Voles

Facts, Identification and Control

Scientific Name
Microtus spp

Appearance

What do they look like?

  • Size: Voles, sometimes commonly called meadow mice, are small, ground-dwelling rodents that range from about 5-8 inches long with a body that is more robust than a mouse. 
    They have relatively short legs and tails, and their body fur is brownish and black. 

  • Head: The vole’s head is round shaped and the snout is blunt. 
  • Tail: Their tail has thin hair and is darker on the upper side than the lower side. 
  • Eyes & ears: The vole’s eyes are small and black and their ears are covered with fur. 

Length of tail
Since voles are often mistaken for mice, one of the best ways to differentiate these two rodents is by tail length. Mice have long tails that are equal to about half their body length, while voles have shorter tails that are less than half their body length

How Did I Get Voles?

Properties bordering fields, ponds, pastures, or orchards usually have the most problems with voles. Loose, sandy soil attracts these rodents, along with food sources like grasses, plant bulbs, seeds, and grains.

Vole populations grow and shrink in cycles of two to five years. Damage tends to be more noticeable and infestations more widespread when these pests have greater numbers and the area they have infested is covered by thick vegetative covering.

How Serious Are Voles?

Voles may strip the bark from young trees, eat garden plants or crops and chew nearby vegetation down to the ground. Since voles don’t eat the part of grass that allows it to grow, affected lawns will usually return to normal over time with a little extra care and efforts to remove and control these destructive creatures. Voles also create runways in yards or landscape beds and these runways mark openings that lead into their underground tunnels. Since homeowners often confuse voles and moles, it is a good idea to contact your pest management professional to ensure an accurate identification and control plan is put into place.

How Do I Get Rid of Them?

Since voles are often mistaken for moles, shrews or mice, the prevention and control program for voles begins with an inspection by your pest management professional.  After the inspection, your pest management professional will provide a plan for dealing with voles on your property. There are several methods that are important for controlling voles, so depending on the size of the vole population, the overall control plan may involve habitat modification, exclusion, trapping and using vole control products.

For more information or to schedule an inspection, please contact your local Orkin branch office.

Signs of a Vole Infestation

While the homeowner may see voles scurrying around during the day, the most obvious sign of a vole infestation is their surface runway system.   An active surface runway will have small pieces of cut vegetation and also contain vole droppings.  Tunnels without these signs indicate they no longer are in use.

Behavior, Diet and Habits

Voles are usually found in grassy or weedy habitats with heavy ground cover.  The rodents become a nuisance when they invade our landscaped lawns or gardens to feed on plants. 

When are they active?
Voles are active in both the day and night, and they will often have peak activity periods during dusk and dawn. 

Burrows
Voles construct a system of burrows that are usually located on the ground surface, but are hidden and protected by a ground-level deck, storage building or pile of debris such as rocks, firewood or lumber.  Voles also create serpentine-shaped surface tunnels that connect their burrows and feeding sites and appear to “snake” through the surface vegetation.  Several mature and immature voles may inhabit one burrow system. 

Rather than build a burrow system, some vole species will use underground tunnels that were vacated by moles or other voles. 

Predators
Voles are preyed upon by owls, hawks, cats, snakes, raccoons and foxes, in part explaining why voles survive for only about 2 – 16 months.

What do they eat?
Since voles will eat a variety of plants, they can also become pests in agricultural areas, orchards and plant nurseries.  Occasionally voles may eat snails, insects and dead animal remains.

Reproduction

Voles can breed during any time of the year, but spring and summer are the most common seasons for breeding.  A female vole will have 1-5 litters per year, each litter averaging about 3-6 babies.   Females are able to reproduce at about 1-1 ½ months old.

More Information

Difference Between Moles and Voles

Vole & Mole Repellents

Vole Traps