Vole infestation

Asked February 12, 2016, 9:24 AM EST

We noticed vole tunnels taking over our yard when the snow melted last Thursday. We promptly purchased traps (and set them with either peanut butter or store bought bait) and Vole repellant that we spread throughout our yard. We did this last Saturday. Even though a week has passed, we have not caught a single vole yet. Do you have any other suggestions or recommendations for us?

Montgomery County Pennsylvania wildlife damage management moles voles

1 Response

The first thing you’ll need to do is determine if your problem is truly voles or if you actually have moles, as this will determine the best method of control. Voles are small rodents that resemble mice with short tails. They primarily cause damage by feeding on the stems or roots of perennials and small shrubs in landscapes, while moles primarily feed on earthworms, grubs and other insects that are found in the soil. Only some types of voles will burrow into the ground and leave tunnels, as others prefer to move above ground. However, all voles will crawl through previously established mole tunnels. If tunnels are present, the best way to tell if they are caused by moles or voles is to look for small golfball sized holes near the tunnels. These are the holes left by voles exiting the tunnels. Moles do not leave these kinds of exit holes.

Under cover of snow, voles will travel to areas into which they would not otherwise venture. The vole damage to your lawn in the winter is temporary and your lawn will quickly recover in the spring.

If your problem is voles, you can trap them by finding one of the tunnels they are using, dig out a portion and place a small mouse trap length-wise in the tunnel and set it. You can bait it with peanut butter or a peanut butter/oatmeal mixture. Then cover the disturbed site with a bucket or some other object or material that will provide total darkness as to not alert the animals to the disturbed area and to prevent song birds from being caught in the trap. The voles will run through the tunnel and get caught in the trap. In addition, it may be beneficial to use short wire guards or landscape barriers around plants of special value if you suspect you have a vole problem. You can also discourage voles from invading your yard by keeping the grass mowed short and reducing the amount of thatch in the lawn. As a last resort, poisoned pellets are also available from lawn and garden type stores for dealing with severe vole problems. These pellets or “poisoned peanuts” are usually labeled as “mole and gopher” bait. However, this would not be advised if you have pets or children that could easily come into contact with these products.

Here is a link to an indepth article about voles:

Voles — Wildlife Outreach Center — Penn State Extension

If your problem is moles, the most consistently effective mole control is achieved by trapping. Harpoon, scissors-jaw, and choker loop traps seem to be the most effective types of mole traps. Mole traps complete with instructions are available from lawn & garden, farm, or hardware type stores. Traps are most effective when set over the deeper more permanent mole tunnels instead of the shallow meandering type tunnels. To determine active runways, press down short sections of the raised ridges in your yard and mark these locations. Active runways will be repaired as moles continue to feed and travel, while abandoned tunnels will not be repaired. Set traps only at the active locations, and move traps within three days if you fail to catch moles. Time, patience, and knowledge of mole activity is essential to successful trapping.

Moles play a beneficial role in the management of soil and the control of undesirable grubs and insects. By tunneling and shifting soil particles, moles permit better aeration of the soil, help dry out sod, and enable humus (organic matter) to travel deeper into the soil. Their tunneling also allows subsoil material to be moved closer to the surface, where nutrients may be more available to plant roots.

A serious mole problem indicates that there is an abundant food supply. If the food supply can be eliminated or reduced, the moles will be forced to leave the area. There are several pesticides available that will kill white grubs(June beetle larvae), other insects, and even earthworms. Inquire at your local cooperative extension office or garden center for information about an appropriate pesticide.

Here is a link to an indepth article about moles:


Poisons are often sold as the solution to mole problems. Usually peanuts, grain, or other food or pelleted materials act as carriers for the poison zinc phosphide. However, since moles feed almost entirely on insects and worms, they usually do not take poisoned baits, and poisoning is usually not as effective as trapping in controlling moles.

Poisons containing zinc phosphide are highly poisonous to all wildlife and should be used with extreme caution. Poisons should only be applied underground (never broadcast a toxicant), and all above-ground spills should be cleaned up immediately. Collect and bury all carcasses found above ground to prevent pets, predators and scavengers from consuming them. Finally, never apply toxicants to crop or garden areas where food or feed may be contaminated or to areas where rains may wash chemicals into ponds or streams. Because of hazards to nontarget wildlife, many zinc phosphide toxicants are registered as restricted use pesticides and can only be applied by a certified pesticide applicator.

I would recommend waiting until mid-spring before attempting to remove the moles or voles from your yard. The lawn may quickly repair itself!