November – March Is Vole Hunting Season

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Most folks do not even know what voles are, but anyone who has ever experienced the devastation that voles can cause will never forget them. Voles are in the rodent family and look like mice. There are two types of voles: the pine vole, which is about three inches long and the meadow vole, which is about five inches long.

Homeowners don’t usually realize that voles are present until they begin seeing damage in their landscapes and flowerbeds. They eat bulbs and roots and even the trunks of small ornamentals. Plants will begin to wilt and will be completely loose in the ground where the vole has eaten the roots or bulbs. They can also girdle trees and are a particular nuisance to apple growers.

Pine voles do most of their damage under the ground. They live in burrows and only come out at night. They dig holes about 1 1/2 inches in diameter right beside the plants they destroy. They will however come out long enough to scurry to another burrow and sometimes their trails are visible. Pine voles are probably more of a problem in this area than meadow voles.

Meadow voles do their damage above ground and can kill trees by eating the bark all the way around the trunk at ground level. Close inspection will show teeth grooves in the wood.

Pine voles do the most damage to home plantings. They are active year round and the trick to controlling them is to set mousetraps by their holes baited with raw apple pieces. Cover the trap and hole with a bucket. The trap and hole must be covered because pine voles do not come above ground. The timing is also very important. Trapping is most successful when done between November and March when plants are dormant and food is scarce.

Meadow voles are more easily controlled by keeping all tall grass and weeds mown away from the base of trees. Be sure and keep mulch raked back from the base of ornamental trees. They can quickly kill a mature Bradford pear. Excessive mulch is a perfect vole habitat.

Tour your landscape and flowerbeds often and watch for holes and wilted plants. If you suspect that there are voles present start trapping them. These varmints are smart but you can win if you persevere.