A mystery pest in your yard wreaking havoc can be a pretty frustrating issue. If all you know is that the creature is probably smallish, brownish and likes to dig, you might be able to whittle your suspects down to voles and moles. Thankfully, the tunnels they carve out are often easy to tell apart.
Tunnels created by moles are usually close to the top of the dirt, and when people walk directly over them, the soil usually feels fragile rather than sturdy. These tunnels are where moles search for food. Voles also create tiny holes in the ground, but theirs generally are a little tinier than those made by moles. Vole holes are often between 1 and 2 inches in diameter, while mole burrows are often a tad over 2 inches in diameter. Mole tunnel "entry points" are usually obscured by piles of dirt, while those of voles usually are not -- a key differentiating component.
Moles also sometimes dig deeper holes that are intended for breeding and relaxing rather than sustenance. They frequently "label" them by placing conspicuous, cone-shaped heaps of dirt over them. Voles, unlike moles, do not leave soil heaps behind for you to find.
Voles frequently establish direct and obvious above-ground pathways that lead from one hole to another. They are often lined with bark, clumps of grass and even fecal matter. These paths are, at times, particularly prominent -- think immediately following the elimination of mulch, or perhaps once snow has diminished. They are usually between 1 and 2 inches in width.
Diet and Destruction
Moles generally consume soil bugs, grubs and earthworms, while voles largely favor parts of plants, whether bark, grass or seeds. Voles are not strictly herbivorous, however, and also sometimes eat remnants of dead creatures, snails and bugs. Because of their respective diets, you might notice that the problems they cause in your lawn are markedly different. As moles scour for food, they often lead to detriment of plants' roots. Voles, on the other hand, munch away on roots directly. If fruits are available in yards, voles eagerly dine on them, too, and they also extract bark straight from trees, leading to noticeable bare rings around them. If you know which type of pest is in your yard, you might be able to handle the dilemma more efficiently. Remember, however, that it isn't unheard of for voles and moles to occupy the same places at the same times. Lastly, voles also have the habit of taking over holes that were made previously by moles -- occasionally adding to the confusion.
- Washington State University Extension: Voles
- Rutgers University Extension: How Can You Tell the Difference Between Mole and Vole Damage in the Yard?
- University of Missouri Turf Pathology: Moles N Voles N Gophers - Oh My!
- Cobb County Extension: Facts on Moles and Voles
- University of Minnesota Extension: Voles in the Landscape
- University of Missouri Extension: Controlling Nuisance Moles
- UNL Extension in Platte County: Moles, Voles and Trapping
- Clay County Extension Service: Is it a Vole or a Mole?
- ESF Adirondack Ecological Center: Star-nosed Mole
- University of Rhode Island Landscape Horticulture Program: Meadows and Pine Voles
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