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GardenSMART :: Vexing And Voracious Voles

Vexing And Voracious Voles

By Plantskydd Animal Repellent
Photographs courtesy of Plantskydd Animal Repellent

If you haven't experienced it yourself, it might be hard to believe. How could a three-inch long critter do so much damage in such a short amount of time? Voles. They are not your friends in the garden.

Often mistaken for moles, proper identification is critical to determine the best course of action for keeping these critters from destroying your plants. Since both are active mainly at night you may not have seen them, but you know they are there.

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Moles make molehills and underground tunnels. If your lawn is dotted with mounds of loose soil and the ground around them feels squishy, you have moles. Voles make holes and surface pathways. If you see broomstick diameter holes in your lawn and what looks like carved pathways through your turf, you have voles.

Moles are mainly carnivores, feasting on grubs, earthworms and insects. They may inadvertently kill plants by burrowing underneath them and popping the rootball out of the ground, but they aren't a direct threat to your garden.

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Often confused because they both tunnel, moles and voles are entirely different beasts.

Voles are mainly herbivores, feasting on grasses, roots, bulbs, tubers and seeds in your garden. They often use the underground tunnels made by moles and they can do a lot of damage to your plants in a short amount of time.

If you have ever experienced the "sudden death" of a plant, voles are one of the first suspects. One minute your plant is perfectly healthy and the next it is dropping leaves like crazy and falling over. The culprit: voles have eaten the bark and/or roots.

If you've had a plant that mysteriously died a quick (and hopefully painless!) death, dig it up and inspect the crown and roots. If most of the roots are missing or if the bark has been gnawed off at the base of the trunk, you have voles.

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Voles are small mouse-like rodents that, during the winter, feed where they are protected, including under snow. Credit: Robert L. Anderson, USDA Forest Service,


Choosing alternatives to poisons is important for many reasons. For one, these small animals fall low on the food chain. Their natural predators, such as hawks, owls, foxes and cats can get sick from eating a poisoned animal.

However, you can help prevent voles from taking over your garden by making them more vulnerable to these types of predators. Voles are prevalent in landscapes that have a lot of groundcover, thick mulch, and piles of plant debris. Eliminate dense groupings of plants where they can hide, thin your mulch to 1-inch or less, and spread repellent as a safety measure.

Plantskydd Animal Repellent is effective at warding off voles from taking up residence in your garden. Before the snow flies, sprinkle the granular formula in garden beds, among groundcover plants and across your lawn to let them know that they are not welcome guests this winter. Reapply in spring or every 3-4 months as needed.


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