Voles are small rodents that live in the wild. They can be destructive to your garden or yard if you allow them to stay there. This article will help you identify voles, why they're attracted to your space, and how to get rid of them for good. Let's get started.
How to identify voles
Voles are small rodents that measure about 5 – 7 inches in length.
They can be identified by their small bodies and short tails, which make them look like rats. They also have rounded ears and small eyes for such a large rodent.
Their fur is typically brown or light grey with reddish-brown underbellies. They may sometimes have black or white flecks on their coats as well depending on the species and where they live and what they eat. Voles can be found everywhere from Alaska to central Mexico. They prefer moist environments so you'll find them near rivers, creeks, ponds, marshes, bogs, and other water sources because this is where they find their food (plants) and shelter (underground burrows).
So how do you know if you have voles in your yard or garden? If you think about it, voles are typically not found in yards; they usually live in undeveloped areas near water or moist soil to get their food (plants) and shelter (underground tunnels). This means that if you find them in your yard, there is probably something attracting them to that area.
Some common “attractions” for voles
Voles are attracted by a healthy lawn with well-watered and fertilized grass. Voles love grass so they eat it and make tunnels underneath to create homes for themselves. If your lawn is well maintained and you water and fertilize frequently, this can be a big draw for voles.
Compost piles (whether they're decorative or functional)
Voles eat plant materials (not meat) so compost piles are ideal for them as those piles contain old plants that have begun to break down.
Plants with edible root systems such as strawberries, tomatoes, carrots, and other root vegetables like these
Some people also report having problems with voles in their gardens where they grow fruit trees and berry bushes; these plants may produce fruits or berries that voles like too.
If you think about it, all of the attractions listed above include some form of vegetation, so naturally, voles would gravitate towards these areas. There could be other things around your yard attracting them as well – it only depends on what you have.
Consequences of having voles around
The most obvious consequence of having voles in your yard is the damage they can cause to the plants and soil. Voles like to eat succulent plant roots (and sometimes even munch on the leaves). Their burrowing under the ground can break apart irrigation systems or kill tree roots. Their tunnels may also leave divots in lawns that are unattractive and hard for grass to grow in. They often “vacuum” up all of the mulch off of flower beds (which would otherwise be healthy for plants to grow in).
Since voles are so small, they can squeeze through tiny holes and cracks. This means that if you have a fence around your yard, they could find their way under or over it easily. They don't need much space – just enough room for them to fit through without getting stuck. This is especially concerning for people who do not want rodents on their property because once the voles get underneath something like a fence, it's very difficult to remove them.
In a way, the same information you use to get rid of voles can be used to keep mice out of your house – since mice also can find their way into your house through holes and cracks in the foundation, your best bet for maintaining a pest-free space is to seal up any openings you see. If you think about it, having voles in your yard means that they could potentially get into your house through small cracks or holes in foundations or walls.
So how can you stop voles from coming into your yard/garden?
The first thing you should do after reading this is to go on a “vole patrol” near the area where you noticed them; walk around and see what types of attractions they like (if any). Some people don't notice their yards having damage until they see signs of voles. You can use this knowledge to selectively apply repellents in certain areas of the yard, so they won't be in your garden or near plants. Then you can go on a “clearance” patrol in areas where there are signs of voles but they aren't currently in your garden or lawn.
What really works when it comes to getting rid of voles
Aside from trapping and killing voles, prevention is really the best solution. That means keeping your yard maintained properly – do not water more than is necessary, let the grass grow long enough that it can be cut (otherwise you're just giving them more places to hide), fertilize only when necessary (not every month.), keep compost piles away from attractions like plants, etc. If possible, remove anything that voles may like from your yard (to the extent that this is possible).
Lastly, you can try to use repellents. Although these are not as strong of a solution as the ones listed above, they can help reduce their numbers or make them move elsewhere.
A couple of examples:
Apple cider vinegar – this has a strong smell that voles do not like. You could mix it with water and spray it on plants that have signs of vole damage – just be careful because if you leave the mixture on for too long it will burn plant leaves.
Mothballs – yes, those things we always keep in our closets to repel moths actually work against other rodents as well. To use them as a repellent, scatter them around the yard – away from plants.
What kind of damage do voles cause?
Voles eat away at grass or garden roots so walking through the affected areas may reveal some missing chunks of grass or other plant roots. Walking through your yard may also allow you to see any tunnels that voles have dug, which are usually big enough for a mouse to fit in. If you notice any of these signs, chances are you've got voles.
Voles can cause a lot of destruction in a short amount of time and they're difficult to get rid of – but if the right steps are taken (like sealing up all holes in your foundation or fencing), it's possible to make sure they stay out.
Equipment – what do I need?
Get yourself some protective gear while trying to get rid of voles. Voles are small and might run away from you, but they can also be pretty fast and it never hurts to protect yourself – who knows if they might decide to bite? A good idea is to wear thick gloves and an old long-sleeve shirt. Another reason why this is a good idea is that voles have musk glands that produce a strong-smelling fluid – this can get on your skin or other areas of exposed skin so you should take proper precautions before touching anything.
You probably won't need much more than that, but if you'd like you can use things like shovels, brooms to help yourself out.
Traps… where do I find one?
There are many traps made for catching voles, but it's best to avoid using poison as that will leave a lot of dead bodies and the smell may attract other animals.
Some traps you can find online:
- Snap trap – this is what we're most familiar with because we see them on TV all the time. Just be careful not to catch another animal in your home/garden by mistake – some people use these as preventative measures more than for actually catching voles.
- Harpoon or spear-type trap – this one stabs the vole when they go over it so you don't have to touch it. It can be quite effective if done right.
- Box trap – this is a simple one that only catches voles inside. There are also larger traps that can catch many voles at once, but they're bigger and you'll have to purchase them online.
- Glue traps – these are not my favorite because they tend to catch other animals (birds, lizards, etc.) but if you don't mind them this is another option. These can also be used when it comes to getting rid of roaches in your apartment.
Many people use old mouse traps and boards with peanut butter to catch voles – this is a good idea because these are much easier to find. The only thing you have to be careful about is that if you leave them out overnight, other animals may get caught as well.
Be sure to check your traps daily and dispose of the bodies. If not, they'll start smelling pretty bad.
Final thoughts on How to get rid of voles
In conclusion, if you have a problem with voles, I hope the advice in this article was enough to help you solve it. Voles can be a real nuisance but if you use good practices and make good decisions in every aspect of vole control, you will quickly get rid of them from your yard or garden for good.