Voles could be the problem

I have written articles comparing moles, voles, gophers, etc.

During these writing forays, in the back of my mind, I wondered if I have ever seen a vole.  Two years ago I planted some replacement apple trees and failed to put tree guards on them.  We had enough snow to cover the bottom part of the trees.  Come spring the snow melted, and I discovered that all the new trees had been girdled.

Although they formed buds, they all died that spring.  I thought mice had eaten the bark. I guess that was the case, because voles are also called meadow mice or field mice.  Apparently, I have seen voles before.

Voles do not hibernate but spend the winter building snow tunnels that protect them from fluctuating temperatures.  It is usually several degrees warmer in the tunnel.  Their tunnels have rooms for storing food and rooms for sleeping.  Girdling damage usually occurs in fall and winter. Girdling and gnaw marks alone do not indicate the presence of voles, since other animals make similar damage.  Vole gnaw marks are not uniform and they occur at various angles and in irregular patches.  Rabbit gnaw marks are larger, not distinct and rabbits neatly clip branches with clean cuts.

Voles can do plenty of damage to summer crops such as alfalfa, clover, grain, potatoes, and sugar beets.  Their tunnels and runways interfere with crop irrigation, and they can ruin lawns, golf courses and ground cover.

That mouse that you saw in your house could have been a vole in the basement or behind the wood box.  Although they rarely do come into the house, using a snap trap baited with a peanut butter oatmeal mixture can control them.  Voles pose no major public health hazard because of their infrequent contact with humans.  However, they are capable of carrying disease organisms, so be careful to use protective clothing while handling them.

I took some of this article from the Department of Agriculture.

That organization had two pages of damage prevention and control methods.  They include repellents, toxicants, fumigants, trapping, shooting, and other remedies.

If voles do get into a basement or behind a cupboard, a snap trap or live trap seems to have the most success.

If they are outside, keeping the grass and weeds down in orchards and garden helps some.  Hardware cloth cylinders keep them away from young trees and seedlings.  While mulching helps protect perennials from weeds and the cold, it is also a warm home for voles.  Enemies of voles include coyotes, snakes, hawks, owls, and weasels, but they don’t seem to control the vole population.

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