Voles might look cute, but the damage they cause is not so cute. These small, harmless-looking animals can erase all the time you spend working on your yard and garden.
Voles leave holes all over your yard, tunnels on the surface, and damage your plants, trees, and grass.
Getting rid of these rodents can sometimes feel helpless because it seems like no matter how many you kill, they keep coming back.
Don’t worry; I’m here to help.
In this post, I will go over everything you need to know about voles and the best ways to get rid of voles permanently.
Let’s get started so you can take control of our yard.
What Are Voles?
Voles are small rodents that are often confused with gophers and moles because they cause similar damage.
They are also often confused with mice or rats due to their similar appearance. This is one of the reasons they are often called field mice or meadow mice in North America.
These rodents create intricate burrows underground where they nest, raise their young, and store food. They also use these burrows and surface-level tunnels to travel, allowing them to forage food and bring it back to the nest.
Voles live in small groups. There are typically between 5-15 voles in a single burrow. With larger infestations, burrows can grow large with multiple nests and tunnels connecting 100’s of voles.
But, voles are rodents related to hamsters, but they have a stouter body, shorter and hairier tail, smaller eyes, and larger molars.
What Do Voles Look Like?
Voles are small rodents that look similar to mice but create damage and tunnels similar to gophers and moles.
These rodents can grow to be around 3-7 inches long. They have small ears, small eyes, and a short tail.
Depending on the species, the color of their fur can vary from brown to greyish.
Voles have small teeth that are not exposed. Other key characteristics include a stocky body, short tail, short feet, small and sharp teeth.
Voles vs Mice: What's The Difference?
Voles and mice look very similar at first glance, but some key characteristics help you tell the difference.
The easiest way to tell the difference between mice and voles is their behavior and habits.
- Voles have short tails with hair, while mice have long, hairless tails.
- Mice have a pointed snout, while voles have a short, rounded snot.
- Voles have smaller eyes and ears than mice.
- Voles have stockier, wider bodies than the mice.
- Voles create burrows in the soil while mice hide within rubble or clutter.
- Voles create tunnels in the soil, while mice don’t cause any direct damage to yards.
- Voles are active in open land when foraging for food, while mice tend to stay close to objects that provide safety.
- Voles are found exclusively near grass or other vegetation, while mice are often found in cities or near structures.
Voles vs. Moles: What's the Difference?
Voles and moles don’t look alike but the damage they cause is often confused because they look very similar.
Fortunately, they are some key characteristics that differentiate vole and mole damage.
Since moles don’t leave their tunnels the best way to differentiate voles and moles is using their damage.
- Voles have small eyes and ears but they are visible while moles look like they have no eyes or ears.
- Voles have a short rounded snout with small hands while moles have a long nose and large claws to dig tunnels.
- Moles are slightly larger and wider than voles.
- Voles create holes without any lifted soil while moles create mounds.
- Voles create tunnels that are visible from the surface while mole tunnels are not visible from the surface.
- Voles eat vegetation and cause damage to plants and gardens while moles primarily feed on insects.
- Voles leave their tunnels and burrows to forage for food while moles stay underground for their entire lives.
Where Do Voles Live?
Voles are found across the world from North America, Canada, South America, and Europe.
They tend to live in areas with plenty of vegetation and prefer high moisture soil, making it easier for them to create tunnels and burrows in the soil.
In these countries, voles live inside the ground. They are land-dwelling animals that survive on vegetation and small insects.
What Do Voles Eat?
The diet of the vole is pretty diverse compared to other ground-dwelling animals. Unlike gophers and moles, voles will feed on almost anything they can get their hands on.
Their diet consists primarily of vegetation but also includes:
- Most plants
- Small insects
- Animal remains (if no other food options)
Voles require a consistent source of food throughout the year since they don’t hibernate. This is one of the primary reasons their diet is so vast.
Their flexible diet ensures that they can always find food regardless of the season.
Signs You have Voles In Your Yard
You can identify if you do have voles in your yard to identify areas of vole damage.
There are a few key things you can look for when inspecting your yard for voles.
1. Holes or Tunnel Entry Points in Soil
Holes or entry points into burrows are one of the most common signs of a vole.
Vole holes can be identified from other rodent holes because they don’t create mounds like gophers or moles.
Voles holes are typically 1-3 inch holes that are flush with the ground around them.
Another common difference between mole holes and other rodent holes is that you will typically find vegetation just inside the holes.
If there is vegetation inside the holes such as small piles or grass or leaves this is a sign of an active vole hole.
It’s common to find multiple holes near one another or shallow tunnels leading directly to a hole.
2. Surface Level Tunnels
Another common sign of voles is the tunnels they leave on the surface of the ground.
These tunnels typically become visible after it snows but are also visible during other seasons.
These tunnels are easy to notice because they leave clear 1-3 inch wide ridges on the ground’s surface.
These vole tunnels typically connect or lead to vole holes or burrow entry points.
3. Damage to Vegetation
Another common sign of voles is damage to vegetation. Voles will feed on grass, leaves, or almost any other vegetation that is around their holes.
It’s common for the areas immediately surrounding their holes not to have any vegetation.
Voles typically remove this vegetation and use it inside their burrows as a bed.
You will also find other vegetation around your home damage, either with chew or rip marks from voles.
There might be patches of missing vegetation or missing grass in severe infestations due to consistent vole feeding.
4. Live Voles Running Around
Compared to other rodents that leave holes and tunnels in yards, voles are unique because they exit their tunnels.
This means there is a chance that you will see small mouse-looking rodents running from your yard.
These small rodents will typically run from their tunnels or holes to get food or water.
If you do see a mouse-looking animal run around your yard and hide inside a hole or a tunnel, then this is likely a vole. Mice or rats don’t hide or create burrow dirt or soil.
How To Get Rid of Voles
1. Use Live Traps and Relocate
Live traps allow you to capture and relocate voles to another location.
You can place these traps either on the vole tunnel or outside the tunnel where voles would travel.
Voles allow you to place traps outside of their burrow, but only because they are one of the few ground-dwelling rodents that frequently forage and travel outside their tunnels.
When using live traps outside, you can use standard mouse, rat, or rodent traps.
For the live traps to work, you need to place some bait at the end. Voles are omnivores and eat a variety of food.
I recommend you use peanut butter with some sunflower seeds or oatmeal on it. The smell of the peanut butter will attract them, and the oatmeal will give them something easy to see and try to grab.
2. Snap Traps
Snap traps can be placed on vole tunnels or outside.
Each trap takes a very different form.
When using snap traps, you can use traditional mouse traps or rat traps, depending on the species of voles. Some species of voles are large, and to ensure that they die instantly when the trap is triggered, you need to use a larger trap.
You would place these traps on an active vole tunnel and wait for them to come in contact with the trap.
Since the tunnels of voles tend to be closer to the surface, traps can be placed on the ground’s surface and into their tunnels.
You can also use common mouse traps. Since voles spend lots of time outside of their burrows foraging for food, they are more likely to fall victim to traps than other rodents.
When using traditional mouse traps, you will need to add some bait to attract the vole.
Some effective options for bait include
- Peanut butter
- Sunflower seeds
3. Use Poison
Poison is another option that you can use to get rid of voles. Since voles often forage outside of their tunnels, you can place bait around your yard to poison voles.
They don’t make a poison that is specific for voles. To poison voles, you can use any general rodenticide or poison for moles, gophers, or rats.
These poisons will have enough poison to kill voles. I recommend you avoid using mice poison. In some cases, the poison for mice might not be sufficient to deliver deadly results since voles are larger.
When using poison, I recommend using bait stations. This will prevent other animals such as dogs, deer, and raccoons from consuming the poison.
You can use common rat bait stations or homemade bait stations.
Rat bait stations are easy to purchase and easy to place. Since voles will seek shelter, these bait stations are the perfect way to attract voles to the bait.
There are also DIY options that you can use. The most common option is a PVC pipe bait station.
You can use the video below for a quick guide to creating your own PVC pipe bait station.
4. DIY Traps
Using homemade traps is a standard solution to catching and getting rid of squirrels. One of the most popular homemade traps is the bucket trap.
This trap is easy and cheap to make.
what you need:
- Large Bucket
- 3′ – 4′ piece of wood
- Sunflower seeds
- Peanut Butter
Once you have everything you need, you can decide whether you want to use this as a live trap. If you want it to be a live trap, you can leave the bucket empty.
Otherwise, start by filling up your bucket 3/4 with water.
Then apply a thick layer of sunflower seeds to the top of the water. This will act as the bait. You can add a layer of peanut butter along the rim, right above the waterline, for some additional encouragement.
When placing this trap you want to keep it relatively close to the vole burrow or tunnel. Voles typically try to make foraging for food as quick as possible.
Another way to encourage voles is by lining the ramp with dirt so they feel more comfortable.
Another option is to dig a hole for the bucket. This will make the trap closer to the floor which is more suited to the common vole foraging style.
5. Use Repellents
Another way you can get rid of moles, gophers, and voles are by using repellents. Spraying or using repellents in your yard is a great and natural way of getting rid of rodents from your home.
Remember to reapply because it’s very likely that the rodents will return once the repellent’s potency has faded.
You can use natural repellents such as essential oils, vinegar, or other ingredients to keep gophers, moles, and voles away.
Keep in mind that these are typically not as effective as using chemical repellents.
Chemicals repellents are more effective but contaminate your yard and can make it unsafe for a certain period.
Although chemical repellents are typically stronger, they generally do need reapplication as well.
6. Fumigate or Smoke out Their Burrows
As an alternative, you can also fumigate their tunnels.
This involves covering any tunnels you see and then placing the fumigant into one of their entry points.
Let the fumigant work its magic inside the tunnels. The amount of time each fumigant needs to work will vary.
While this sounds difficult, it’s not as difficult as you would expect. You can purchase rodent fumigation bombs online or at most hardware stores.
To use these products, the first thing you need to do is find an entry point. The next thing you want to do is find any other exit holes of the burrow.
Cover these with dirt or with large plastic containers. This will stop the hedgehogs from trying to leave their burrow.
Second, once you ignite the bomb, insert it into the burrow and cover the hole.
You can use a blower to help the smoke reach deeper into the burrow to enhance the effect. In many cases, this is necessary since voles can create large and extensive burrows with multiple tunnels, rooms, and exit points.
Since vole burrows can be large and intricate, you might want to use multiple bombs during each fumigation. You also want to repeat this process several times to ensure that all the voles have been eliminated.
7. Treat Your Soil with Rodentcide
Another alternative to getting voles is using a chemical treatment. This treatment typically involves trenching the soil to create a toxic barrier.
Treating your soil will repel voles and if they do decide to create burrows or tunnels in your soil they will die.
On current burrows the voles will eventually be poisoned by the toxic soil.
Using chemicals is much more intrusive, and more precautions need to be considered.
For edible plants, these should not be planted in soil that will be treated. To protect your garden, you only apply the chemical around your garden.
When doing so, keep a 3-5 feet buffer zone to account for any chemical spreading into the surrounding soil.
Another option is to plant your garden in lifted planters. This will keep your soil chemical-free.
Another alternative is to apply a protective barrier under your garden soil. This process is more labor-intensive but will allow you to plant directly into the ground without the concern of your soil becoming contaminated.
Also, remember to follow the safety instructions on the label of your chemical regarding when children and pets can resume normal activity.
Each chemical varies, so it’s important always to read the label and follow any safety instructions.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Voles Transmit Diseases?
Voles can transmit diseases to humans. They are known to carry common diseases found in rodents such as rabies, hantavirus, and hemorrhagic fever.
Their feces and urine is the most common way that voles transmit diseases. Since they don’t bite or come in contact with humans often, diseases are not likely transmitted through contact.
If you suspect voles in your yards, you must wear gloves and shoes. Once you are finished, it’s essential to change your clothes and wash yourself to avoid bringing any diseases indoors.
Are Voles Dangerous?
Voles are not aggressive towards people, and it’s generally hard to come in contact with voles because when frightened, they tend to hide in their burrows.
They are dangerous because they do carry and spread diseases. Their feces and urine can spread diseases, so it’s important to wash your hands and take proper precautions if you are working in your yard and you have voles.
Their feces and urine can also introduce parasites into your yard that can be dangerous if they are contracted. Although this is rare, they do pose a parasitic threat.
How Long Does It Take To Get Rid of Voles?
The length of time it takes to eliminate your vole infestation will depend on how large the infestation is and its removal method.
Since voles hide in burrows and use intricate tunnels to travel, getting rid of voles cannot be done overnight.
You can expect to wait anywhere from several weeks to 6 months to get rid of voles fully.
On average, it can take several months to eliminate a vole population.
The best approach to removing voles is to use multiple methods of removal and stay consistent with treatments.
Without consistency, you might believe the vole population is eliminated, but they could be hiding. This will result in the population continuing to grow after you stop treatments.
Remember, just because you don’t see voles, this doesn’t mean that the vole population is eliminated. Voles remain hidden inside their tunnels and typically only leave to get food.
How Many Voles Live Together?
There are typically 15 voles in a single burrow. This includes two adult voles, 3-5 juvenile voles, and 3-5 newborn voles.
The size of the burrow will ultimately determine how any voles live inside.
As infestations grow, larger vole populations can grow to around 50 or 100.
This population will typically create an extensive burrow system that spans large areas.
For smaller areas, the population typically remains under 20 voles.
Do Coffee Grounds Repel Voles?
Yes, coffee grounds can repel voles, but it’s typically not highly effective.
Voles might avoid the area for some time, but if that area contains their only food source, they will likely get around the coffee.
Coffee grounds are commonly used to repel rodents due to the strong odor they release.
But, over time, this odor starts to wear off. As the scent wears off, voles are more likely to enter the area.
This means that you will need to continue reapplying coffee grounds to keep the repellency as strong as possible.