Voles, also known as field mice, are small rodents that reproduce quickly and can cause extensive damage to gardens and landscaping. Voles are often mistaken for other types of rodents, like moles or gophers, but they are in their own class, with over 155 species throughout the world.
Voles can grow to be 4 to 8 inches in length. They have light brown to gray fur and have shorter, thicker tails than mice. Voles are prolific breeders and can average litters of 5 to 10 young, up to 10 times a year. Voles will burrow in yards and will also make use of abandoned burrows, causing homeowners to mistake voles for moles or gophers.
Voles have a diet similar to other rodents, but like shrews, they will eat dead animals. They will also eat tender roots and bulbs, tunneling expertly so their detection is almost imperceptible until the damage has already been done. Voles will also eat the bark around young trees and shrubs. This process, called girdling, will kill young plants.
Voles live for only a few months and have a number of predators, including owls, raccoons, hawks and cats. However, the sheer number of these pests can overwhelm yards and gardens quickly. Despite their short lives and numerous predators, a vole infestation can devastate gardens.
Controlling voles is very difficult. Placing snap traps near burrow entrances can help with infestations. Spring and fall are the seasons when most voles are active, so trapping during these periods is often more successful. If you have an extensive vole problem, contact a pest control expert. These professionals can often diagnose rodent trouble and determine the best ways to eliminate voles safely and effectively.