Help with voles in our lawn
We have a bad problem with voles in our back yard. We have tried poisons for moles, but it didn't help. We also took down our bird feeders since they seemed to like to burrow near the feeders, but that didn't help either. Can you give us some suggestions that will rid our yard of them. We have lots of tunnels all over the yard and patches where they have eaten the grass about 6 inches in diameter. Is there a professional company that could come out and deal with this problem? Joan and George Olson
Minnehaha County South Dakota
Voles are difficult to control but there are some things you can do to protect your lawn and plantings. See below for options. It is a bit late perhaps to mow, it is snowing here now, but that reduces the grass cover which can expose the animals to predation. For professional exterminator suggestions in your area contact your local Extension office: Minnehaha County Extension Service 220 W 6th St. Sioux Falls, SD 57104 605-367-7877
- Exclude voles from around trees and shrubs by installing 1/4-inch mesh wire cylinders around young trees and shrubs. These should extend, where possible, into the top 1-2 inches of the soil. Pre-emergent herbicides used around the base of woody plants prevent voles from finding food and cover there. Mulches, if used around such plants for moisture retention, should consist of gravel or cinders whenever possible. If softer materials, like bark and wood chips, are used they should be scraped back from the tree during the fall and winter months.
- In small areas trapping may be an effective way of reducing vole populations. Standard mouse snap traps set along runways or near tunnels baited with peanut butter will catch some animals. You may want to cover the traps so that pets and children do not accidentally find them.
- Large vole populations can most effectively be reduced with toxic baits. There are some pesticides available for home use. Be sure to read the label before you buy any pesticide and again before you use the pesticide. Vole baits should be placed inside bait stations to reduce the risk of non-target species ingesting the bait. Most pesticides recommended for voles are restricted and can only be used by Certified Pesticide Applicators.
- While your lawn damage is most visible in the spring it is rarely permanent. Simply rake up the dead grass and reseed the area. As the surrounding grass grows it will cover up the trails.
Voles are extremely common and total prevention is probably impossible but general yard sanitation may help keep vole numbers down. Remove woodpiles and other debris from the ground that may allow hiding places for voles. Keep grass trimmed short and bushes trimmed up from the ground. Bird feeders are another attraction for voles and should either be removed or the ground kept very clean to keep vole numbers down. And you have already moved the bird feeders.
I hope this is helpful.