Battling moles and voles

Published 11:07 am Monday, February 18, 2019

never enjoyed fielding questions about moles and voles because I never had a good solution for either. My opinion is nobody has an easy solution. Fortunately, these pests are usually problems sporadically and are not in the league with fire ants as serious nuisances.

On the other hand, I could always come up with approved, legal fire ant treatments that, applied correctly, would keep renewed ant populations within tolerable levels. 

Moles and voles are not closely related species, not even in the same family.  Moles are not rodents. They are carnivorous, feeding mostly on insects, insect larva and true worms.

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Moles’ tunnels serve two purposes. The so-called main tunnels are the roadways, used and reused for travel back and forth between the sleeping site and current temporary feeding tunnels. The offshoot feeding tunnels might only be used once each, depending on how good the hunting is in that direction. It is the fact the feeding tunnels might or might not be re-traveled by moles that make it time-consuming and tedious to kill moles.

The stabbing Victor mole trap will work, but it is not as simple as setting a mouse trap. You have to select, i.e. guess at, a tunnel over which to set the trap. Give it 48 hours in decent weather. If no mole, reset the trap over a different tunnel. 

Moles are actually killed by these traps. It does take patience and due diligence. Likewise, the toxic plastic worms made to mimic natural mole food requires sticking with baiting and re-baiting and trying to get the bait where a mole will find it in whichever tunnel it travels next.

Voles are rodents, meaning they have four ever-growing incisor teeth made for gnawing. Think of rats and squirrels and beavers; rodents all. 

And voles are vegans, aka plant-eaters. The species around here, called “pine vole” or “woodland vole,” does most of its feeding underground or right at the surface. Plant roots and bulbs are favorites, but bark of young trees and shrubs will suffice as will seed spills from bird feeders. 

We see the small entrance holes to voles’ underworld, but there is a network of tunnels for feeding and traveling and chambers for sleeping and raising young down below.

Unlike moles, voles have not caused many conjured-up, inefficient human remedies like chewing gum. Some literature and websites that seem obligated to provide solutions for all problems of nature suggest standby repellants such as mothballs and vinegar.

Question; since you don’t know where the tunnels are and in which direction, not to mention all the unseen entrances, how are you going to know how much repellant to put where?  And if a tunnel-traveling vole comes across fumes it doesn’t like, isn’t it apt to take another nearby route?

I’m still no help with voles. The absolute best remedy I know of is a cat or two. I’m talking about outdoor-only cats that are not overfed or doted over.  Keep them up to date on health treatments, but let their hunting instincts thrive. 

Terry Rector is spokesman for the Warren County Soil and Water Conservation District.