Moles vs. Voles: Understanding the Differences and How to Manage Them
When it comes to garden and lawn damage, two small creatures often bear the brunt of the blame: moles and voles. While they may sound similar and share some similarities in their destructive behaviors, moles and voles are two distinct species with different habits and characteristics. In this blog post, we will explore the differences between moles and voles, their impact on gardens, and effective methods for managing their presence.
While commonly confused with each other, there are several key physical differences between moles and voles when it comes to identifying which critter is living in your yard.
What Do Moles Look Like?
Moles are small mammals belonging to the Talpidae family. They are typically 4-7 inches long and have cylindrical bodies, short legs, and powerful front feet equipped with large, sharp claws, which enable them to dig extensive tunnel systems. Moles have velvety fur, shorter tails, and a pointed snout, which aids in tunneling through soil.
What Do Voles Look Like?
Voles, also known as meadow mice or meadow voles, are rodents belonging to the Arvicolinae subfamily, commonly confused with field mice. They are slightly larger than moles, measuring around 4-8 inches long. Voles have a chunkier appearance, short legs, and small eyes and ears. Unlike moles, voles have a more rounded snout, which is better adapted for gnawing on plants, tree bark, and roots.
The type of damage you have noticed in your yard and be a huge help in identifying which critter you have in your yard, as moles and voles have very different diets.
What Do Moles Eat?
Moles are insectivores, meaning their primary diet consists of insects, grubs, and other small invertebrates found in the soil. Their underground tunneling allows them to search for prey, primarily earthworms, beetles, ants, and larvae. Moles have a high metabolic rate and require a substantial amount of food to sustain their energy levels. They can consume insects equivalent to their own body weight in food in just a single day.
While moles primarily feed on soil-dwelling organisms, they do not consume plant matter as a significant part of their diet. Their tunneling activity might accidentally disturb the roots of plants, but this is more of an indirect consequence rather than intentional feeding behavior.
What Do Voles Eat?
Unlike moles, voles are herbivorous and feed predominantly on systems of plants. Their diet consists of a wide range of vegetation, including grasses, seeds, bulbs, roots, tubers, and the bark of trees and shrubs. Voles are known to have a particular fondness for young, tender plant shoots and will readily consume a variety of garden plants.
Voles can cause significant damage to gardens, lawns, and crops due to their plant-based diet. Their gnawing on roots and stems can weaken or kill plants, and their appetite for bulbs and tubers can lead to the loss of valuable vegetation.
It's important to note that while moles are primarily insectivores and voles are herbivores, both species may occasionally consume other food sources based on availability or necessity. However, these instances are relatively rare compared to their respective primary food preferences.
Habitats and Behavior
Have you started noticing shallow, surface tunnels in your yard? Or are they deeper tunnels? The type of tunnel can be another method of identifying the pesky animal in your yard.
Where Do Moles Live?
Moles are primarily subterranean creatures that inhabit underground tunnel networks. They construct intricate systems of tunnels just below the surface of the ground, which can cover large areas. Moles are solitary animals, and their tunneling activity is mainly focused on foraging for earthworms, insects, and grubs. They rarely venture above ground and prefer moist, loamy soil.
Where Do Voles Live?
Voles, on the other hand, are primarily surface dwellers and do not create extensive tunnel systems like moles. They construct shallow burrows and runways above the ground, often hidden under vegetation or mulch. Voles are social animals that live in colonies, and their diet consists mainly of plants, including roots, bulbs, and tubers. Their gnawing activity can cause significant damage to gardens and landscaping.
Dangerous to Humans
Moles and voles are generally not considered dangerous to humans, and they do not pose a significant threat. However, it's important to note that they have natural defense mechanisms and may bite if they feel threatened or cornered. Here's a closer look at their behavior:
Are Moles Dangerous To Humans?
Moles are not aggressive animals and do not seek out interactions with humans or pets. They spend the majority of their lives underground, focusing on tunneling and foraging for food. Moles have poor eyesight, and their primary senses are touch and smell. If they encounter a person or animal, their instinct is to retreat or avoid contact.
Although moles may bite if they feel threatened, the chances of being bitten by a mole are extremely rare. It would require direct handling or provocation, which is unlikely to occur as moles tend to avoid above-ground areas where human activity is prevalent.
Are Voles Dangerous To Humans?
Similarly, voles are not known for aggressive behavior towards humans. They are typically shy and prefer to stay hidden in their underground burrows or runways. Voles may become more defensive if they feel cornered or threatened.
While voles are not prone to attacking humans, they can bite if they perceive a threat. However, their bites are relatively uncommon, and the risk of encountering an aggressive vole is minimal.
In both cases, it's important to exercise caution and avoid direct contact with moles and voles. If you need to handle or relocate them, it's recommended to seek assistance from professionals or use appropriate trapping methods.
Damage to Gardens
It's worth noting that the primary concern with moles and voles is the damage they can cause to gardens, lawns, and crops, rather than any potential harm to humans.
What Does Mole Damage Look Like?
Moles are generally not considered direct pests to gardens since they primarily feed on soil-dwelling insects and grubs. However, mole tunnels can indirectly damage plants by uprooting them or causing root systems to dry out due to increased soil exposure. The raised molehills can also be unsightly and make lawn maintenance challenging.
What Does Vole Damage Look Like?
Voles pose a more significant threat to gardens and landscaping. Their voracious appetite for stems, leaves, and plant roots can lead to the destruction of lawns, ornamental plants, and crops. Voles often create visible surface runways, which can help identify their presence. These runways can result in the girdling of young trees and the loss of valuable vegetation.
While both of these animals are an important part of the ecosystem, that doesn't mean you want them in your yard. Here are a few different control methods you can try.
How Do I Get Rid of Moles?
If mole activity is causing concerns in your garden, consider these management strategies:
- Physical Barriers: Installing underground fences made of mesh or hardware cloth can deter moles from entering specific areas.
- Trapping: Mole traps, such as scissor-jaw or harpoon-style traps, can be effective but require careful placement and handling. Most types of mole traps can be purchased at local hardware stores.
- Natural Repellents: Certain plants like daffodils, marigolds, or castor beans are known to repel moles. Planting them strategically may help deter mole activity.
How Do I Get Rid of Voles?
To manage voles in your garden, try the following methods:
- Exclusion: Create protective barriers around vulnerable plants using wire mesh or hardware cloth.
- Trapping: Live traps or snap traps can be used to capture voles. Bait traps with peanut butter or apple slices for effective results.
- Habitat Modification: Keep grass and vegetation trimmed short, remove ground cover, and reduce excess mulch to make your garden less attractive to voles.
Call The Professionals
If you have started noticing damage to plants, active mole tunnels, or have found dead animals on your property, it might be time to call the professionals. 4-Evergreen offers treatments for a variety of lawn pests, including mole control and vole control services. Let us help you reclaim your beautiful lawn! Call our team of experts today to help you identify the pest and remove them from your yard for good!