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How to Kill Pests - Vole Removal Information

How to Kill Voles

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How to Kill a Vole


Voles live just about everywhere in the US and Canada depending on the type of vole.  There are 23 vole species in the United States.  The USDA Cooperative Extension Service has conducted years of research on the vole populations across the US and select border regions of southern Canada due to the species’ economic impact on agricultural production. 


The seven most prevalent vole species damaging alfalfa and apple crops are the:

·         Prairie vole

·         Mountain vole

·         Meadow vole

·         Long-tailed vole

·         Woodland vole

·         Oregon vole

·         California vole


Voles are commonly called field mice.  They have different types of camouflaging marks and colors to their fur. Voles are very active foragers and provide a ready source of food for many different types of winged and land-based predators.  However, predators do little to control vole populations due to vole breeding capacity and annual breeding cycles.  Young females may begin breeding as young as two weeks and can produce offspring one to five times per year, usually during the spring and summer.  Vole breeding capacity can be year round. Voles do not hibernate.


Voles roam no further, on average, than a quarter acre from their homes.  Vole population density and resulting food requirements lead to significant crop damage during the spring and summer months. Voles will store seeds and tubers for winter feeding.  Bark and branch tips are a winter favorite.


Voles do not hibernate feeding year round on preferred food sources available within their habitat range.  Vole feeding habits can create severe growth setbacks to fruit trees and early growth pasture following winter thaws.  Recent extension research findings showed there can be as many as 99 voles per acre of full-grown alfalfa.  It is that scale of population density which can lead to average losses of one million pounds of alfalfa per year on a mid-sized dairy or cattle farm.


Here are some preferred vole population control techniques farmers to offset crop losses due to vole infestations, from non-lethal to lethal in nature.


Collaring prevent voles from feeding in orchards on young seedlings and saplings. Collars encircle the slender trunks of the young orchard stock and set three inches deep into soil around the trunk to prevent voles from burrowing to nibble away at the tender bark and young tissue just beneath it. Orchards are generally too large to be fenced as a protection against voles.  Traps can be set around the orchards at strategic immigration sites to monitor vole traffic before investment is made in collaring. Collaring significantly reduces a source of year round food for voles.


Habitat modification prevents voles from using the surrounding environment to nest and reproduce.  Those neat and tidy farms seen from the roadside are neat and tidy for a reason.  Voles love to nest in weedy waterways and mulch beds around trees and fence rows.  Mowing and tillage keeps ground cover to a minimum and forces voles to seek shelter farther away from food sources making them easier prey to hawks and other predators, disrupting their foraging and food storage activities.


Zinc phosphide pellets are an effective vole poison in pelleted form. However, pellets can poison birds and waterfowl as well if broadcast indiscriminately.  Pellets placed in burrow openings can reduce this risk to non-target animals.


Fumigants are effective in small dose application into small scale burrows.  Once voles reach major population size (1700 voles per acre in some documented cases in Washington State) fumigants become less effective as burrows become deeper and more difficult to penetrate and isolate for treatment.


Use of firearms has been found to be wholly ineffective.  Predatory controls have not been shown to be significantly effective on any scale against vole infestation.  Cats, garden snakes, and predatory birds can thin the population but not to the point of reversing population growth enough to stem crop losses.


Against a populous pest like the common field mouse, farmers are better off preventing vole infestation through the judicious, vigilant use of non-lethal management techniques which are consistent with best practices for home and farmstead management.  Voles will advantage themselves based on the environment that suits their nesting needs to support their year round feeding requirements.  Disruption of their food foraging and storage activities is the most prudent way to manage a hungry vole population.

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