You may have heard of pesky rodents like mice and moles. But have you ever seen voles before?
It’s easy to confuse voles with your run-of-the-mill mouse, but they couldn’t be more different. While one hides in your home’s walls and steals your food, the other wreaks havoc in your beloved garden, destroying trees and eating your crops.
Not exactly sure what a vole is? We’ll tell you their distinct characteristics, signs to help you distinguish if you have a vole infestation, and how to get rid of voles in your yard. Keep reading to learn more about these small but terrible garden pests.
What’s the Difference Between a Vole and a Mouse?
Pinpointing voles can be tricky. Physically, they look like field mice, thanks to their small and round exterior. It’s also easy to mistake them for moles because both of these creatures dig holes and tunnels into the ground. But trust us when we say voles can be more dreadful than these two.
Voles are technically omnivores, but they mainly stick to a purely vegetarian diet most of the time. They’ll eat plant stems, leaves, vegetables, grass, shrubs, seeds, and more.
So, when they infest your yard, they wreak havoc on your fruits, vegetables, and plants. They’ll even eat tree bark and roots! That said, voles will also occasionally eat earthworms, grubs, and other insects.
If you have young, healthy trees in your yard, watch out. Voles will break down tree bark near the ground. This process is called “girdling,” and it hinders the healthy growth of a tree because it blocks the regular flow of nutrients from the roots to the rest of the branches.
That’s the biggest difference between a vole and a mouse. While a mouse will nibble on cheese and food debris in your kitchen, voles will destruct your entire garden, from plants to vegetables to trees. They’re quite unforgiving and have a reason to destroy every part of your garden.
Signs That You Have a Vole Infestation
While it’s challenging to tell if the rodent you see is a vole or a mouse, it’s easy to tell if a vole has made a home in your garden. The signs of a vole infestation are egregious and extremely apparent. Here are just a few of them you should watch out for:
- Shallow, two-inch-wide tunnels dug throughout your yard
- Root vegetables like bulbs, garlic, and carrots with tiny bites out of them
- Chewed-up tree bark near the bottom part of young trees
- Trees that are starting to fall over because a vole has damaged its roots by making tunnels
- Small, round, brown vole droppings near the burrows and tunnels
9 Ways to Get Rid of Voles in Your Home
Getting rid of vole populations is serious business. You need to decide whether you want to go the humane route and simply deter them, or if you are okay with killing them so that they don’t ever come back again. The choice is up to you.
To help you decide how you want to approach getting rid of voles, we’ve listed all the ways you can solve your problem. Here are your nine options for keeping voles out of your home once and for all.
1. Remove excess plants and vegetation
Voles like to live in places with tall, dense grass. It allows them to hide from predators and sneakily make their way to your root vegetables growing in the garden. To make your yard less attractive to voles, mow your lawn regularly and remove any excess food sources and vegetation in the area.
2. Put up fencing around your garden
If the voles are coming from outside your home, you might want to install a fence around your garden. Make sure that the fencing is buried about 10 or so inches below the ground to make it extra secure. This also prevents voles from getting into your garden through tunneling.
3. Deter them with natural vole repellents
Use organic oils and substances to repel voles from wanting to visit your garden. You have many options for this. Here are just a few of them:
- Castor oil: Voles hate the smell and taste of castor oil. Create a mixture of one part castor oil and three parts water and pour it into a spray bottle. Spray this concoction all around your garden, focusing on areas where voles might attack.
- Spicy peppers: Aside from castor oil, voles hate hot peppers. This is mainly because of capsaicin, the compound that gives peppers that spicy flavor.
These rodents hate anything spicy, from chopped-up chili peppers to Chinese Szechuan pepper. Mix these peppers with water and spray the concoction around your garden to deter voles from entering the yard.
- Predator urine: Trick voles into thinking there are predators lurking nearby by spreading fox urine around the area. Fox urine can repel all kinds of prey, like voles, rabbits, cats, and even deer and elk! Coyote urine will work well for this, too.
4. Wrap up young trees to protect their bark
Some voles only like to visit yards specifically to gnaw at tree bark. To discourage them from coming back, wrap the lower part of your trees with a wire mesh so that the voles can’t chew on them.
Hopefully, after several failed attempts to eat your tree bark, the voles will just give up and find another yard to terrorize.
5. Line your crops with gravel
Voles hate sharp gravel because it hurts their bodies to dig holes in them. They’ll usually stay away from yards full of gravel, so it makes for an excellent physical barrier between voles and your root vegetable crops.
To surround your crops and garden vegetables with gravel, you first have to dig a trench around them. A trench that is about eight inches deep should be okay. Then, fill in the trench with coarse gravel, ideally the type with some jagged edges to really deter the voles from digging into them.
6. Set up live traps
If you want to capture voles but don’t want to kill them, trapping voles is a good idea. These live vole traps are cages that close automatically as soon as a creature enters.
To set up a live trap, place the cage in an area you know the voles will go to. Some examples are near young trees or parts of the garden that usually have tunnels. Put a treat inside the cage to lure them in. Voles love peanut butter and carrots, so they’re perfect for this.
Check on the trap from time to time to see if it has caught a vole. If it has, take the cage to wherever you want to set the vole free. You can drive to nearby meadows far from people’s houses to relocate and release them there.
See how live-trapping a vole and releasing them into the wild is like by watching this educational how-to:
7. Kill them with mouse traps
If you’re not so forgiving of the voles near your home, you might want to set up mouse traps to kill them in a snap. Set up the mouse trap in areas the voles love to go in your yard. Just like with live traps, lure them in with a treat, like apples and peanut butter.
8. Use poison baits
Another fast and extremely effective way to kill voles is by poisoning them with baits that can kill them. You can buy these vole poisons from your local garden shops and pest control stores.
Vole poison smells and looks like food, which makes these creatures ingest it without a second thought. But in just a few hours, these baits will kill them.
9. Call pest control professionals
If you feel like your vole infestation is getting out of control and none of the methods above have been working, call a pest control service right away. They’ll know how to handle a vole infestation that persists while still making sure the plants and crops in your garden are safe.
Voles are a hassle to deal with, whether you find them in gardens, lawns, or farms. They nibble on the crops you worked hard to grow and even destroy the bark on your young trees. They also terrorize the garden by creating holes and tunnels, which can be extra frustrating!
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to get rid of these ferocious rodents. Whether you want to go for something humane like live trapping and repelling them with fox urine or declare all out-war and kill them with mouse traps and poison, there’s always a way to get rid of voles in your yard.
If you feel helpless and don’t know how to control your vole infestation anymore, contact your trusted pest control service. They’ll help you find the best solution possible for your case so that you can enjoy tending to your yard vole-free again!