Biology and Habits
Voles (Microtus spp.), which are commonly known as meadow or field mice, belong to the rodent family. There are 23 vole species found in different regions of the U.S. The range for each species is limited by specific habitat conditions. The most widely distributed vole species is the meadow vole (Microtus pennsylvanicus). Voles occupy areas with heavy ground cover, grasses, grass-like plants or litter. Man-made dwellings such as orchards, cultivated fields and windbreaks are favored. The vole is a compact rodent with a stocky body, short legs, and a short tail. They are brown or gray in color, but many color variations exist. Voles are mouse-like in appearance (6" to 8" in length) with dense fur, and their tail is less than 3" long.
Voles are rarely ever seen because they live primarily in tunnels and runways under the lawn surface. They construct numerous surface or subsurface burrows and tunnels (1" to 2" wide) in a relatively small area, which contain numerous adults and young. Voles are primarily herbivores and forage on grasses, flowers, vegetables, fruits, bulbs and roots (on occasion they will eat insects and snails). During the winter months voles do not hibernate, but instead make tunnels beneath the snow, in which they gnaw on shrubs and tree bark for nutrition. The life span of an average vole is short-lived, ranging from 2 to 16 months. They breed continuously throughout the year and can have 1 to 5 litters per year, with each
litter producing 3 to 6 young.
Voles are an important part of the ecosystem. Predators such as coyotes, skunks, fox, snakes, hawks and owls, all use voles as an essential component of their diet. Range of the Meadow Vole in North America
Damage and Concerns
Accumulated vole damage is apparent when vole populations are high. Vole damage includes girdling and gnawing of trees, vegetable gardens destroyed by eating of highly nutritious roots, damage to lawns by extensive tunnel and runway systems, along with tearing up mulch in flowerbeds. There are some health concerns with voles. Voles are occasional carriers of tularemia, bubonic plague, and are hosts to numerous internal and external parasites, yet voles pose no major threat because of their infrequent contact with humans.
Control and Management
To successfully control vole populations one must use an integrated pest management (IPM) plan. Critter Control uses more than one approach to eradicate and exclude these nuisance voles from your home and lawn areas. The following are avenues in obtaining a successful IPM plan: Habitat modification is an integral aspect of effectively vole control and vole removal. Altering the vole habitat includes soil cultivation, close mowing of lawn, clearing vegetation, and reducing layers of mulch to 1-3 inches in flowerbeds. You can also plant flowers that naturally repel voles (such as daffodil and crown imperial).
Vole exclusion is another effective technique in controlling voles. Creating subterranean barriers or
gravel barriers in lawns, vegetable gardens, or flowerbeds will reduce vole runway systems and aid in the dispersal of populations. Repellents (such as Ropel and Mole-Med) can be used to prevent feeding on plants and woody structures, as well as reducing tunnels. Toxicants, fumigants, and trapping can also be used for effective vole management.
Call your local Critter Control office for all of your nuisance wildlife management needs.