The meadow vole, also known as a meadow mouse, is a small, chestnut brown rodent is seldom seen but very common all over Iowa. Voles have longish fur with a short tail, usually about a third the length of their body. Voles are a staple food source for many predators, as a result they are very prolific and produce a lot of young.
Voles are sexually mature at about 32 days of age and, with sufficient food supplies, can breed year-round. With several litters per year, populations can build quickly
Voles eat a variety of plants, especially grasses and forbs. In late summer and fall, they gather and store seeds, tubers, and bulbs. They also eat the bark of young woody plants.
Voles, unlike mice, rarely enter buildings.
Voles - What To Look For
Runways snaking through the grass is the most obvious indicator of vole activity. These runways are most obvious in spring once snow has melted and before new grass growth.
Close inspection of grassy areas during the growing season may also reveal less obvious runways which sometimes including the top 2-3 inches of soil. There are often numerous entrances to this runway system and the vegetation is often closely clipped or dead in well-traveled runways. The runways are 1-2 inches in width.
In addition to damage to lawns, voles most often damage and/or kill young trees and shrubs by gnawing at the bark and often girdling them completely. This most often occurs in the fall and winter but is not obvious until the spring, when the plant may partially leaf out and then suddenly wilt and die. Inspecting the base of the plant will reveal girdling of the bark at or near the soil surface. Chew marks at up to 2-3 inches above the surface also indicate vole damage.
voles - What To Do
Mow grass or turf shorter. The shorter grass exposes them more to natural predation. However, voles will often move to perimeter areas that are not mowed as short or as often.
To prevent damage to trees or shrubs excluding voles is the best bet. Install 1/4-inch mesh wire cylinders, 1-2 feet high, to a depth of 1-2 inches in the soil around the base of the plants to be protected. If you plan on using mulch around these plants, try to use gravel or small stones, as bark or leaf mulch is easier for the vole to scrape away.
In heavy vole activity the best bet is to reduce the population by either trapping or using a bait formulated for voles. If using bait, apply directly to tunnel openings, never scatter in runways unless directed to do so by product label.
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