If you value your property and curb appeal, staying on top of a vole infestation is key. Voles are nuisance pests found in many parts of the world, including North America. One thing they do very well is find yummy goodies such as plant roots, bulbs, and tree trunks to eat, which they may well find in your yard.
To help, we’ve rounded up some helpful elimination methods for you to try. Keep reading to find out how to get rid of voles in your yard and keep them from returning.
- What are voles?
- How to get rid of voles in your yard
- Elimination safety precautions
- Vole elimination methods you should avoid
- Differences between voles and moles
- Signs you have voles in your yard
- How to prevent voles in your yard
- FAQ about getting rid of voles
What are voles?
Voles, also known as meadow voles or meadow mice, are small nuisance rodents common throughout North America. Though they closely resemble field mice, voles come with stockier bodies, rounder ears, and shorter tails. Their eyes are small, their muzzles blunt, and their fur color anything from gray to brown, with a lighter shade on the belly area.
Voles may appear small and harmless, but the level of damage they can cause will take you by surprise. They’ll typically:
- Gnaw on the base of trees
- Destroy shrubs
- Dig up your precious plants
- Eat root crops, spring bulbs, and grass blades and stems
- Decimate your curb appeal with the destruction left behind
How to get rid of voles in your yard
If you’re a homeowner looking for better ways to deal with any future visits from these furry critters, we provide a detailed rundown of everything you can in your efforts to eliminate voles.
Maintain your landscaping
Voles like dense vegetation or tall grass to hide in. To keep them off your property, the most obvious thing to do is clean up your landscaping and make it less appealing. Eliminate leaves and fallen branches, prune shrubs and bushes, and mow your lawn. Likewise, we recommend collecting any and all fallen fruits and keeping bird seeds well contained.
Use vole repellents
Several repellents have proven effective against voles, both natural and commercial. Try using any of the following in your efforts to get rid of voles:
- Predator urine – Purchase coyote, bobcat, or fox urine from your local supply store, or go online for different options. Apply it around your yard to simulate the presence of a predator and scare voles away for good.
- Castor oil – Prepare a mixture of 1 gallon of water, dish soap, and 2 tablespoons of castor oil and pour it into a spray bottle. Spray the areas frequented by voles and wait to see if they return.
- Pepper spray – Another natural vole deterrent is pepper spray. Mix 1 tablespoon of pepper flakes or cayenne pepper with several drops of dish soap and 1 quart of water. The next day, spray the mixture around key areas in your yard.
- Garlic spray – Garlic has been known to repel voles due to its strong smell. Mince a few garlic cloves and place them in 1 quart of boiling water, letting it all steep for around 30 minutes. Strain it. Add about 1 tablespoon of dish soap to the resulting liquid, pour it into a sprayer, and go to town on the affected areas in your yard.
- Fragrant plants – Strong smells can repel voles and keep them away from the goodies they’re trying to reach in your yard. It’s a good idea to plant mint, garlic, chives, shallots, and onions around your yard for added protection against these creatures.
Fencing made of wire mesh can limit voles’ access to your garden. Place it around your tree trunks or vegetable garden to protect them from vole damage. When installing fencing, bury it at least 10 inches below ground to prevent voles from digging their way under it. Topside, your fence should extend at least 12 inches above the ground. Voles are poor climbers, so this height should be sufficient to deter them. Check your fence periodically to make sure it doesn’t hinder plant growth.
Add a gritty material to your garden
Voles aren’t fans of gravel, which means adding this sharp material to your planting holes can be an excellent way to repel the digging critters. During planting season, dig your holes and lightly line the bottom and sides with some gravel. Add some garlic for extra measure, and plant your bulbs or perennial plants as you wish.
Lay mouse traps
Snap traps commonly used on mice will also do the job with voles. Purchase as many as needed from your local supply store, find the biggest and widest vole runways on your property, and place the traps perpendicular to the paths. Runways are worn paths visible on your lawn due to intense vole traffic.
Use anything from peanut butter, bread, and oatmeal to seeds and nuts when setting your vole traps.
Try live trapping
Another more humane method of eliminating voles is live trapping. Many people will use live traps to capture the voles and release them elsewhere. That said, check local laws on catching and releasing pests, as this practice may be prohibited where you live.
Your live trap should be designed for small rodents, with two entry points for optimal results. Check your trap several times a day and, if successful, remove the trapped voles from your property.
Elimination safety precautions
Practice responsible vole removal to prevent hazards to yourself or your loved ones. Here are some things to remember before you embark on your vole control mission:
- If you’re going to use rodenticides, pesticides, or other chemicals, follow label instructions to a T.
- To maintain safety, wear protective clothing, gloves, and eye goggles when handling live trap baits or disposing of dead voles.
- Keep poison baits and other toxic products away from pets, children, or other animals you’re not targeting, preferably locked in a cabinet or outdoor structure.
Vole elimination methods you should avoid
While the above-mentioned vole control methods have proven effective in eliminating voles, there are some you should avoid due to the danger they pose to both animals and people.
Though helpful in killing voles and other rodents roaming your property, poison baits are deemed dangerous to non-target animals and pets that may come across them. Try to steer clear of this removal method.
Fumigation just hasn’t proven effective in controlling vole populations. The reason is that burrows have multiple entry points, making it difficult for any type of gas to remain in the ground long enough to have an effect on the voles. Besides that, it can be highly toxic when inhaled, whether by people or pets.
This is another ineffective vole control technique you should avoid in your efforts to get rid of voles. Why? Because while you flood any visible burrows, the voles will simply move to other areas and start from scratch. Worse still, this method can drown other non-target creatures living in the burrows, including bunnies.
Electromagnetic and sonic devices
Many people try this removal method in the hopes of repelling voles with unpleasant sounds. However, there’s currently no evidence to suggest they’re effective. In addition, such devices can be costly and annoying for yourself and your family.
Differences between voles and moles
Voles and moles – it all sounds the same, doesn’t it? If you’ve never encountered these critters, you may be unable to distinguish between them. To help, we provide some tips for telling them apart:
- What they look like: While voles strongly resemble mice, moles have much larger, longer bodies, a long head and snout, and no visible external ears. They also have hairless tails that can be quite long.
- What they eat: Diet-wise, voles are herbivores, while moles will generally eat grubs, earthworms, and insects.
- Where they live: Their habitats also differ; voles dig shallow visible holes, while moles like to go deeper underground.
- What they do: In terms of damage, voles will eat grass, bulbs, plants, and roots, while moles will leave mounds or ridges in the soil.
Signs you have voles in your yard
Voles are small and easily missed in the yard, but several signs will indicate their unwanted presence. If you suspect a vole infestation, carefully check for the following:
- Small runways (trails) of dead grass
- Gnaw marks on tree bark
- Uprooted or dying plants as a result of the voles eating the roots
- Missing fruits, beans, and seeds
- Actual sighting of the animal
Despite these indicators, accurately identifying a vole problem can be challenging. This is because the signs they leave behind can be mistaken for other critters’ damage. When in doubt, reach out to a professional pest control company in your area.
How to prevent voles in your yard
After getting rid of voles damaging your yard, the next order of business is to keep them from coming back. Luckily, you can employ several techniques to prevent a future vole re-infestation.
- Keep your yard clean of debris and pruned at all times.
- Try not to grow dense ground covers, as they can be the perfect hiding place for voles.
- Store wood away from vole access and keep outdoor structures well-sealed.
- Mow your lawn to prevent hiding spots and allow for easy vole sightings.
- Avoid placing thick layers of mulch too close to shrubs or trees, as this will attract voles.
- In winter, keep landscaping free of snow to better see a vole attack.
- Wrap sturdy wire mesh (or hardware cloth) around the base of your trees.
- Avoid keeping bird feeders, as the seeds can prove appealing to voles.
- Consider an outdoor pet for hunting critters such as voles roaming your yard.
Though these methods may not permanently solve your particular problem, keeping a clean yard will go a long way in preventing many different garden pests from entering your yard. Aside from voles, trimmed landscaping can help you:
- Keep snakes out of your yard
- Get rid of groundhogs
- Eliminate armadillos
FAQ about getting rid of voles in your yard
When are voles most active?
Voles are active 24/7, all year long, though they’re partial to being above ground during the dusk or dawn hours. These animals don’t hibernate, and the cold and snow don’t phase them, so don’t be surprised to find damage in your yard as soon as spring rolls around.
Are voles aggressive?
Voles don’t generally show aggression toward people, though some have been known to bite out of fear. If you have to handle voles, do so with care and follow safety protocols. Better yet, reach out to a pest control company for professional vole removal services. Voles can carry diseases such as rabies, Hantavirus, and tularemia, which you may contract if you come into contact with their feces, saliva, or urine.
What habitats do voles prefer?
Apart from your own yard, voles can be found in wooded areas (they love that tree bark), pastures, and meadows. They dig extensive underground systems in these areas for shelter and raising young.
Don’t let voles ruin your yard
If you suspect voles have made themselves at home in your yard, the good news is that you’re not alone. A local pest management pro can inspect your property and provide quick and permanent solutions to your vole problem. Instead of worrying about the next steps, relax knowing that your yard is in good hands.