You work hard and take pride in maintaining a beautiful lawn, flowers, shrubs and trees, so it's annoying when your plants start dying and unsightly bulges appear in your grass. You could have a mole, but it's possible that you also have a vole causing damage. Determine the culprit by following certain clues.
Ridges on the surface of your lawn or in your gardens are an indication that you have a mole. Another sign that a mole is around are volcano-shaped mounds discovered at the end of a tunnel. The pile of dirt contains coarse and clumped soil cleaned out from tunneling deeper into the ground. Moles tunnel further into the ground to create nesting spots and to get away from extreme cold or hot weather.
Voles aren't as industrious as moles. They use the abandoned tunnels left by the moles to gain access to plant roots and stems. Evidence of vole activity is a narrow worn pathway through the grass to flower beds or tree saplings. Another indication of voles is exit holes with an opening of about 1.5 inches in diameter.
Not So Bad Moles
Moles make tunnels to hunt down food. Once a mole digs a tunnel he rarely reuses it,and that's why you are left with a multitude of ridges throughout your yard. The small animals unintentionally damage your grass and plants by undermining the root systems. However, the harmless mole does control insect populations and aerates the ground.
Voles are destructive because they kill plants, shrubs and young trees. They gnaw on bark and woody plant stems at the soil level. Voles can do the most damage in the winter when they travel underground and are capable of severing the roots from plants. An accumulation of snow on the ground can assist the vole in reaching bark that is higher on a tree.
Moles are shy animals that live in underground burrows. They have long tapered snouts, no external ears and tiny almost nonexistent eyes. Their large paddlelike front feet have sharp claws that allow them to dig 15 feet in one hour. Moles range in color from gray to black and measure 5 to 8 inches long. A mole diet consists of insects such as earthworms, white grubs, ants, beetles, spiders and snail larvae. Moles exert a lot of energy by digging so they eat 70 to 80 percent of their body weight every day.
Voles are rodents that resemble a large mouse. They have elongated snouts, small ears and short tails. A vole is covered in gray or brown fur. Voles are found all over the United States and the most common is the meadow vole, which is 4 to 6 inches in length. These creatures remain active day or night and don't hibernate in the winter. Voles live in shallow burrows in grassy or weedy areas. Voles like to nibble on flower bulbs, tree and shrub bark, plant roots, nuts and fallen fruit.
- NC State University Cooperative Extension: Moles vs. Voles
- University of Missouri Extension: Controlling Nuisance Moles
- Trib Live: Moles and Voles: Garden Pest or Garden Friends
- The Journal: Moles, voles and shrews can be common in neighborhood lawn
- University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources: Citrus Voles (Meadow Mice)
- Photo Credit lawn and border bed image by TMLP from Fotolia.com
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