Burrowing pests in my lawn

Asked March 12, 2017, 12:35 PM EDT

I have some animal that is borrowing holes in my lawn and I am not sure it is a mole. There are no mounds of dirt on top, just small holes about the size of a 50 cent piece. I have noticed paths throught the dense grass (on top of the grass) originating from the hole (so conceivably the critter comes out of the hole and spends some time on top of the grass. It is possible this occurred when there was snow cover. Any ideas? A neighbor is guessing a vole. The question is - how can I get rid of them?

Clackamas County Oregon wildlife damage management voles

2 Responses

Your neighbor is correct; sounds like you have a vole issue. Voles (Microtus spp) are a species of rodent that make the characteristic holes and runways which you describe. The presence really becomes noticeable after snow. These little guys are capable of causing a lot of damage to cultivated crops, orchards, and lawns. Trees are most often damaged (girdled) in the winter so now is the time to check them as well.

DAMAGE IDENTICATION

Tree girdling caused by voles is characterized by non-uniform gnaw marks that are about 1/8 inch in width and 3/8 inch in length which occur at various angles and in irregular patches. And because of the small size of voles this girdling occurs close to the ground.

The most prominent damage by voles is their extensive runway system through grassy areas including lawns. Runways are 1 to 2 inches in width and the vegetation is often clipped close to the ground next to well-traveled routes.

Control falls into 3 categories - habitat modification, exclusion, and population reduction. For effective long-term control all three measures will probably be needed.

HABITAT MODIFICATION

The elimination of weeds and ground cover around lawns and flower beds can reduce habitat suitability - voles do not like open ground. Lawns should be mowed regularly to two inches and mulch should be cleared three feet from the base of trees. In addition, if you live in an area where you can modify the habitat to encourage natural vole predators, that will help. These include snakes, hawks, owls, weasels and shrews.

EXCLUSION

Cylinders made of hardware cloth (with a mesh size no larger than 1/4 inch) are often effective in excluding voles and protecting individual plants and trees. You will need to burry part of the cylinder at least 6 inches below the ground surface to ensure that voles will not burrow under it. Protecting large areas such as your lawn is cost prohibitive.

POPULATION REDUCTION

Here are two links to some information regarding elimination and control:

http://extension.oregonstate.edu/gardening/are-voles-vying-your-lawn-0

http://extension.oregonstate.edu/lane/sites/default/files/documents/lc725volecontrol.pdf

Excellent, thank you!