How to Stop Voles

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If possible, tolerate and protect the many predators of voles.
If possible, tolerate and protect the many predators of voles. (Image: coyote image by Sue McMurtrie from Fotolia.com)

Voles are also known as field mice. They have small ears and short tails are are brown or gray in color. They are common in yards, fields and gardens and their presence often goes unnoticed until the late winter and early spring when snow begins to melt and their winter damage is revealed. Voles girdle trees and shrubs by chewing on the bark. They may also sever roots of plants and eat bulbs and tubers. Voles sometimes use mole tunnels to access their food. Be sure you are dealing with voles before attempting control methods.

Things You'll Need

  • Vole traps
  • Peanut butter
  • ¼-inch hardware mesh
  • Castor oil or capsaicin

Keep a tidy yard. This involves cutting the grass very short for the last fall mow, removing any pruning or other debris and keeping bushes trimmed so they don’t trail on the ground. Keep the area underneath bird feeders free of seed and other food. Anything you can remove from your yard that may be providing cover for voles should be removed.

Encircle trees with a light-colored, ¼-inch hardware mesh guard. The mesh guard should extend 6 inches below the soil line and 18 to 24 inches above the soil line. It should be loose to allow the tree to continue its growth. This has the added benefit of protecting the trees from hungry rabbits that sit atop the snow and nibble at tree bark.

Provide a 3-foot swath of bare soil around the base of young trees. Voles will not venture into uncovered areas.

Plant grasses that naturally grow short and that do not mat or lodge wherever possible, as Colorado State University recommends. In Colorado, these grasses are blue gama, buffalo grass and dwarf fescues. Contact your local county extension office for grass recommendations.

Tolerate and protect vole predators. Predators include owls, badgers, coyotes, foxes, bobcats, short-tailed shrews and some snakes.

Apply castor oil or capsaicin (the heat in hot sauce) to the base of trees, ornamentals, shrubs and fruit bushes and vines. Apply these repellents before the trees set seed.

Set traps baited with peanut butter down into vole holes, just below the hole so you can monitor them. Cover the holes with flowerpots.

Tips & Warnings

  • Mesh guards can also be set up around vegetable gardens.

References

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