How To Handle Voles

Many homeowners with yards and gardens have a lot of pests to take care of. Whether it’s invasive bugs or squirrels and chipmunks, the yard can become a bit of a battleground. But while those can be inconvenient at worst, there is one species that often gets overlooked, and are a real problem in the Midwest all year-round. They’re called Voles, and they can be detrimental to your property.

According to the University of California & Natural Resources (UCIPM), their potential for damage knows no bounds. The UCIPM reports they can damage turf, landscape plantings, trees, and virtually any garden plant you can think of. The worst part about them is they are active 24/7, 365 days a year which makes knowing how to handle Voles a must for any property owner with a yard or field.

how to handle voles

What Are Voles?

Voles, also known as meadow mice, are easy to spot but easy to confuse with other similar-looking rodents like mice, pocket gophers or moles. They are compact rodents, measuring at 3 to 8 inches long with compact bodies, short legs and short tails. They have long, coarse fur that’s blackish brown or grayish brown. When they infest your property, be warned: these little guys can go through cycles of low numbers to thousands per acre, according to the UCIPM. If you have a garden or live nearby dense vegetation, like a farm, they are a threat.

The UCIPM shows they dig short, shallow burrows and make underground nests, both in the warmer parts of the year and in the winter. Their families can be huge; females can mature in 35 to 40 days, and can have 5 to 10 litters per year, with the litter size ranging from 3 to 6 young. They feast on grasses and plants, the bark and roots of trees, and take their meals “to-go” back home in their burrows.

How To Deal With Voles

The key to dealing with Voles is early detection, and removing any potential hiding places and homes they can reproduce in. The evidence of their presence, according to the experts, are fresh trails in the grass, droppings, and destroyed garden and plant areas. In order to prevent a potential Vole party, you have to take away the party’s potential venues. Remove cover in your yard; this includes weeds, heavy mulch, and dense vegetative cover. That vegetative cover provides not only food for the Voles, but protection against predators, so if you remove their shelter and food source, there’s a better chance of them not wanting to stick around. If you see their burrows or runways in grass and mulch, be sure to destroy them with a shovel or rototiller to prevent more Voles from using them.

Lawn care is also a big key to preventing their presence, with the UCIPM saying regular maintenance can keep them away. This includes: regular mowing, spraying herbicides, tilling grassy areas along ditch banks, right-of-ways, or field edges adjacent to gardens. And while you care for your lawn, building barriers around your yard is something you may want to consider. Wire fences along a weed-free barrier to your yard or can be an effective deterrent, preventing their access to a warm and cozy burrow. Also covering your plants and young trees with a protective barrier such as cloth, sheet metal, or heavy plastic. For smaller plants, this could be as simple as a plastic bottle or a milk carton.

how to deal with voles
what is a vole

Handle With Care

In terms of getting rid of them, you may want to think twice about using commercial repellants. Experts say their effectiveness and practicality is questionable, and you don’t want to risk poisoning your food crops. Instead, as an alternative, traps for Voles on your property can be quite effective. The UCIPM says a dozen of them around a small garden can work, but only for a small population. For a larger area, as much as 50 could be needed, growing exponentially if their populations grow unchecked. Traps need to be placed around their routes wherever you notice evidence of them, as well as near their burrows. And if you are using traps, it’s crucial to check them regularly. Dead Voles need to be buried or placed in plastic bags and then into the trash; as the UCIPM reports, Voles can carry infectious pathogens and viruses. Be sure you take extra precautions when handling them because of this risk by using gloves at the very least.

Toxic baits can also work well. Experts say anticoagulants are the most effective, and safest to use around your property. Just be sure to read the label of the toxic bait carefully; you can’t use those that contain brodifacoum and bromadiolone because of the risks they pose to predators and pets. The baits’ labels will indicate if they are suitable for use on Voles or meadow mice.

Voles are nasty pests than can do some real damage to your yard and garden around the home. The silver lining is that they are outdoor creatures and won’t make their way into your home. The key to stopping them is knowing what the signs are of their presence and eliminating them as soon as possible, with routine pest control, as well as regular garden and lawn care. While they can grow and spread quickly, they are not impossible to stop if you get the jump on them! At MasterGuard, we offer a variety of pest control methods to deal with Voles in particular but if you’re not sure you have them, just give us a call for a free inspection. If we find nothing, you pay nothing and you’ll have peace of mind all the same!

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Office Location: Delafield, Wisconsin

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Sources:

“Voles (Meadow Vole, Meadow Mice)” University of California & Natural Resources, http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/r107600811.html