What Are Voles? Everything You Need To Know

Common Vole (Microtus arvalis)

If you love gardening, chances are you love Mother Nature. As lovers of Mother Nature, we know that there is a place for all of her creatures. As gardeners, we hope that place is anywhere but our gardens. 

Voles, small rodents, also known as meadow mice, are small and cute. Unfortunately, they can be quite damaging to your garden and yard. 

Here at Environmental Pest Management, we employ a capture and release method to take care of household pests. Contact us today if you are having vole issues. We know how to get rid of voles that are ruining your lawn. 

Before you know if you are having vole issues, though, you might need to learn a little bit about voles. Let us take you through a few vole facts. 

vole, animal, rodent, mammal, mouse,

What are voles?

Voles are small mammals. They are part of the rodent family. While they look very similar to field mice or common house mice, there is one main difference between mice and voles.

Voles rarely, if ever venture indoors. They live their whole lives outside, much of it underground. Most of their time underground is spent burrowing and building a network of tunnels. 

The primary purpose of these tunnels is food storage. They also birth and raise their young in this tunnel network.

What do they look like?

Voles can be anywhere from 4 to 9 inches long, including its tail. They have small, round ears that are hard to see because they are usually hidden by fur. Their eyes are small and beady. 

Voles have small, stocky bodies, short legs, and a short tail. They are usually brown or grey.

vole

Where do they come from, and where do they live?

Voles can be found exclusively in the Northern Hemisphere. They inhabit parts of North America, Europe, and Asia. Of the 143 species of voles, only 23 of them can be found in the United States.

Typically, a vole lives its entire life inside of a quarter-mile radius. Depending on the species, a vole can live and thrive in a wide variety of habitats. One thing they need, though, is a dense ground cover. 

As previously stated, voles spend most of their time underground. They live in colonies, and they create complex tunnels and burrow systems. 

In these tunnels, the nest, protect themselves and each other, store and eat food, and live out their lives. These tunnels are extensive and are usually connected by runways. Additionally, voles may even take over tubes that have been evacuated by other burrowing animals.

vole

What do they eat?

As they are herbivores, A vole’s diet consists mainly of plants. Some of their favorite foods include, but are not limited to:

  • Grasses
  • Herbaceous plants
  • Roots
  • Seeds
  • Seedlings
  • Bulbs
  • Alfalfa
  • bark

If their preferred food is scarce, voles may eat insects or snails. Though they definitely prefer vegetation.

What is typical vole behaviour?

Voles do not hibernate. They are active throughout the entire year, both day and night. 

Speaking of active, voles are some of the most prolific breeders in the entire rodent family. Each year, one female vole can produce anywhere from five to ten liters of three to six young each. While they are capable of reproducing all year long, but their peak birth rates are during the spring and summer months. 

How long do they live?

In the wild, voles live for about 3 to 6 months. They have one of the shortest life spans of all rodents. Even in captivity, voles rarely live longer than one year. 

A little wild water vole eating some juicy blackberries

A Few Fun Facts:

  • Several species of voles are excellent swimmers. The European Water Vole is capable of swimming up to 50 feet underwater.
  • Voles share the same taxonomic family, Cricetidae, as hamsters.
  • A few of the North American species of voles actually live in trees. The Red Tree Vole are excellent climbers. They can be found in the forests of the Northwest United States. 
  • Some of the species of voles are monogamous. 
  • The most densely populated vole population on record is around 2,000 voles per acre. 

How do I prevent voles?

Voles like to be in your backyard. Keeping them out is best, but we also have some tips to get rid of them.

  • Keep your yard free of dense, heavy vegetative cover
  • Keep your yard mowed and bushes trimmed short
  • Bird feeders can be an attraction, be aware and try to keep them high off the ground
  • Both dense mulch and snowfall can become a home for voles, keep them clear from your yard
  • Use tree-guard mesh to protect your trees
  • Protect your flowers and plants with a fence of at least twelve inches in height
  • Some forms of repellent can be useful; the most effective are the various predator urines that can be found at gardening stores

vole

What kind of damage can they do?

A few of the common signs of the damage voles can cause are:

  • Look for irregular paths, about one to two inches wide, of trampled grass or soil
  • Holes with a diameter of 1.5 inches close to surface runways
  • Teeth marks on the bark or stems around the bottom of your trees- they will be about ⅛ in wide and ⅜ in long
  • Damage to the roots of your trees
  • Yellow and wilted plants
  • Missing bulbs from flowering plants

If you are experiencing the problems that accompany a vole infestation, contact Environmental Pest Management today. 

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