Voles & Yard Damage
Voles (Microtus spp.) , also known as meadow mice, are pests of both lawns and gardens, building extensive burrows that can destroy or mar turf. These tiny, mouselike insects are busy both day and night, year-round, allowing them to do considerable damage in a brief time when humans are high. Fortunately, you can usually control them and restore your lawn and yard.
Voles are small mammals, reaching no more than 8 inches from head to tail, with course brown to dark fur, short legs, small eyes and small ears. They breed throughout the year, but the most important breeding season is spring. Females mature in 35 to 40 days and can bear up to 10 litters throughout their one-year lifespan. Populations tend to summit in a cycle, lasting three to six years.
Turf damage caused by voles is frequently conspicuous, their shut cutting of yard grasses may leave an irregular 1- to 2-inch-wide, serpentine runway throughout your yard. Voles frequently utilize established mole tunnels to feed on the roots and bulbs of garden plants and they may also feed above ground on tender seedlings emerging from the soil, in addition to plant seeds.
Good yard sanitation is vital to vole control. Remove debris and woodpiles where voles are severe and maintain lawns mowed. Excessive vegetative growth supplies voles with hiding areas and abundant resources of food, encouraging them to linger and breed. Weed-free strips, approximately 15 feet wide along boundaries or 4 feet in diameter, around trees may further discourage voles from entering your yard or damaging precious plantings.
Trapping and Baiting
Trapping and baiting are successful methods of management for problematic vole populations. Regular mouse traps baited with peanut butter, mixed with oatmeal or apple slices, will catch voles if placed in their runways. Check the traps daily to eliminate bodies and reset any which have tripped. After a while, your traps may become ineffective, even if voles are still present, but moving them as little as 15 to 20 feet may restore their usefulness. Anticoagulant baits may be used against voles, but are slow acting and pose a danger to children and pets.
Crowns and roots are typically left untouched by surface-feeding voles, leaving the most haggardly seeming grass with a fantastic chance for eventual recovery. Thorough raking to eliminate built-up vole excrement and mild fertilization using a complete fertilizer developed for grass will help accelerate the lawn’s recovery. If restoration is too slow or some areas of grass do not come back to their former health, you can overseed the region using a compatible grass seed mix.