Voles in my yard

Asked November 6, 2014, 4:09 PM EST

I have voles burrowing through my lawn. How do I get rid of them? I tried mouse traps with peanut butter, and caught something in each trap, but think they were squirrels that I caught. They tore the traps up, so I don't think I caught voles. Again, how can I get rid of voles in my yard?

Meade County South Dakota

1 Response

Sorry for the delay in answering your question. Sometimes questions get bumped around. Your question was just assigned to us today.
You may indeed have voles in your landscape, but if you are seeing runways through your lawn, you probably have moles. Moles are insectivores and do not feed on vegetation, so even though they can make a mess of one's lawn, they are somewhat beneficial. They eat grubs, beetles, and other soil insects, but they also eat earthworms. Their burrows aerate the soil which can be a good thing.
Moles are also loners. They are not colonizers. In fact, moles will fight other moles over their territory, so you may only have one or two moles in your lawn.
The cheapest way to deal with moles is to remove about one foot of the roof of an active runway, clean out the floor of the runway, place two un-baited, but "set" mouse traps on the floor facing each direction along the runway. Press the soil down on either side of the traps and cover the exposed hole with a board or tile. The mole should simply stumble into the trap.
Voles on the other hand are the nemesis of landscape plants. These creatures are colonizers and there may be 80-100 voles around your landscape. Voles feed on vegetation and will eat the roots of woody shrubs, chew the bark of of trees, devour entire flowers, roots and all. Again, the cheapest way to control voles is to use baited mouse traps placed on the surface near your ornamental flowers and shrubs. Place several traps baited with either peanut butter or a small piece of fruit. If squirrels are getting into the traps, you can cover the traps with a bucket, box, or other device. Voles will dig up from beneath the trap to get to the bait.
These two rodents are very common in Maryland. In your area, however, you could be dealing with either gophers or ground squirrels, both of which will burrow in the soil. We have neither of these rodents in Maryland, so it would be appropriate for you to contact your local extension office for advice on dealing with them. The office is located at 1029 Fifth St. in Sturgis and their telephone number is 605-347-2436.