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Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

Pest of the Month: Moles and Voles

Pest of the Month: Moles and Voles

Wild animals are part of what makes nature so magical, and watching them can be highly enjoyable. While it’s important to coexist with animals in relative peace, they can cause countless problems when they take up residence in our homes or gardens. In this series, our Wildlife Management Specialist, Shawn Weeks, will educate us about some common household pests, and share some strategies for keeping them under control without dangerous chemicals or poisons.

This month, moles and voles, Mother Nature’s pint-sized lawn wrecking crew.

Habitat and History
Moles: Moles can be found throughout North America, although primarily in the eastern and northwestern United States. There are seven species of moles, although the Star Nosed and the Eastern are the most prevalent. Moles are gray or brown mammals and are actually NOT rodents. They are their own family of mammal. They have a long, naked snout, no external ears, large forelegs shaped like paddles and their eyes are hidden beneath fur.

Moles spend almost their entire lives underground, rarely coming to the surface. They prefer moist, loose soil. Moles are extremely territorial and will not allow other adults in their territory other than for mating.

Voles: Voles are found throughout North America. There are many different species of voles, but only about half a dozen of them cause significant problems for humans. Voles are a species of rodent, and are commonly mistaken for field mice or deer mice.

All voles are mouse-sized, measuring in at six to seven inches long and weighing approximately four to five ounces. Their eyes, ears, and tails are relatively small compared to mice. Some voles cause major surface damage, while others cause damage beneath the surface. Voles can be found in a large variety of habitats, and their ranges can overlap.

Diet
Moles: The mole’s diet consists almost exclusively of earthworms and grubs. There is only one mole, which occurs in the far northwestern United States, that actually eats root crops and tubers.

Voles: Voles are herbivores, feeding primarily on grasses, flowers, fruits, vegetables, bulbs, and roots. Some voles will also gnaw and feed on the bark of trees in winter, under the protection and cover of snow.

Reproduction
Moles: Breeding for moles occurs in the late winter into early spring. There are generally four to seven young per litter, and they become active at about four weeks of age.

Voles: Like many other small rodents, voles are active breeders, with some species having four to five litters a year and two to five young per litter. In some warmer climates, they can breed year round. At around three weeks of birth, voles can begin breeding. Vole populations are cyclical, with a cycle of approximately three to six years.

Problems, Solutions and Health Concerns
Moles: Moles do not pose any health-related concerns to humans. The thing that makes moles a pest is that they can devastate a lawn with mounds. These mounds can be either high and round or in the form of “running” tunnels.

There are several ways to rid your property of moles. You can purchase traps from your local hardware store, which can be placed right in the tunnels. You will need to remove the carcasses as they are trapped.

Another easy way to rid your property of moles is to use a lawn roller. Lawn rollers are steel wheels that are generally filled with water and pulled behind your riding mower. Once filled, they are very heavy and will crush the mounds and tunnels. This is a very effective way of eliminating moles. You will, however, have to do it as a regular maintenance routine.

Some people chemically treat their lawns for grubs. This eliminates the moles’ food supply, sending them on their way. Be warned, however, that there are health concerns associated with chemically treated lawns. Chemicals can leach into a well, garden plants, and even children, pets, or livestock that come into contact with it. If it’s green and can be mowed, it’s nice. Nobody needs “perfect grass.”

Voles: All species of voles burrow, although most species are not subterranean. Some species of voles actually create runways by eating and munching vegetation in paths, almost like a trail system. They seem to stay in their nests most of the day, coming out to feed day and night at short intervals.

You can reduce the pressure from voles in a number of ways. First, you can keep your lawn mowed short. This will give the rodents less cover. You should also keep vegetation and brush away from flowerbeds, veggie gardens, and ornamental plants. Voles build their nests in these types of areas for cover.

Most damage from voles is to flowerbeds and gardens. The best way to keep your plants safe is to erect a barrier between your plants and the voles. Dig a trench around the area you want protected. The trench should be at least eighteen inches deep. This will also help deter other mammals such as woodchucks, ground squirrels, etc., too. Once the trench is complete, install 1/4” hardware cloth all the way to the bottom of the trench. Also note that the end of the hardware cloth at the bottom of the trench should be bent at a 90 degree angle, out about four inches. Now you can fill the trench back in. This helps to deter them from thinking they can dig around the hardware cloth.

Voles do not pose any infectious disease threat to humans.

Got a pest concern on your property? Email info@weeksoutdoors.com.

27 comments

1 Jaime McLeod { 04.16.14 at 9:21 am }

Becca Sue, If you can find their holes, those would be the best places.

2 BeccaSue { 04.14.14 at 10:28 pm }

Thinking I’ll try predator urine, but where do I put it? Same with the moth balls. I have a huge area in front and back where they seem to be active.

3 Buddy Hinson { 04.06.14 at 4:08 pm }

For deer problems. Put up a fence but lean it outwsrds away from garden. Deer have no deprh perception and wont try and jump it.

4 Florence C { 06.05.13 at 8:45 am }

My problem is voles. I’m seeing raised tunnels all over the place. I need a more practical solution than barriers. I have 5 acres surrounded by woods. There are lots of blackberies, deciduous and conifers in the front 2/3 of the acreage. I’m not opposed to chemicals. I just need to know what works.

5 Florence C { 06.05.13 at 8:41 am }

The suggestion of putting down a barrier is not practical for my situation. I have 5 acres with extended flower garden borders which run along the woods. The acreage in the front is mostly wild with deciduous trees and conifers and lots of blackberrys, salmon berry. The cleared area is riddled with surface tunnels. There is new tunneling in my veg garden. According to the description it appears the damage is from voles. I have found a rare carcass which has a small body and a very pointed nose. I’m not opposed to the use of chemicals. I just need to know what works.

6 Pat { 09.15.12 at 5:53 am }

I once had a problem with moles tunnelling under the lawn. Someone tole me to put mothballs down the mole hills, which did appear to work as they cleared off somewhere else.

7 Douglas Rowe { 02.26.12 at 8:38 pm }

Then I guess I don’t know what’s making tunnels AND eating my lawn in the southeast. Doesn’t seem to fit the profile of either of these critters.

8 Michael Hayes { 02.11.12 at 2:35 pm }

It seems I have quite a mole problem in my yard and I hope one of the solutions posted works to get rid of them. I’m curious to try the moth ball method and I hope it works.

9 Anna Davis { 01.09.12 at 2:11 pm }

We have moles, we have tried traps, poison worms, ammonia and digging up their tunnels. We live next to a river and they work their up the hill to our yard and undermine our brick walkway. What do farmers do to get rid of theirs. I see them working on it but don’t know what they are doing.

10 Karen Cole { 11.03.11 at 2:38 pm }

Don’t have a problem with moles……..my Jack Russel sniffs them out and digs them out of their holes and kills them……..he has killed four of them this year.

11 nicole holcomb { 10.12.11 at 9:36 am }

Hi ,D. Elkins um there is a way to get read of armadillos you can ether kill them or you can get you some dogs cause my dogs run them of or if my dogs are in the house I just shout them because they are easy to get rid of once you do this things for a while an I have to worry about coyotes out here in alabama cause I’m scared they will hurt one of my kids so that is really one resone why I don’t have armadillos in my yard ;)

12 nicole holcomb { 10.12.11 at 9:30 am }

I am having a probably with squerills because they keep getting in my attic an chowing up the wires an tearing up the instolashion what should I do ? ;(

13 Thea Davis { 08.10.11 at 2:54 pm }

We used to have moles. someone told me to put moth balls in the holes . When they would try to chew them to get out they would die. Also the ones that were out would try to chew them to get in and die. IT WORKED . No more moles.

14 Robyn { 06.12.11 at 7:47 am }

I’ve found the best solution for all my pesky critter problems, is a terrier. Last summer my American Pit Bull Terrier not only eradicated a whole colony of moles from my yard, she also took care of several birds and ground hogs who were destroying my garden.

15 elismimi { 05.27.11 at 11:29 am }

We live in upstate SC. We have a major deer problem. We plant the garden, they eat it. We have tried everthing from saving our hair when we get it cut and putting it in the garden to moth balls along the border of the garden. We even put a fence around it but that didn’t work either. Any suggestions?

16 D. Elkins { 05.25.11 at 10:41 am }

I have a problem with armadillos digging in my yard and around my shrubs. Is there any way to get rid of them?

17 gwen { 05.21.11 at 10:35 pm }

Hey Sam, I used to live in Indiana and we had sand burrs (what we called them) what we did was limed the yard and replanted new seed. Then we had to pull all the grass that had red roots to get rid of them. For the moles we use the spinning flowers or pinwheels around our yard, the moles don’t like the vibrations from them, when the wind blows.

18 Shawn { 05.19.11 at 9:55 pm }

tjwmom- go to my website or email me. I need your phone number. I might be able to help, but we need to talk.
Joni and C.- all great ideas

19 Sandra Hladky { 05.19.11 at 8:32 pm }

we have moles in our farm yard and it is so smart, we push down the mound, set the mole trap and next thing we see the mound pushed up next to the trap as a taunt. We have tried about every method and it is still there. Thanks for the suggestions, if someone comes up with another one, post it, we will try anything once.

20 Ken Money { 05.19.11 at 2:02 pm }

We had mole and Tennessee-Vole critters all over..actually under our lawn. So we decided to try the preditor urine, We ordered the Nittany Lion, & Fla Gator urine, Wow did it ever work, Mole and Vole are gone. Now how do we get rid of the Lions and Gators hanging around..O My.. ;-) Smile, Life is Grand. KTK-G

21 Sam { 05.19.11 at 1:26 pm }

We live in North Alabama and having a very serious problem with a new kind of grass this year. This grass has “sand-spurs”…they are taking over all the gorgeous lawns…does any1 have any suggestions on getting rid of these things..If we dig them up, we’ll have no lawn left!!! We Southern Gals love to go barefoot in the Summer..sure can’t do that with these sand spur stickers!! PLEASE HELP!!

22 Sam { 05.19.11 at 1:20 pm }

Moles can also be eliminated by planting “mole beans” aka castor beans..they are beautiful plants also. They can grow as tall as 8 feet and have a beautiful maroon bloom..when the bloom dies off, just keep the “beans” to replant next year!!

23 Joni { 05.19.11 at 1:11 pm }

I close one end of their tunnel with the dirt they scooped out and then pour ammonia down the other end and seal it off – got rid of the ones I had.

24 C. Silveria { 05.19.11 at 12:02 am }

We were told we had a vole in our flower beds here Northern Nevada, and we have small dogs, so I don’t like killing traps, or anything chemical. I ordered powdered predator urine for our area, mountain lion and coyote, and spread it around according to directions. It must have worked, because we’ve had no more problems or visits!

25 tjwmom { 05.18.11 at 6:13 pm }

How do you keep squirrels out of your attic? Is there anything you can put around the eaves to keep them from gnawing your wood? I have a pecan tree and I’m sure that may be part of the problem, but I don’t want to cut it down.

26 Suzi { 05.18.11 at 10:56 am }

Shawn there’s another little trick we use here in the south for these pesky critters, JuiceyFruit chewing gum. Use 1/2 stick and push down into the tunnel. No more pest, they can’t digest the gum.

27 T. Sajda { 05.16.11 at 7:36 pm }

Good article Shawn. Keep up the good work. Very informative for a novice like me. I never thought moles were such a problem until I went out to Calif. to visit my brother and saw all the holes in his yard. He had a heck of a time controlling them.

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