Voles are small, mouse-like rodents that occur throughout the North America. Though they commonly are called meadow mice or field mice, they are distinguished from true mice by their stocky build, small eyes, and short tails (about one inch long). Voles eat plants, whereas moles eat worms and grubs. Voles can cause problems by damaging lawns, gardens, tree plantings and other plants.
Voles are small, weighing one to two ounces as adults. Their overall adult body length varies from three to five and one-half inches in the pine vole, to about four and one-half to seven inches in the meadow and prairie voles.
Voles are an important food source for many predators, including snakes, hawks, owls, coyotes, weasels, foxes, mink and badgers. Mortality rates for voles are very high. Life expectancy in the wild often does not exceed two months, and few ever live longer than 16 months. Not surprisingly, voles are very prolific animals, although the pine vole is less so than meadow or prairie voles.
The breeding season for all voles encompasses most of the year although peaks occur in spring and fall. Prairie and meadow voles normally have five to 10 litters per year and average three to five young per litter. Pine voles have one to six litters per year and average two to four young per litter. The gestation period is about 21 days. One meadow vole held in captivity had 17 litters during one year, totaling 83 young. One of the females from her first litter had 13 litters, totaling 78 young before she was one-year-old.
Prairie and meadow voles inhabit pastures, roadsides, alfalfa fields and other grassy or weedy sites. Preferred habitats include areas with fairly dense ground vegetation. Meadow voles are more common in low, moist areas or upland sites near water.
Pine voles live in timbered areas, underground or under the forest litter. They also inhabit fields surrounding timber, if enough ground cover is present.
Prairie and meadow voles construct surface runways that are easy to recognize by the closely clipped vegetation within them. Small holes lead to underground runways and nesting areas. Pine voles have extensive underground runway systems, and spend little time above the leaf litter and ground cover layer.
Probably the most extensive and costly damage caused by voles occurs to woody plants in winter. At times voles severely damage or kill many young trees and shrubs, including orchard, windbreak and landscape plantings. Voles will eat the green inner bark layer of trees and shrubs when preferred foods are unavailable. Voles can damage or consume flower bulbs, garden plants and vegetables, field crops and forage crops. Two of their favorite foods are hostas and tulips. Voles can damage lawns by constructing runways and clipping grass very close to the roots. Though the damage done usually is not permanent, it may detract from the appearance of a well-kept lawn.
Voles can be easily controlled by the use of our Cooper's Vole Control trap kit, which includes a vole-sized tunnel, two anchors, and two snap traps. Just set up two snap traps back to back in the vole's runway, with the triggers facing away from each other, and place the vole tunnel cover on top of it. Place one included anchor on each end of the tunnel to secure it, and the trap is ready! The use of our special vole-sized tunnel cover is to prevent the trapping of non-target animals, such as wild birds or pets.
Included in our vole control kit are instructions for how to make the best possible vole lure. Once you make the lure, just smear the paste on the yellow trap trigger. All you need is enough to put the scent on the trap; we don't need them to eat, just die.
The included snap traps are well made and easy to set. It's important to place the tunnel near or in the vole's runway. Look for burrows and runways in grass or mulch in or near the garden or flowerbeds. Continue to trap in one location until no further voles are caught, then move the trap to a new location 15 to 20 feet away. Destroy old runways or burrows to deter immigration of new voles to the site. For a small garden, six Cooper's Vole Control kits is probably the minimum number required.
Voles can be killed with poison bait,
and the zinc phosphide bait included in
ZP Rodent Bait is the most effective.
Do not apply in wet conditions.
A good thing about zinc phosphide is that there is little danger of poisoning
wildlife by their eating the dead voles, in contrast to anti-coagulant or strychnine
Acknowledgments: We thank the University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County for assistance in preparing this information.
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