If it walks like a mouse and talks like a mouse, it must be a mou…. vole?! Hmmm. So much for that wisdom.
It’s just easier, really. They look so much alike, with their furry bodies, beady eyes and little rodent tails. If we’re calling a spade a spade, then let’s be real; they’re altogether different. And isn’t that actually a good thing after all? I mean if a mouse and a vole were the same critter, then we might have grown up loving Mickey and Minnie Vole, or maybe our Saturday morning cartoons would have included The Adventures of Mighty Vole. We might have learned an entirely different nursery rhyme, “Three blind voles, three blind voles, see how they run.” Indeed, it’s good that they’re different.
Voles are short, stocky, stub-tailed rodents, exclusively sporting a brown and black coat of long, dense fur. Their doppleganger, the field mouse, has a longer, thinner body with many fur variations including color, thickness and length. A major difference in behavior between the two, mice are inquisitive and curious; mostly unafraid to investigate even when people are nearby. Voles are shy. You will see signs that voles are present long before you’ll catch a glimpse of the actual vole.
Thriving in all 50 states, they tunnel in open meadows and grassy areas, so our lawns and gardens are perfect fodder for the cunning rodents. These voracious hoarders have been known to store up to two gallons of food per vole, in their underground habitat. Voles are indiscriminate plant eaters with a penchant for grasses and bark. They’ll store cones, seeds, bulbs and tubers underground in the fall. And they won’t stop there. Voles will eat your crops, stem and all. If there is any redeeming value to these garden bandits, it is that they also snack on snails, insects and animal carcasses. They are the competitive eaters of the animal kingdom, consuming their own weight in plants every 24 hours, totaling 200 lbs. of your prized vegetables per vole in their lifetime.
Like any garden pest, voles can be controlled organically. Vole eradication does not have to include poisons and tunnel gassing. Instead, keep your lawns tightly mowed, with no overgrowth or leftover vegetation. Trim shrubbery back and keep the ground bare. This makes it difficult for voles to hide from predators and provides them no cover for feeding and mating. In rural and wooded areas clean up your stream banks and ditches. In the suburban garden, sweep up fallen birdseed and lay landscape fabric or plastic mulch around shrubs and shallow-rooted plants. Burrowing voles will find it difficult to break through the fabric and give up.
Ask your garden center if they carry a commercial product that contains a strong urine smell from their natural predators, the fox and coyote. And, if you’re not already a cat lover, consider it. Cats are adept at catching voles, moles and mice. Oh, and so are snakes.
And if all else fails and you feel that have to kill them, a simple mouse trap under an inverted shoe box (with a mouse-hole cut out) will take care of business.
Editor’s Note- photos by: denverpost.com, movingplanets.com
Have you ever seen a vole? Confused it for a mouse? Do you have any advice for vole control, or tips on organic solutions?
This article is the 22nd in a series of 26 consecutive articles, as part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge for the whole month of April. Tomorrow, I’ll post an article with a title that begins with the letter “W”… So goes the rest of the alphabet, through the end of the month.