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Moles, voles and garden holes.

Updated: Jun 29, 2023



Last week, early one morning, I stepped into my backyard to find a strange situation (to me, at least); all along the edge of my brick patio and a planter, the turf looked a little churned up, I assumed it was my kids, but as I stepped onto the grass it was super squishy like it had been disrupted from underneath, and, on further inspection, there were similar looking churns of turf on three sides of the house! I took to the internet to do some digging (PUN INTENDED) and quickly concluded it was Moles!,no Voles, no Moles, wait. What's the difference!?.


In this blog post, I'll walk you through my process of researching and understanding moles, voles, and garden holes, from the initial confusion to the surprising discoveries I made along the way.


Spot the difference.


We'll start by distinguishing voles from their mouse relatives and checking in on common misconceptions. Then, we'll dive into their habitat preferences, feeding habits, and the intricate burrow networks they create beneath our feet. Moles and voles may seem similar, but they're actually quite different critters. Here are some ways to tell them apart:


Looks:

Moles: Picture a little torpedo with tiny eyes and ears. They've got velvety fur, short legs, and strong claws for digging. They do not have noticeable external ears.






Voles: Think of a rounder mouse with short legs and tails. Their fur can be brown or grayish, depending on the species. They have black eyes and obvious ears.





Lifestyle:

Moles: These guys seem to be loners who spend most of their time underground. They're expert diggers, creating a fancy network of tunnels for all their needs, finding food, making nests, and getting around. Moles chow down on insects, worms, and other small critters they find in the soil.


Voles: Unlike moles, voles are more social and hang out above ground. You might spot them scurrying around in fields or gardens. They're not as into digging tunnels, but they'll make some shallow burrows. Voles have a more vegetarian taste and munch on plants, grasses, and seeds.


So, while moles are digging champions and insectivores, voles are social munchers who like their greens.


Digging a little deeper


Signs of Presence:


  • Moles create molehills, raised ridges, soft spots, and tunnel entrances in the yard.

  • Voles create tunnels, runways, and small burrow entrances, feeding damage to plants and nests in dense vegetation.


Tunnels and Burrows:


  • Moles dig deep tunnels underground for shelter and foraging.

  • Voles create shallow tunnels just beneath the surface and often have visible runways.


Feeding Habits:


  • Moles primarily feed on insects, worms, and grubs found in the soil.

  • Voles primarily feed on vegetation, including roots, bulbs, and tubers.


Damage:


  • Moles may cause aesthetic issues with molehills and raised ridges but do not feed on plants directly.

  • Voles can cause damage to vegetation by gnawing on plants and eating bulbs or tubers.


Droppings:


  • Moles do not produce noticeable droppings in the yard.

  • Vole droppings resemble small black or dark brown rice grains.


What to do!


It might take a few checks to verify which critter you are dealing with; once you do, I'm sure you'll ask yourself what to do. I have a checklist I run through whenever I find a yard-related issue detailed in this post. Fortunately, I didn't have far to go down the checks this time round; mother nature had the answer: A couple of mornings after my discovery, I found an almost headless (half-chewed) mole sitting at the edge of the driveway. My best guess is a neighborhood cat (who has left paw prints on my car) took a bite! So go get, adopt, rent, or borrow a cat. If that's not possible, my earth-friendly and humane suggestions are: Natural Barriers


Install physical barriers to deter moles and voles from entering certain areas of your yard. This can include burying a mesh or hardware cloth at least 1 foot deep around garden beds or using underground fencing.


Castor Oil


Moles and voles dislike the taste and smell of castor oil. Mix castor oil with water according to the product instructions and spray it on the affected areas of your yard. Repeat the application as needed.


Vibrating Devices: Some devices emit sonic vibrations or sonic pulses into the ground, disturbing and discouraging moles and voles. Place these devices in the affected areas of your yard following the manufacturer's instructions.


Habitat Modification: Reduce their preferred habitats by reducing your yard's attractiveness to moles and voles. Keep your lawn well-maintained, mow regularly, and remove tall grass, weeds, and debris where they may hide.


Trapping and Relocation: Humane trapping can be an option but requires knowledge and proper handling. Use live traps designed for small mammals and place them near active tunnels or runways. Once trapped, release the moles or voles far away from your property in a suitable habitat. Note: Check local laws and restrictions on trapping and moving,


Natural Predators: Encourage natural predators of moles and voles, such as owls, hawks, snakes, or domestic cats, to frequent your yard. Creating a welcoming environment for these predators may help control the population of moles and voles.






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