Despite the harm they may cause to lawns, gardens, and crops, they offer numerous benefits to the environment.

As herbivores, voles regulate plant communities by consuming diverse plant materials. This prevents the overgrowth of specific plant species and promotes the growth of others.

In addition, voles disperse seeds through their feeding and burrowing activities. The result is increased biodiversity in ecosystems and the spread of plant species.

Furthermore, voles are a significant food source for predators such as owls, hawks, foxes, and snakes: They provide energy and nutrients to higher-level consumers in the food web.

In some ecosystems, voles are critical indicators of environmental health. Changes in vole populations can signal changes in an ecosystem’s general condition, including modifications to plant communities, predator-prey relationships, and habitat quality.

Overall, voles may harm your property, but they provide various benefits to their surrounding ecosystems as herbivores, seed dispersers, and prey for predators.