Fix-It Chick: How to get rid of voles

A vole

Voles, often referred to as field mice, are small, furry rodents, typically four to eight inches long with furry tails and stout bodies.

Often mistaken for mice or moles, voles live outdoors and are active year-round. Unlike moles, who tunnel below ground in search of worms and grubs, voles tunnel at or near the surface of the ground, feeding off plants, roots and other vegetation. Vole damage to crops, lawns and trees can be extensive.

Vole populations are cyclical, typically peaking every four to six years and rapidly declining after that. If you have a sudden, overwhelming vole problem in your yard or garden, it may resolve itself within a short period of time. Meanwhile, there are several things you can do to mitigate vole damage.

Step 1: Voles burrow in densely vegetated areas and prefer to eat under cover rather than out in the open. To keep voles at bay, eliminate weeds and heavy vegetation in and around the yard. Mow lawns regularly. Create wide, vegetation-free paths between garden rows and around garden beds. Create four-foot-diameter vegetation-free circles around the bases of trees and other woody plants.

Step 2: Use 1/4-inch mesh hardware cloth or hail screen to create a fenced barrier around trees and plants.

Bury the bottom 6 to 10 inches of the screen below ground, leaving at least a foot above ground to prevent voles from tunneling under or crawling over the fencing.

Step 3: Capture and relocate voles by placing live traps in runways or near burrows. Voles seldom stray from their runways, so place the traps accordingly and check them daily.

Step 4: Temporarily dissuade vole activity through the use of liquid or granular repellants. Predator urine and hot pepper spray afford some level of short-term protection, but are ineffective for long-term control.

Step 5: Eradicate voles through the use of mouse traps or anticoagulant baits placed in runways and burrows. Bait the traps with peanut butter and check them daily.

When using poisons, choose one specifically marketed for voles. Place loose bait inside the burrow or use a tubular bait station positioned in a well-traveled runway near the burrow to reduce the risk of accidental poisoning of nontargeted animals.

Like most wild animals, voles can carry disease pathogens. Wear gloves and appropriate clothing when removing voles from traps or handling used bait stations.