Vole Facts & Identification
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN VOLES & MOLES
Homeowners often confuse voles and moles; however, these mammals are quite different in their behavior, diet and appearance - differences that will immensely help to identify and control voles. So, let’s dig into some important differences.
Voles look like field mice with short tails, compact heavy bodies, small eyes, and partially hidden ears. Voles are 5-8 inches long and have prominent orange teeth for gnawing plant roots and stems. Voles are sometimes referred to as meadow mice.
Moles are 4-7 inches in length with paddle-shaped feet and prominent digging claws. Moles have an elongated head and snout, small eyes, and no external ears. The short black-to-brownish-gray fur has no grain, which allows the mole to move easily forward and backwards in the tunnels.
Voles construct circular tunnels and burrow entrances about 1 to 1 1/2 inch in size. Voles often dig tunnels around the perimeter of buildings, driveways and other structures. Above-ground voles dig tunnels by chewing through grass, and the damage is highly visible. Voles also eat plant roots, so dying shrubs and other plants indicate their presence. The soil where voles tunnel feels spongy when stepped on. Voles look like mice with long snouts. They are timid and rarely seen.
Moles are voracious tunnel diggers that dig characteristic volcano-shaped hills in the lawn. Moles are unique creatures that spend their lives underground, constantly digging to hunt, feed and navigate under the earth's surface.
Voles are vegetarian plant feeders that eat plant roots and stems.
Moles primarily eat insects, grubs and earthworms.
HOW TO CONTROL VOLES
To prevent vole damage, one needs to manage the population in your area before it reaches high numbers. Homeowners often can achieve this by removing or reducing the vegetative cover. Removing cover also makes detecting voles and other rodents easier. Once vole numbers begin to increase rapidly, the damage they do to ornamentals, garden plants and trees can be very severe. Therefore, it may be wise to contact professional assistance when dealing with problems caused by voles.
- HABITAT MODIFICATION: Make the habitat less suitable to voles by removing weeds, heavy mulch, or dense vegetation. In order to protect an area from a vole infestation, a wire fence with a mesh of ¼ inch or smaller will help exclude them. Hardware cloth or heavy-duty plastic cylinders around trees will protect the tree from girdling by voles.
- TRAPS: Snap traps baited with apples or peanut butter and oatmeal are an excellent way to catch voles. Set the traps along runways or near the exit holes. Place a box or bucket over the trap to protect children or pets and give the target vole a sense of security.
- BAITS: Since baits are toxic, follow product use directions carefully or consider bait applications a job for your pest management professional.
- REPELLENTS: Repellents are relatively expensive to use and usually provide only short-term protection. Precipitation often washes off the repellent and re-application through the year often is necessary.
The size and shape of voles will vary depending on which of the 100+ species you are dealing with, as well the habitat in which they may be found. There are prairie voles, meadow voles, water voles, mountain voles, tundra voles and types of voles specific only to certain states.
In the wild, a vole’s life expectancy is typically less than half a year. Able to begin reproducing at about three to four weeks old, female voles may birth a litter every month, their 21-day pregnancy resulting in 3 to 6 babies per generation. The young have it rough though, as only 10% of vole babies typically survive past their first week.
Voles do not hibernate but remain active throughout the year.
Voles tend to live in colonies that consist of a pair of animals but more than likely will include several generations.