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Garden Pests: Moles and Voles

Practical strategies for keeping moles and voles from tearing up your lawn.

Wild animals are part of what makes nature so magical, and watching them can be highly enjoyable. While it’s important to coexist with animals in relative peace, they can cause countless problems when they take up residence in our homes or gardens. This month, moles and voles, Mother Nature’s pint-sized lawn wrecking crew.

Moles

Habitat and History

Moles can be found throughout North America, although primarily in the eastern and northwestern United States. There are seven species of moles, although the Star-Nosed and the Eastern are the most prevalent. Moles are gray or brown mammals and are actually NOT rodents. They are their own family of mammal. They have a long, naked snout, no external ears, large forelegs shaped like paddles and their eyes are hidden beneath fur.

Moles spend almost their entire lives underground, rarely coming to the surface. They prefer moist, loose soil. Moles are extremely territorial and will not allow other adults in their territory other than for mating.

Diet

The mole’s diet consists almost exclusively of earthworms and grubs. There is only one mole, which occurs in the far northwestern United States, that actually eats root crops and tubers. Think moles = meat.

Reproduction

Breeding for moles occurs in the late winter into early spring. There are generally four to seven young per litter, and they become active at about four weeks of age.

Problems, Solutions and Health Concerns

Moles do not pose any health-related concerns to humans. The thing that makes moles a pest is that they can devastate a lawn with mounds. These mounds can be either high and round or in the form of “running” tunnels.

There are several ways to rid your property of moles. You can purchase traps from your local hardware store, which can be placed right in the tunnels. You will need to remove the carcasses as they are trapped.

Another easy way to rid your property of moles is to use a lawn roller. Lawn rollers are steel wheels that are generally filled with water and pulled behind your riding mower. Once filled, they are very heavy and will crush the mounds and tunnels. This is a very effective way of eliminating moles. You will, however, have to do it as a regular maintenance routine.

Some people chemically treat their lawns for grubs. This eliminates the moles’ food supply, sending them on their way. Be warned, however, that there are health concerns associated with chemically treated lawns. Chemicals can leach into a well, garden plants, and even children, pets, or livestock that come into contact with it. If it’s green and can be mowed, it’s nice. Nobody needs “perfect grass.”

Voles

Habitat and History

Voles are found throughout North America. There are many different species of voles, but only about half a dozen of them cause significant problems for humans. Voles are a species of rodent, and are commonly mistaken for field mice or deer mice.

All voles are mouse-sized, measuring in at six to seven inches long and weighing approximately four to five ounces. Their eyes, ears, and tails are relatively small compared to mice. Some voles cause major surface damage, while others cause damage beneath the surface. Voles can be found in a large variety of habitats, and their ranges can overlap.

Diet

Voles are herbivores, feeding primarily on grasses, flowers, fruits, vegetables, bulbs, and roots. Some voles will also gnaw and feed on the bark of trees in winter, under the protection and cover of snow. Think voles = vegetables.

Reproduction

Like many other small rodents, voles are active breeders, with some species having four to five litters a year and two to five young per litter. In some warmer climates, they can breed year round. At around three weeks of birth, voles can begin breeding. Vole populations are cyclical, with a cycle of approximately three to six years.

Problems, Solutions and Health Concerns

All species of voles burrow, although most species are not subterranean. Some species of voles actually create runways by eating and munching vegetation in paths, almost like a trail system. They seem to stay in their nests most of the day, coming out to feed day and night at short intervals.

You can reduce the pressure from voles in a number of ways. First, you can keep your lawn mowed short. This will give the rodents less cover. You should also keep vegetation and brush away from flowerbeds, veggie gardens, and ornamental plants. Voles build their nests in these types of areas for cover.

Most damage from voles is to flowerbeds and gardens. The best way to keep your plants safe is to erect a barrier between your plants and the voles. Dig a trench around the area you want protected. The trench should be at least eighteen inches deep. This will also help deter other mammals such as woodchucks, ground squirrels, etc., too. Once the trench is complete, install 1/4” hardware cloth all the way to the bottom of the trench. Also note that the end of the hardware cloth at the bottom of the trench should be bent at a 90 degree angle, out about four inches. Now you can fill the trench back in. This helps to deter them from thinking they can dig around the hardware cloth.

Voles do not pose any infectious disease threat to humans.

Shawn is a lifelong New Englander. He lives in Canton, Conn., with his wife Tami, mother, sister, and her three children. He and his wife have two grown children and two grandchildren. Shawn is an avid hunter, fisherman, and gardener. He is also a writer, a nuisance wildlife professional, small scale farmer, and scout leader. You can email him at [email protected].

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Debbie Long

What is the best dates to report house plants

Teresa

I finally thought I had cured the vole problem with spending a couple hundred dollars on lawn services grub killer etc. a Stray cat showed up and is catching them and bringing me gifts so I let her spend a couple nights in the garage and this morning my lawn is torn up again I am at my wits end will the used kitty litter work in these holes to get rid of the voles or do I keep that cat out all night. I am needing an answer please

Suzy

Living on just 2.5 acres, in the Historic District of a “once rural” NorCal town, our healthy plot is vast with wildlife & producing fruit trees, native plants, etc.. We cherish the critters which have share this property for as long as my family has owned this home (over 160 years). The endemic/indigenous & migratory wildlife have kept everything in a healthy balance………………

Of course, we ditched the lawn decades ago, in lieu of natural paths & flower beds. If you are into your lawn, this no doubt would not work for you.

Judy Pohlod

Our zoo in Colorado Springs sells zoodoo for $2 lb. they gather big cats poop lion tigers mountain lions. It’s a fertilizer to put around edges of garden area.

Susan Higgins

Judy, interesting!

Joncass

Do u mix the ammonia with water?

Cory Keifer

If you are in Hamilton county and parts of Mario county having issues with Moles or Voles drop me a line. I guarantee I will remove the issue!

Raynelle Roeder

I have just read about Nematodes. Combination is best -Heterorhabditis (stationary) and Feltiae (mobile). All natural. Kill all larvae – grubs,fleas,ticks,ants,cutworms, termites and ground wasps. Will not harm plants or animals.. Have to use every 3-4 weeks for infestation. Kill the food and moles leave. We also have tick/flea problems in south. Home depot has in some areas or they can ship to your store. Also check with gardening/landscape businesses.

C. Lane

You can also get those little wind spinners that kids likeand put in the ground. Stick them in the ground where you have them. The vibration from them scares them away. It really works

D. Study

Greenwood 94661 Solar Mole Chaser. We buy this from Harbor Freight and leave it in one of our flower beds year round and we have not had a problem since.

Bella

We had mole damage in our lawn every spring when the snow melted. We read that sprinkling coffee grounds over the lawn would repel the moles. Now we do this every fall and there is no more mole damage, but we must do it every fall. (We also heard that sprinkling human hair clippings on the lawn would also repel moles, but we haven’t tried that.)

Danielle

St. Gabriel Organics Milky Spore in power form. One treatment lasts 10 years+ and it’s safe. It soaks into the ground and turns grubs to mush, it’s a natural bacteria.

Brenda

I prefer a water hose and a hammer!

Jane Duncan

I use the soiled cat litter form my cat’s litter box. Using a trowel, dig a small hole into a tunnel. Deposit used cat litter (a trowel full, urine or feces) and recover the hole. Repels them for a whole year.

M. Henegar

It is impractical for me to dig deep trenches around all my plants and shrubs, but I have found that a fairly shallow trench filled with drainage rock is a good deterrent. They don’t like the sharp edges. I use it in the bottom of the planting hole, and around the plant before filling with dirt.

Debbie

In agreement with # 44! I use juicy fruit gum also. I open their holes with a gloved hand so as to mask our human scent, put JUICYFRUIT GUM stick down into them and cover with dirt. They love it but cant digest it. No more problems in my yard anymore! Finally! Yay!

Debbie

In agreement with # 44! I use juicy fruit gum also. I open their holes with a gloved hand so as to mask our human scent, put JUICYFRUIT GUM stick down into them and cover with dirt. They love it and but cant digest it. No more problems in my yard anymore! Finally! Yay!

Kesa

I’ve tried the moth balls… And tilling the ground – moles and voles. The voles are out of control – how far down do they go?

Lyn

a pocket gopher? Lyn

Lyn

what is a pocket gopher? Lyn

Margaret

Is their a store that you can purchase anything to get rid of VOLES? My dog loves to dig in my yard looking and today he killed one but I would like to keep my flowers if possible.

Susan Higgins

Hi Margaret, we usually refer to natural, chemical free remedies to get rid of voles. Especially if your dog likes to dig in the garden, you don’t want to put toxic chemicals there. Perhaps your dog being around will send a “message” to the others and scare them away.

jon gannon

i am going to try the moth ball thing and see if it works! i have never heard if that! my front yard and back yard are so bad!

Cindy Gagnon

Mothballs do not work tried it last year, the moles just push them back up to the surface.I used the old fashioned kind I can’t remember the name of the chemical anyway it didn’t work.

milky spore works

We use milky spore, it comes in a bag and is like little seeds. It takes a year to start working, but reapply each yr. All natural

JMadPeace

Moth balls. Just drop a couple down each hole and off they go! If you have pets, be sure the balls go ALL the way into the holes. You do not want your dog to eat these.

priscilla

Put a piece of fruit stripe gum into the mound. They love it but cannot digest it.

john

I need a way to run them off

Sherry Scott

What about pocket gophers? They make tunnels that you cannot always trace.

Krista

I’ve had trouble with voles for years. Planting Hellebores where appropriate and using pointy lava rocks around the plants they most like to eat certainly helps.

Evie

i had a farmer tell me to use male urine. Has something to do with the testosterone so dont use a woman only a mans urine. If it rains it washes through so have to continue it. The also like a water supply like a ditch and travel back and forth. Ground is soft and always damp. We put pipe all through the length of the ditch and covered so water can still drain. No more moles on our property but the neighbors are loaded. Our tractor use to sink where the tunnel trail was and had to have a dump truck full of dirt brought in. You wonder wear all the dirt goes. So get a milk jug a refrigerate the urine and pour down the holes.

Sandie

We have used mothballs to deter both moles and voles. The scent chased them to the neighbors’ yards.

Ed Vernon

I heard that motor oil will get rid of moles and voles. Is this true?

BeccaSue

Thinking I’ll try predator urine, but where do I put it? Same with the moth balls. I have a huge area in front and back where they seem to be active.

Jaime McLeod

Becca Sue, If you can find their holes, those would be the best places.

Buddy Hinson

For deer problems. Put up a fence but lean it outwsrds away from garden. Deer have no deprh perception and wont try and jump it.

Florence C

My problem is voles. I’m seeing raised tunnels all over the place. I need a more practical solution than barriers. I have 5 acres surrounded by woods. There are lots of blackberies, deciduous and conifers in the front 2/3 of the acreage. I’m not opposed to chemicals. I just need to know what works.

Florence C

The suggestion of putting down a barrier is not practical for my situation. I have 5 acres with extended flower garden borders which run along the woods. The acreage in the front is mostly wild with deciduous trees and conifers and lots of blackberrys, salmon berry. The cleared area is riddled with surface tunnels. There is new tunneling in my veg garden. According to the description it appears the damage is from voles. I have found a rare carcass which has a small body and a very pointed nose. I’m not opposed to the use of chemicals. I just need to know what works.

Pat

I once had a problem with moles tunnelling under the lawn. Someone tole me to put mothballs down the mole hills, which did appear to work as they cleared off somewhere else.

Douglas Rowe

Then I guess I don’t know what’s making tunnels AND eating my lawn in the southeast. Doesn’t seem to fit the profile of either of these critters.

Michael Hayes

It seems I have quite a mole problem in my yard and I hope one of the solutions posted works to get rid of them. I’m curious to try the moth ball method and I hope it works.

Anna Davis

We have moles, we have tried traps, poison worms, ammonia and digging up their tunnels. We live next to a river and they work their up the hill to our yard and undermine our brick walkway. What do farmers do to get rid of theirs. I see them working on it but don’t know what they are doing.

Karen Cole

Don’t have a problem with moles……..my Jack Russel sniffs them out and digs them out of their holes and kills them……..he has killed four of them this year.

nicole holcomb

Hi ,D. Elkins um there is a way to get read of armadillos you can ether kill them or you can get you some dogs cause my dogs run them of or if my dogs are in the house I just shout them because they are easy to get rid of once you do this things for a while an I have to worry about coyotes out here in alabama cause I’m scared they will hurt one of my kids so that is really one resone why I don’t have armadillos in my yard 😉

nicole holcomb

I am having a probably with squerills because they keep getting in my attic an chowing up the wires an tearing up the instolashion what should I do ? ;(

Thea Davis

We used to have moles. someone told me to put moth balls in the holes . When they would try to chew them to get out they would die. Also the ones that were out would try to chew them to get in and die. IT WORKED . No more moles.

Robyn

I’ve found the best solution for all my pesky critter problems, is a terrier. Last summer my American Pit Bull Terrier not only eradicated a whole colony of moles from my yard, she also took care of several birds and ground hogs who were destroying my garden.

elismimi

We live in upstate SC. We have a major deer problem. We plant the garden, they eat it. We have tried everthing from saving our hair when we get it cut and putting it in the garden to moth balls along the border of the garden. We even put a fence around it but that didn’t work either. Any suggestions?

D. Elkins

I have a problem with armadillos digging in my yard and around my shrubs. Is there any way to get rid of them?

gwen

Hey Sam, I used to live in Indiana and we had sand burrs (what we called them) what we did was limed the yard and replanted new seed. Then we had to pull all the grass that had red roots to get rid of them. For the moles we use the spinning flowers or pinwheels around our yard, the moles don’t like the vibrations from them, when the wind blows.

Shawn

tjwmom- go to my website or email me. I need your phone number. I might be able to help, but we need to talk.
Joni and C.- all great ideas

Sandra Hladky

we have moles in our farm yard and it is so smart, we push down the mound, set the mole trap and next thing we see the mound pushed up next to the trap as a taunt. We have tried about every method and it is still there. Thanks for the suggestions, if someone comes up with another one, post it, we will try anything once.

Ken Money

We had mole and Tennessee-Vole critters all over..actually under our lawn. So we decided to try the preditor urine, We ordered the Nittany Lion, & Fla Gator urine, Wow did it ever work, Mole and Vole are gone. Now how do we get rid of the Lions and Gators hanging around..O My.. 😉 Smile, Life is Grand. KTK-G

Sam

We live in North Alabama and having a very serious problem with a new kind of grass this year. This grass has “sand-spurs”…they are taking over all the gorgeous lawns…does any1 have any suggestions on getting rid of these things..If we dig them up, we’ll have no lawn left!!! We Southern Gals love to go barefoot in the Summer..sure can’t do that with these sand spur stickers!! PLEASE HELP!!

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