Voles, also known as field mice or meadow mice, can be a big problem for just about everything green in your yard. They can destroy your lawn, trees, gardens and more around your home.
These furry pests are part of the rodent family, although they are not actually mice. They are usually dark brown or grey in color and have a short tail and blunt face. They are usually about three to six inches long from nose to tail, and have small ears and eyes.
Their presence is most often given away by surface tunnels, or “runways”, through grass. These runways will look like a trail of dead grass from one to two inches wide, or may even be a trail of bare soil. They are a result of the voles eating the grass and travelling back and forth over the same path.
Luckily, there are several effective methods that can be used to repel, trap or kill voles and get these pests out of your yard and home.
Make your Yard Uninviting
Voles, like most creatures, have a fairly particular idea of what constitutes a good habitat. If food is not easily available, or living conditions become uncomfortable, they will move on to find a better place to live. Making sure that your property is not a friendly habitat can have a big effect if you’ve noticed vole activity.
- Voles prefer underbrush, long grass and debris they can use for cover. Keep grass cut short and make sure to eliminate weeds, debris from trees and anything that could provide shelter, such as wood piles.
- Keep mulch away from the base of trees and shrubs. When using mulch in these areas, keep it two to three feet from the base of any trees.
- Voles will eat tree needles, nuts and fruits. They especially like apples. Clean fallen fruit around trees and be sure to rake up needles and nuts. It’s also a good idea to prune any branches that hang low enough to touch the ground.
- Cultivate soil in gardens. Doing so will destroy runways and tunnels and may even kill the voles.
- Mixing sharp materials like Soil Perfector or Permatill into soil will make it difficult for the rodents to tunnel.
- Using barriers around trees can help to protect them as well as remove a food source for the voles. Wrap quarter inch wire mesh around the base of trees. It should extend at least 18 inches high and should penetrate about one foot under ground if possible.
Most traps commonly used for mice and rats will also work with voles. In fact, the common mouse trap is probably the most effective tool for catching and killing voles. Of course, you’ll want to be careful using these traps in your yard if you have children or animals.
To set mouse traps, you’ll want to lay the traps perpendicular to any runways that you’ve spotted with the trigger end extending into the path. A good bait to attract them into the trap is a mixture of peanut butter and oatmeal.
It is very important that if you are using lethal traps, they be checked and cleaned or disposed of daily. Leaving the dead field mouse bodies for too long can attract other animals or insects that could bring you an entirely new problem.
While poisons can be effective, you should carefully consider all options before resorting to using them. It is not advisable to use poisons if you regularly have children or pets in your yard. Poisons can also have unintentional effects on other wildlife in the area. Poisons that are not removed and disposed of properly may get washed into water supplies or gardens.
If you decide on using poisons to try to remove voles from your property, they tend to be most effective in fall and winter months when food supplies are smaller and the animals are less picky about what they will eat.
The most effective poison baits contain warfarin, which is an anticoagulant. Some brand names are Rodex, D-Con and Kaput Mouse Blocks. You’ll be able to find these or something similar in most hardware or home improvement stores. Always read usage instructions carefully and follow them for both maximum effectiveness and safety.
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