While the common vole may look like a mouse, it is not the same thing at all. Voles can be particularly troublesome around the home because they live in the ground and can be hard to locate for removal or extermination. They love to get into vegetable gardens and areas with vibrant landscaping and eat roots and other tasty bits. A major problem which can cause the death or severe depletion of your garden and shrubbery. Fortunately, there are a lot of ways to get rid of voles, and it is totally doable if you do a bit of planning.
Understanding the Vole
Voles live for six months to a year and are active year round. They are extremely prolific when it comes to breeding. One vole can give birth 5-10 times per year which means a single female can produce 15-60 baby voles per year. You might be beginning to see how a vole problem can quickly escalate to a full on infestation. This is why it is important to come up with a vole eradication plan as soon as you notice them around.
Voles are a problem in a lot of areas. In fact, there are 155 different types of voles out there so don’t feel alone if you are struggling with them. People all over the world are facing the same drama when it comes to protecting their yards and outbuildings from these voracious little guys.
Signs of Voles
Voles create tunnels in yards and fields that may look like some bizarre subterranean maze. This maze of tunnels connects holes. If you like to keep a nice looking lawn, then you simply cannot have voles around. A vole population can completely devastate your lawn. It can take a long time to get your lawn back into shape.
Voles like to chew on succulent roots of trees and shrubs. This can cause your trees or shrubs to suffer a lot and even reduce the structural integrity of a tree. If any trees seems to be leaning a lot more than they should, then you might have a vole problem. If you don’t get it taken care of in time, the trees may even die.
Dead or Dying Grass
The tunnels that voles create often appear as dead patches of grass. A lot of grass can come back from this destruction if you deal with the vole issue promptly. If you let voles take over they can completely kill grasses and clovers that you have worked hard to establish.
One of the easiest ways to eliminate voles is to get a good cat or two. Cats will kill voles, and eventually voles learn that there is a cat in the area and don’t return usually. Just the smell of a cat can be enough to keep voles away from your home or garden. Some cats will eat voles and some will not. You may find some parts of voles laying around that you have to dispose of, but cats are a highly effective solution to a vole problem.
Encouraging cats to hunt is not hard. Most cats just like to do this for fun. If you overfeed you cat, they are less likely to want to hunt a lot, but this is not always the case. Really if you are an animal lover than cats are probably one of the better options for vole control out there plus they will control other rodent populations and even contribute to killing some insects.
Poisoning voles are definitely something that some choose to do, but you should understand the consequences of doing this. A poisoned animal is going to die and may cause odors, especially if the vole happens to die inside of a building or behind a wall or something similar. Poisons have to be stored properly to avoid children or pets getting into them. Some poisons may be harmful if a pet eats a vole that has died from the poison as well.
Professional Extermination Services
The most costly option out there is hiring an exterminator to take care of the vole problem for you. Keep in mind that while this may seem like a great idea, you will still want to take some steps towards preventing voles from returning to your property. A good exterminator will help you with prevention solutions and may even totally take care of some preventative measures for you for a fee.
There are devices that are stuck into the ground that make a sound that you cannot hear but is very annoying to voles. These devices have varying levels of success, so it is important to do some research and get a good one. Ideally, you will get one that has a return policy if you don’t get decent results.
A major part of dealing with voles is making things inconvenient for them. Here are a few things you can do to make your property less friendly environment for voles in the future.
Wire Around Trees
Voles like to girdle trees, the tastier the tree or bush, the better. This means a small piece of hardware cloth staked down or some mesh cage around the base will go a long way towards keeping them from damaging your trees and shrubbery. The wire is cheap, but replanting trees sure isn’t, not to mention the loss of crops you may experience due to the damage.
Remove Bird Feeders
While you may enjoy watching the birds, voles love to eat seeds, so if you have bird seed throughout your property, it is likely to attract voles to the area. Until you get control of your vole problem, you may want just to give up on the bird feeders around your yard.
Hummingbird feeders that use nectar are not a major attraction. If you don’t want to give up your bird feeders, then you need to make sure to mount them so voles cannot crawl up to the feeder. If birds throw out seed on the ground, you will need to clean it up regularly.
Fence Your Garden
Hardware cloth and small stakes are all that is needed to help prevent voles in your garden. This can take some time and cost a little bit of money but is very effective. If you already have a fence, you can just attach wire to the bottom of it with staples.
Live vole traps are inexpensive and highly effective. For those that are not keen on lethal means, this can be a good solution. Vole traps are placed in the path of vole mazes and use bait. For bait, you can use a mixture of oatmeal and peanut butter or even bits of apple such as cores or peelings.
Voles can be relocated elsewhere such as a national forest or another wooded area where they will not be harassing you or your neighbors. If you release them too close to your property, they will just find their way back unless you take other measures.
Encourage Birds of Prey
A healthy population of birds of prey can be a great natural way to deal with a vole issue. Owls, hawks, and falcons all feed on small mammals such as voles and can thus put a major dent in their population.
Sometimes they can pretty much take care of the whole problem for you. Of course, you have to be careful because birds of prey can bring their own set of problems to your property.
Birds of prey can be very large. Owls are nocturnal, so if you have small dogs or smaller birds, you will need to put them up at night if you are encouraging these types of birds.
Castor oil is a 100% natural oil derived from the castor bean plant. This oil comes in various sizes and can be sprayed around your yard and other areas. Voles don’t like the scent and taste of castor oil and will give your property a wide berth. You can use a spray bottle, or if you need to use it in a larger area, you can put it in an agricultural sprayer such as a back pack or small handheld 1-2 gallon sprayer and broadcast it well. You will need to apply with some regularity to keep your level of protection.
Capsaicin is the compound found in peppers that make them hot and stinging. This is the same reason pepper spray is an effective deterrent to attackers. Once voles get a smell and taste of capsaicin, they will stop gnawing on and eating your vegetables and other landscaping. Just be careful when applying any pepper based product because it can sting and irritate your skin, eyes, and is very unpleasant if inhaled. You can avoid this by wearing an approved mask, gloves, glasses, and clothing that covers as much skin as possible.
There are two major types of mouse traps. One is the glue traps which are just a tray with a very sticky substance that voles cannot remove themselves from. The other is the traditional traps that are wood or plastic and have a place to put bait. When a vole steps on the trap, the metal spring is triggered, and it clamps down.
Of course, this means you are going to have to dispose of vole bodies or even deliver the final blow if using a glue trap. Some don’t like the glue traps because the vole either dies from lack of food or water or you have to finish them off yourself. Of course, if a vole dies in a trap and you forget about it you can face a smelly clean up.
Avoid Brush Piles on Your Property
If you have a yard or extensive property then at some point there is a chance you will have brush or other yard debris to dispose of. If you use firewood for heat, then this can also harbor voles. Make sure to burn or eliminate brush piles as soon as possible. It is better to leave debris a bit more scattered for a little while if don’t think you are going to get around to burning it. If you can just haul it off, this can be a better solution that allows you to clean up without contributing to your pest problem.
Keep ALL Foods Contained
If you store extra food for yourself or pets, make sure it is in a rodent proof container. Any dog food, cat food, or livestock feed is attractive to any rodent. You don’t want to be paying to maintain an active vole population around your place.
Making sure to clean up any spills is another essential. A vole is very small, and this means it doesn’t take much food for them to do very well for themselves. A few bits of dog kibble a day, and you are helping voles get fat and stay healthy.
Maintain Clean Yards and Surroundings
If the space around your home is junked up and has a lot of places for voles to hide when scavenging for food, then you should clean them up. Plant some castor bean plants in these areas if you really want to keep voles at bay.
Keep an Eye out for Further Signs
The sooner a vole problem is taken care of the better. It is easy to get too comfortable after you eliminate the problem and miss signs that there are still a few around. Staying alert and on top of signs of pests can make it a lot easier to keep the problem from ever getting as bad as it once was.