Getting rid of voles
Help! My husband and I have waged a multi-year battle against voles in our yard that eat our grass roots and kill our lawn. We have tried everything but a raptor perch. Any recommendations?
Our first question would be what are your symptoms, and why do you think the damage is solely due to voles?
Can you describe more of what you have been experiencing and how you have attempted to deal with it?
There are multiple issues that can lead to lawn difficulties, and there may be a combination of ways to help you.
Voles can do some damage by eating roots, but they generally don't kill lawns. If you have a large population of voles, we recommend repeatedly setting snap traps baited with peanut butter or apples.
Here is a page about voles: https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/voles
Here is a page where you can step through different lawn problems: https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/lawns/common-problems-lawns
Finally, if you would like to attach photos of what is going on, both wide shots and closer, you can attache them right to this reply by clicking on 'Browse' below.
I'm attaching pictures of the damage and the holes. We have seen the voles multiple times and often feel the tunnels collapsing beneath our feet when we walk. So far, we have tried cayenne based deterrents like critter rider, pellets, snap trap (they took the peanut butter and didn't set off the traps!) and flooding the holes. We also no longer mulch and have cut the ground over down to the roots. Any other things we should try?
You likely do have some voles or chipmunks, and can continue with multiple baited snap traps to control numbers. As the weather cools and food becomes more scarce, catching them becomes easier. You can try mushing the peanut butter into part of a cotton ball so that they have to tug at the strands.
Vole holes go into the ground at an angle. The small straight up and down holes are more likely annual cicada holes. You wouldn't normally notice these if there was some grass or groundcover there.
The bald area also looks like it could be compacted, moist or shaded. Is this area shaded by trees? If so, it will always be difficult to grow good grass there.
We'd suggest a soil test if you've not done one in a few years (here is info on that: https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/soils/soil-testing), then aerating the area and overseeding with a good grass seed mixture. Now is the perfect time.
Here is our page on renovation, which includes a link to hg102, a publication which covers overseeding, including how to find a good brand of seed and all the steps to success: https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/lawns/lawn-renovation
Thank you for the help. We will try the cotton ball trick. It's fairly sunny in the yard, but it's not full sun all day, so we may always have to struggle to keep some grass back there. I appreciate all the help.
You are most welcome.