, Newburyport, MA


February 8, 2012

Tim's Tips: Keep voles out of the garden

A few weeks ago, I received a question from Cindy who had a major problem with voles in her garden last year. The voles did significant damage to her perennials, and she asked what she could do to control these pests.

Many people will lump moles and voles into one group. They are different. If you look at a vole, it resembles a mouse more than a mole. A common name for voles is meadow mouse. Voles are dark colored with a blunt nose and a short tail. They usually have a thick body. They also will spend time above ground foraging, as opposed to moles, which usually spend the majority of their lives digging tunnels underground.

Voles will live in plant debris along the edge of the garden or woods. They do sometimes live in underground nests. The hole that goes into the nest is about an inch to 2 inches wide.

Much of the damage is caused by voles eating plant bark or plant stems during the winter months. If you remember last winter, we had a lot of snow. The ground under the snow was not frozen. This layer of snow allowed mice, moles and voles to travel under the snow and feed all winter. When any garden pest has access to lots of food, they tend to reproduce in record numbers.

The feeding last winter was probably the start of Cindy's problem with the voles in her garden. The voles were a problem in our garden, too. We had one vole that was constantly running along the edge of the porch. It would feed and then run back to its hole. This went on for many weeks. At first we thought it was a mouse. Yet, a closer look allowed us to see that it was a vole.

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