Voles are small rodents which look a lot like a large mouse and are commonly referred to as a field mouse, bank vole, meadow mouse, wood mouse or field vole. They’re short and compact with small eyes and mostly hidden ears. Though most are brown or gray, colors vary since there are over 20 species here in the United States.
Voles can be found in every state and though they reside outside, the damage they can do in the yard is extensive. Unlike most small rodents, voles will be active day or night. They won’t hibernate and it’s not uncommon to find their fresh burrows even in newly fallen snow. This article will provide some basic biology about voles, explain why they are a problem around the home and then explain vole control options available.
Related articles: CHIPMUNKS GOPHERS GROUND SQUIRRELS MOLES PRAIRIE DOGS SHREWS
WHAT IS A VOLE?
Voles are small rodents that grow to 4-8 inches depending on the species. They can have 5-10 litters per year. Gestation takes for 3 weeks and the young voles reach sexual maturity in a month. Needless to say, vole populations can rapidly grow from one or two to many within a very short period of time. Since litters average 5-10 young, a single vole in the yard can become 50 or more in less then a year.
Voles are commonly mistaken for other small animals. Moles, gophers, mice, rats and even shrews have similar characteristics and behavioral tendencies. Since voles will commonly use burrows with many exit holes, they can be mistaken for gophers or some kind of ground squirrel.
Voles can create their own burrows but will often times utilize old abandoned mole tunnels thus confusing the land owner into thinking that moles are active.
When voles find their way into the home, they are readily identified as mice or young rats. In fact, voles are unique and best described as being a little bit like all the other animals they are so commonly thought to be.
Like moles, they will readily thrive on small insects including grubs which are one of their favorites.
Like shrews they will eat dead animals and like mice or rats, they can live on most any nut or fruit.
Additionally, voles will target plants more then most other small animals. Its here where their presence is mostly evident.
Voles will readily “girdle” or eat the bark of small trees and ground cover much like a porcupine. This girdling can easily kill small, young plants and is not healthy for trees or other shrubs. Voles love to eat succulent root systems and will burrow under plants or ground cover they’re particularly fond of and literally eat away till the plant is dead.
Flower bulbs in the ground are another favorite target for voles; their excellent burrowing and tunneling will give them access to sensitive areas without clear or early warning. It is far too common to learn you have a vole problem only after the extent of their damage and feeding is mapped out on your landscaping in the form of dead plants and tunnels.
Voles can do all kinds of damage. Girdling is the more obvious; bark which is eaten is readily visible and apparent even as it is happening.
Vole damage to plants is sometimes not so obvious. As voles consume the roots or bulbs of plants in the yard, this “below the top soil activity” is not so easy to see or acknowledge. Sometimes one does not know that their beautiful tulips have been eaten until they wonder why they aren’t growing anymore.
Above ground damage in gardens is sometimes written off as insect activity or some other animal but since voles like just about any vegetable, they will readily prey upon most anything grown in the average garden. Flower beds and mulch piles are other areas voles will find an abundance of food and just because you have a large yard with a lot growing, don’t think the local voles won’t have an impact. Since they multiply so rapidly, small initial activity can quickly become out of hand. In fact, their trademark tunneling is one of the more common landscape problems they create.
VOLE TUNNELS IN LAWNS
Vole tunnels and dens will become well structured and dispersed if left to their own. The main dens will be similar to gophers or chipmunks; several entrances and exits leading in all directions. The tunnels they create as they forage for food will indirectly kill grass and other plants as roots are chewed or severed. Leaving burrowing and tunneling voles to do as they wish is not a good idea. If you see activity, confront it sooner rather then later. Dealing with a few voles will make the task a lot more manageable; waiting till the local population is well established will cost more in time, energy and equipment.
HOW TO CONTROL A VOLE PROBLEM
Voles are actually easy to control. There are several treatment options. For small isolated problems, one approach will do the job. But for well established ongoing issues, use a few methods listed below. In most cases, there won’t be one magic cure. Like most integrated pest management, the more tools employed the better the results. Vole control could involve trapping, baiting and repelling.
FUMIGATING A VOLE INFESTATION
One of the oldest methods of killing voles is to “gas” them. GIANT DESTROYERS are basically a sulfur based smoke bomb. It has a fuse and looks like a fire cracker. Set one down their burrow or tunnel, light the fuse and cover the entrance holes to help keep the sulfur smoke in the ground.
The following video shows how to use our gas sticks.
Be sure not too cover the holes too much to cause the fuse goes out and the “bomb” won’t burn. Tie some twine or string to each stick before placing it down the burrow so it will be easy to retrieve in case it goes out. When burrows and tunnels are short and minimal (10 feet or less), this approach will be highly effective. However, large infestations will have created too many escape hatches and passage ways so it’s not likely such an effort will prove to be totally effective if you have a well established problem.
Use 1 stick per den for small to medium sized mounds. For large communities where 5 or more animals are thought to be active, use 2 sticks.
BE AWARE THAT GASSING TUNNELS WILL NOT BE A PERMANENT SOLUTION! BUT IF YOU INSTALL OUR GROUND STAKE REPELLERS (DETAILS BELOW), THE COMBINATION OF SMOKE AND REPELLERS WILL KEEP THEM AWAY FOR GOOD.
BEST VOLE TRAPS AND BAIT FOR TUNNELS, DENS AND MOUNDS
The best available option is to employ a combination of bait and traps. We offer these in TAMPERPROOF RODENT STATIONS which feature two compartments.
These stations have a 10 lb brick inside and are locked with a special key so they meet federal requirements to be used in sensitive areas with either traps or rodenticide.
For voles, we have found the best combination is to have these around the home set up with one snap trap and bait blocks on the other side.
The video below covers how the stations work and the various setups available. They work great for rats, mice, voles and more.
So for outside where voles are active, set out stations with a single trap and bait blocks. This kit has all you will need.
The Tamper Proof Station, the Key, a Snap Trap and a 4 lb tub of Bait Blocks which will last indefinitely (they don’t go bad).
For inside the home, we recommend using nothing but the Snap Traps. The risk of rodents dying someplace is more likely inside so bait outside only, trap inside.
If you your voles are eating seeds from a bird feeder or nuts from a local tree on your property, use PECAN PASTE to bait your traps.
This short video (less than 60 seconds long) gives you a brief overview of our Pecan Paste and why its so amazing at luring nuisance wildlife to traps:
If they’re targeting fruit from a garden or fruit tree, go with LOGANBERRY PASTE.
If you don’t have dens or mounds but mostly tunnels, TUNNEL TRAPS should be employed. These are set in active tunnels and work great for both moles and voles.
These come packaged 4 per pack and are easy to set.
LIQUID VOLE REPELLENTS
If you have voles on your property nesting and feeding, chances are others will be coming around. This is due to odors and pheromones left behind by the active voles. So even if you remove an active population of voles, old odors will likely attract new ones for up to a full year or more.
Furthermore, if you have good food supplies combined with good soil in which to burrow and nest, it only makes sense that others will be drawn to your yard. To keep new activity minimal and unwanted voles off your property and out of the yard, set out a vole repellent. There are many available and most will help. The key is using the right one which will vary from situation to situation.
VOLE SPRAY FOR PLANT BULBS, ROOTS AND TREE TRUNKS
If you have had an ongoing problem with voles eating plant bulbs or annual plantings, treat the plants with PEST AWAY SPRAY.
Pest Away is made with all natural organic essential oils and gets mixed with water. It won’t harm wildlife, insects, birds, pets, etc. but due to it being so concentrated, it makes frogs “wary” of treated areas.
The feeling of being uneasy and alarmed about the area/treated plants will make them not want to rest where its been applied. This makes Pest Away a great way to naturally repel unwanted pesky animals and insects.
Our 8 oz jar mixes 2 oz per gallon of water and will treat up to 500 sq/ft of plants when treating for deer control.
BEST VOLE SOUND REPELLERS
For the money, our line of sonic sound repellers are your best bet for long term proven vole control. We feature two units; one is strong enough to use as a barrier along property lines. Use this one for when you want to keep voles out. The second unit is much stronger incorporating ultra sound along with the standard vibration and sound our base unit provides. But the deluxe unit is strong enough to be used in active vole tunnels to chase them off your property.
There are actually lots of these units on the market these days but most are under powered and won’t be strong enough to handle the job. But the science is proven. Basically ground burrowing animals like voles will avoid dirt under construction or where they hear ongoing “noise”. For this reason, devices which intentionally send out sound waves can be used to both chase away voles and keep them from entering your property in the first place.
So can they work? Absolutely. And are they strong enough to get rid of the voles already in your yard? Yes, but only our deluxe model (second one below).
BASIC SOLAR POWERED VOLE REPELLER
So if you’ve had voles in the yard and want to prevent them from coming back, install SOLAR POWERED VOLE CHASERS. along property borders. This device uses sunlight to charge a small battery which in turn will keep the unit running all day and all night. In fact it can run several days without sun so once installed, you’ll have 24 hours a day protection.
This basic unit can cover up to 6,500 sq/ft and if placed along property lines from where voles might enter, they will effectively reroute voles elsewhere.
Coverage is about 4,000-6,500 sq/ft depending on soil type. Soft, loamy soil like that along water ways will tend to absorb the sound more and effectively deaden it. This means coverage will be thwarted and reduced to the lower range of 4,000-5,000 sq/ft.
When placed along property lines, install units every 60-75 feet. When the units arrive, they will have a slight charge. So before installing them, we recommend letting them sit out in sunlight (turned off) for at least one day to get a good charge on their battery. This way when you deploy them in the yard, they’ll be ready to work at full strength.
Now if you have active voles, consider getting the next unit down as its much stronger.
DELUXE SOLAR POWERED VOLE REPELLER
So if you have active voles centered in your property say in a garden or flower bed, our DELUXE VOLE REPELLER will be needed. This model is one of kind and not available elsewhere. True, there are models which look like ours but they don’t have all the features our units have which are needed for certain animals like voles, gophers, ground squirrels, chipmunks and prairie dogs when they’re actually nesting on your land.
Our deluxe model works essentially the same as the basic unit above. It too uses the sun to charge an on board battery so it runs on its own, around the clock. And it releases a vibration that will both move the ground and create a sound wave that will “rattle” voles so they want to leave. But our deluxe model incorporates other sounds making them well suited for control of existing problems meaning they’re not just good for prevention: they’re actually strong enough to get rid of nesting animals.
This short video (less than 60 seconds long) shows how our Ground Stake Repeller works:
As stated, this unit will vibrate several times a minute constantly rotating its cycle. But it also sends out “ultra sound”. In general, ultra sound won’t help fight moles since they’re down in the ground and well protected. This is why most ground vibrating stakes like this don’t include ultra sound. But for animals that like to forage up (like voles), ultra sound is helpful.
In addition to the ultra sound, it also uses LED bulbs located on underside of controller head. These light up when its dark which effectively give the units an “evil” look at night. Small animals that like to forage on the ground will look up and see these discreet lights blinking off/on and find this unsettling. This in turn which will make them uncomfortable and nervous. Combined with the ultra sound, the vibration and the audible sound, the deluxe repeller is powerful enough to be used in the middle of a an active vole colony and within two weeks, force them to leave.
If the above video wasn’t informative enough, this next one is a lot longer but provides all the details you’ll need to know:
So if you have active voles and want to use this unit as a way to get them to leave, only deploy units directly in active tunnels and nests. Do not install units along property borders for the first two weeks. This will give the nesting voles a way to escape. After two weeks, you should still leave the units in main nests and tunnels for another month but at this time you can also install units along property borders. And after another month, you can remove the units located in the middle of your property and locate them where they’ll provide more benefit.
Coverage for these units is a bit more compared to the basic unit. So for loamy soft soil, plan on getting 4,000-5,000 sq/ft of coverage. But for hard pan, 6,500 to 7,500 sq/ft per unit is to be expected. Along property borders, place units every 45-50 feet.
Setup for these is like the other unit in that you’ll want to let the head unit charge for 1-2 days prior to setting them out in the yard. This way they go afield under full power making them best suited to get the job done. For more detailed directions on how to set them up, download our SETUP DIRECTIONS.
Regardless of which unit you get, you need to properly prepare the ground by drilling a smooth hole for them to fill. The hole must be the proper depth and width. Our SOIL AUGER is perfectly designed for the task.
This short video (less than 60 seconds long) shows how to use our Earth Auger:
Simply attach it to your favorite hand drill and take it out to the yard for the task at hand. Holes can be drilled in 10-20 seconds and will be just right. Plan on making them about 9 inches deep as units need to be installed so 1-2″ stick out to keep the head unit off the ground.
VOLES IN THE ATTIC?
Since voles are great climbers, its not uncommon for them to scale house siding and end up in attic spaces. They will also tunnel under foundations and utilize crawl spaces, sheds and other voids under homes or out buildings.
For these areas, our ABOVE GROUND SOUND REPELLER can be installed to keep them out.
Set units up inside these spaces where voles were previously active. This can be in crawl spaces, attics, basements, garages or even living spaces. Our unit comes an included AC power converter so you can run the machine via electricity. And since they’re water resistant, they can be used outside too but for most problems, our in the ground units featured above will be best suited for the outside areas around your structure.
When using ultra sound as a repeller, its important to understand it does have limits. First, you will lose protection in areas which are cluttered or filled with storage. Wide open attics and crawl spaces will provide an area well suited for good results; cluttered areas will require extra units to insure no “dead spots” exist.
Additionally, most homes will get great protection by installing units where activity was most noted. This is usually in the attic or crawl space. However, it could be in the garage or living area. Our units will not hurt people or pets so it can be used in these areas if needed. Another great location to set up units is at key points of entry.
For the exact settings to use for voles, refer to our product details page here: VOLE SETTING FOR CRAWL SPACE OR ATTICS
We also feature several accessories for our sound repeller including POWER CORD EXTENDERS (33 FEET AND 66 FEET), CIGARETTE LIGHTER POWER ADAPTER, ALLIGATOR CLIP POWER CORD and AC POWER SUPPLY REPLACEMENTS.
Give us a call if you need further help. Our toll free is 1-800-877-7290 and we’re open Monday through Thursday, 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM. On Friday, 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM and on Saturday, 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM (Eastern Standard Time).
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