You love tulips. You plant them every spring and love the way they add color and beauty to your yard. You’ve loved them ever since you were a child, when you heard the cheesy phrase “Two lips are better than one” and forever associated the flower with fun and romance. Unfortunately, voles love them too, and they don’t use them for decorations - they want them for dinner.
Voles (also known as the field mouse or meadow mouse, not to be confused with moles), despite looking cute and bearing resemblance to certain loveable cartoon characters, are mischievous little runts that would love nothing more than to tear up your yard that you worked so hard on. Their propensity for devouring vegetation, including root systems, combined with their rampant reproduction rates (a vole couple can produce 100 baby voles in a year) makes them a formidable opponent to your healthy, beautiful landscape.
Voles tend to be found in areas with tall grass, wood piles, or anywhere else that provides cover. They are notorious for doing damage in the winter months, using snow for cover as they chew their way through yards and fields leaving elaborate “runways” in their wake. When the snow melts, it reveals significant turf damage as a result of the voles activity. They are also known for causing damage to newly planted trees and shrubs, and can wreak havoc on them if they aren’t properly covered with wire or some other type of protection. Besides using various objects and plant life for cover, they dig underground, and oftentimes when you see the damage they’ve caused, it’s too late.
While it’s possible for grass to regrow in damaged areas, and you can always plant flowers, trees, and shrubs again, an uncontrolled vole population will be constantly problematic and interrupt whatever progress you strive to make with your gardening and landscaping efforts. They have been known to cause significant damage to crops due to their voracious appetite and growth rate, causing headaches for farmers and the agricultural industry at large.
Another issue with voles is the other pests they can attract. Voles have several natural predators including, but not limited to: owls, hawks, snakes, and coyotes. If the vole population is plentiful around your home, you run the risk of having these other unwanted animals nearby, endangering your pets and children.
Furthermore, voles can be carriers for parasites such as lice, fleas, and ticks. If these parasites are passed on to other animals, such as mice and rats, and those pests make their way into your home, you could be at risk for multiple health problems, including Lyme Disease. This poses a danger to your pets as well, as they could pick up the parasites while spending time out in the yard.
The underground nature of these pests makes them a difficult one to combat. There are a number of DIY solutions floating around on the Internet, ranging from using Juicy Fruit gum as a lethal poison, or dumping castor oil into your soil. As clever as you think your cat is, it’s not getting into a vole hole. Using vole deterrents on your lawn can help, and you can also use tree guards to help keep voles from gnawing on the bark. The truth is, if you’re having a problem with these critters, professional help is your best option. A real solution requires a thorough assessment and careful planning to ensure the issue is taken care of.