increased vole and gopher populations

Asked November 21, 2019, 11:27 AM EST

Can you address this from a SW Oregon stand point? We're fairly certain we have both voles and gophers, and in recent years way way more than ever before. We don't have a lawn - we are in forested rural, but their numbers have increased a lot; fearing not much we can do, but thought I'd ask. Thank you

Washington County Oregon

8 Responses

Gophers and voles are managed quite differently, so the first step is in determining what you have, and where. Although there are pesticides registered for use, trapping and habitat modification are the main recommendations for managing these animals.

Thank you.

(BTW - the first two links land on the same page, and the third link, different page but same content)

After reading what you sent, I am still guessing that we may have both voles and gohpers, or all three - but maybe more so voles. Not only are there mounds here and there but raised paths all over as well. We don't have a lawn or even any areas covered with native grass, at least not closer in around the house. Around the house, in the dog run (which has a fenced garden within that), is mostly just dirt, with gravel in the front area. Other than when we have a garden in the late spring and summer, there isn't anything other than what was here naturally forested.

Is it ok to just leave things be and just combat them "however" when necessary during garden season? We try to cultivate between and around rows ever so often, but haven't the wherewithal to do much otherwise.

Just hoping it's ok, as no way could we even contemplate trying to do much about them. I step on mounds and paths when I can, but no way can I even make much of a dent or keep that up.

Guess I'm just hoping, to some acceptable extent, it's ok to just leave them be? And, will their numbers fluctuate some on their own?

Thank you.

Given that you are seeing mounds and "raised paths," I'm guessing you have gophers or moles, not voles. Gophers leave crescent shaped mounds as they push dirt from their tunnels. Rarely, there are raised tunnels. Moles leave volcano shaped mounds, and raised tunnels are not uncommon. With voles, you tend to see small quarter sized open holes, and compacted pathways connecting them.

Gophers and moles are territorial. Voles are not.

I would keep gophers at bay to protect your garden and ornamental trees. Moles are insectivores, and I think they really only affect aesthetics (and sometimes irrigation). Gophers are easily kill-trapped, but be aware that their underground tunnels remain available to any invading gophers (pre-made highways), so be vigilant of new sign.

Thank you so very much. Between reading your most recent reply and what you sent in the previous one, I would then lean more towards moles (and less gophers) since they almost all have raised paths, and I believe volcano (or rounded rather than crescent) mounds.

I do also think we have some voles as we also have the quarter size holes with little to no raised paths. Of course we also have cicadas but their holes, but their holes are smaller and in places they should be (closer to trees) rather than in the garden or in the open.

Can you explain the significance of why you mentioned gophers and moles are territorial, voles not? Was this to address my question of if their numbers will fluctuate?

So - hopefully then, we're ok kind of just leaving things be for the time being; cross our fingers and pray.

Yes, the vole populations erupt when the conditions are right. You'll notice it (the owls will as well). The gopher and mole population GENERALLY will plateau and reach a territorial carrying capacity. For me, if I can live with the mole and gophers (less with gophers due to their vegetarian nature in my garden), we reach an impasse. I've actually made a leaf mulch patch in my old yard (northern California) to encourage the territorial moles to forage there. Whether it worked or not, I felt better that I was stewarding "my" moles!

Thank you Robert - for all your attentive and intelligent help. I feel somewhat better now and will probably, like you, just aim for that impasse and take care in and around the garden as best we can without any undue measures.

Thank you; you, too!