One of the most frustrating jobs that many homeowners can face is trying to get rid of voles. These mouse-like rodents can do considerable damage, especially during the winter, killing shrubs and young trees in search for food. In winter months, they’re commonly found in yards, feasting off grass that’s buried underneath the snow.

What’s more, voles tunnel through lawns, leaving  their ugly runways on turfs, as they clip grass near the roots and scar lawns. Besides lawns, they also do havoc to ground covers and golf courses. If you think you may have a vole problem, here’s how to recognize these critters and spot their damage, besides some control options for eliminating them.

Identifying Voles

Voles are known for these distinguishing features:

  • A compact, stout body with short legs and a tail
  • Small, beaty eyes with partially concealed ears
  • Grayish or brownish fur—Their underfur is usually quite thick and is covered with a coat that’s even denser.

Recognizing Their Damage

Because voles are basically nocturnal, it can be hard to actually see them during daylight hours. But you can know they’ve been in your yard, simply by observing their damage.

  • The most obvious sign of a vole infestation is discovering their tunnel and runway systems that can disrupt crop irrigation. This is because water is displaced, leading to levees becoming washed out.
  • Walking on spongy soil can be a clue of their presence.
  • Finding holes in your soil can suggest a problem.
  • Seeds or fresh grass clippings near a tunnel entrance are other warning signs.
  • Severe damage to ornamentals, orchards and tree plants, as a result from them girdling mature trees and seedlings, can be red lights.
  • Crop damage— Clover, alfalfa, sugar beets and potatoes are some of the most common field crops that can be partially or totally destroyed by voles.

Control Options

There are several ways to control voles. Voles found in backyards and in urban environments can generally be managed by these methods.

  • Changing their habitat can be effective, such as keeping grass clipped low so that it discourages voles from moving into crops that are growing.
  • Fencing can be a control method. For instance, you could bury a fence about 3 to 6 inches under the soil that bends outward, creating an L-shape. Your fence needs to run from 4 to 12 inches high above the ground. Be sure you only use fencing that doesn’t rust.
  • Trapping is another option. For traps to work more effectively, they should be set out at night. Try to cover them using plastic pots or boxes. Place your traps outside of tunnel entrances and use bait, such as apple pieces. Then, check the traps each day.
  • Repellents—Active ingredients in repellents for controlling meadow voles are thiram or capsaicin. Besides being a repellent, thiram is also used as a fungicide. Capsaicin is the hot ingredient used in chilis.

Considerations and Warnings

  • Common habitats for voles are in waterways, ditch banks and grasslands with a dense amount of moisture.
  • The most common vole species in Iowa are meadow and prairie voles.
  • Tilling soil can help to reduce damage done by voles because it can eliminate coverings and get rid of runway tunnels. Soil tillage is also a good way to directly kill voles.
  • Voles can carry Lyme disease, babesiosis, Rocky Mountain fever and other infectious diseases. Thus, be extremely careful when you handle them so that you don’t contract an transmittable disease.
  • Most of their damage from girdling occurs in fall and winter.
  • In most cases, fumigates don’t work. This is because the burrow systems created by voles are shallow, which lets fumigates escape.
  • On the other hand, fumigates may be somewhat effective when used in small, new burrow systems that involve just one or two entrances.
  • Always first consult with your state pest regularly office before buying pesticides as some states do now allow them.

Most people find that the job of controlling voles is too overwhelming, so they hire professionals. Why waste hundreds of dollars on useless contraptions that don’t work? Don’t hesitate to call the exterminating specialists at Miller and Termite Pest Control. Please contact us and see how we can help you get rid of voles or any other type of pest