You may be wondering if that pesky creature digging up your yard is a mole or a vole? Moles and voles can both cause damage, but they are actually very different animals. The rhyming names may have you confused, but we are here to help set the record straight.
Identification: Moles can grow from 4-9 inches long and have gray fur. Since they live nearly all of their lives underground, their eyes and ears are almost completely covered by their fur to keep the dirt out. Moles also have pointed snouts and large paddle-shaped front feet that end in claws for digging.
Diet: Moles are insectivores, meaning they primarily rely on insects for their nutrition. They eat grubs, worms, centipedes, and other insects and their larvae. They do not eat grass, vegetables, roots, or other plants. If you are having trouble with something eating your plants, it is not a mole.
Damage Caused: Moles dig large networks of tunnels. Surface tunnels run along the surface of the ground and push the soil into ridges that are 3-5 inches wide. They also dig deep tunnels that they use as their main runways. When a mole digs these tunnels, they remove the excess dirt by creating a molehill above ground. These molehills are volcano-shaped and are often seen in a line. Molehills and tunnels can kill young plants, cause disfiguration to lawns, and create drainage problems.
Control: Even though it may look like a lot of moles have taken up residence in your yard, they are solitary creatures, and it is likely only one mole. Special mole traps can be used to get rid of the mole that is causing trouble. You can also use poisoned baits.
Identification: Voles are rodents and look very similar to mice but with small ears, small eyes, and shorter tails. In fact, they are often called field mice or meadow mice. Voles are around 5 inches long, with fur ranging from reddish brown to dark gray.
Diet: Voles are mostly herbivores and eat plants including the stems, bulbs, roots, seeds, and even the bark of trees. They can destroy gardens, shrubs, and trees with their constant eating and gnawing.
Damage Caused: Aside from the damage caused by their feeding, voles can also make a mess of lawns. This most often occurs during the winter when snow covers the ground. Voles travel under the snow, very close to the surface of the ground. This creates visible 2 inch wide runways throughout the lawn. The unsightly paths occur because they have eaten the grass down and traveled the same route over and over. Once the snow melts, homeowners may be shocked to see that their lawn has been destroyed over the winter.
Control: Voles multiply rapidly, and the population can quickly get out of control unless interventions are taken. Vole control is very similar to mouse control and generally involves trapping and baits. Regular mouse-sized snap traps can be set perpendicular to runways and baited with things like peanut butter, oats, fruit, etc. The traps can also be placed near burrow openings, around flower beds, or other places where there is vole activity. Rodent baits that are for mice and rats are usually good for voles too. Always follow label directions for use.
If you have pest problems, Harris products can help you eliminate them quickly and effectively. For more information, check out our Mole Ultimate Guide.