It is common to see people search for terms like voles vs moles, shrew, and mice because of the burrows in their mulch, or runaways that part the grass or in the grass.
In most cases, little creatures known as voles are thought to be the culprit, but in reality, they may actually be a shrew, or mole.
It is important to know which you are dealing with so you can employ the proper management system. Each has peculiar characteristics/features that differentiate them from the other.
To an untrained eye, the difference between a vole vs. mole can be little and it can also be difficult to distinguish a vole vs. a shrew, which is why any pest in the yard needs a professional assessment.
This article will show you the difference between moles, voles and shrews and how you can eliminate them from your premises.
Appearance of Voles vs Moles and shrews
Moles, voles and shrews can easily be distinguished from one another by looking at some of the primary physical characteristics of each.
Mole: has pointed snout, enlarged front feet, and ears and eyes so tiny that they are not visible.
Vole: Also known as a meadow mouse, has rounded ears and body and is black, brown or reddish in color with a gray underside
Shrew: A shrew has a pointed snout, and non-enlarged feet (unlike the mole).
Moles, voles and shrew behavior
Aside the various physical characteristics, voles, moles, and shrews each live in different habitats and have unique food preferences. These basic characteristics can help you determine voles vs moles and voles and moles vs shrews.
Voles prefer to live in creeping vegetation or in low-lying, and make trails through the snow or grass. Unlike the predacious moles, voles are primarily herbivores and will feed on the bark, roots, bulbs, and seeds of many ornamental plants and grasses.
Moles live underground in tunnels, and are predatory in nature. Moles primarily feed on grubs, earthworms, beetles and other animals or arthropods found in the soil.
Shrews have many habitats, depending on the species. Typically, near a structure, shrews will reuse the tunnels made by voles and moles, and will also occasionally invade buildings. Shrews feed on slugs, insects, earthworms, seeds, small animals and roots.
Voles vs. mice
You may have seen one or more rodent on your property, but it can be hard to know exactly what kind of animal it is.
What is the difference between a mice vs voles?
Here is one sure way to tell: voles have short tails, but mice have longer tails (about their body length). Voles also look heavier than mice.
Plus, mice tend to make contact with surfaces while voles like to be active in open land. A vole problem may present itself as runs in your grass, whereas mice are likely to stay in spots with more cover, like vegetation and next to a structure.
Found on the East Coast, Meadow voles tend to stay outdoors in winter but house mice seek out warmer places, such as your business or home. Additionally, mice mainly eat seeds, grains, and even dead animals while voles can eat plants and grass
For negative effects, voles can harm your lawn and plants while mouse droppings may carry disease and contaminate food.
To stop moles from becoming a problem, minimize vegetation that’s against the structure and mow your lawn. Pick up fruits and vegetables that has fallen in your garden. If mice or voles have taken up residence at your property, it’s best to contact a pest control professional.
Mole, Vole And Shrew Control Specialists
Managing shrews, voles, and moles can be challenging to control, so using an integrated pest management approach with tools such as baiting, trapping and habitat modification will give the best chance for success. If you’re experiencing a problem in your yard or lawn with moles, voles or shrews, be sure to contact an pest control expert for assistance.
Mole Anatomy and Characteristics
- Moles snout are pointed
- Moles feet are enlarged and are used for digging
- Moles have eyes and ears so tiny that they are not visible.
- Moles live underground in tunnels
- By nature, moles are predatory
- Moles mainly feed on earthworms, beetles, grubs and other animals or arthropods found in soil.
If properly utilised, a harpoon trap can be used. Find the main travel tunnel by tamping down all, and see where the comes back.
Generally, all feeding tunnels come off the main tunnel. After determining this, the trap must be set so the supports straddle the tunnel and the harpoon prongs point directly over the main tunnel.
If the supports block the tunnel, the mole will go around and avoid the deadly prongs. It helps if the prongs are worked in and out of the tunnel before setting the spring. This is so the mole will be hit quickly as the trap is sprung. When the trap is sprung, dig up the spot to make sure the mole is dead. If, not, re-tamp the tunnel lightly and reset.
Another trap “Toxins contained in bait”. The most bait is sold as gummy worms. These are inserted also into a long straight- run main tunnel. The key is not to leave your scent on them. A sharp stick can be used to open a hole into the tunnel into which the worm is dropped. Make sure the worm is not dropped too deep, so as to be beneath the main runway. Check daily to see if the worm was gone.
Castor oil is another effective mole repellent (it reduces their activity). To make it effective, the entire lawn must be irrigated with 1/2″ of water prior to the application. 1″ of water should be applied post-treatment.
Prepare your own castor oil concentrate by mixing 6 ounces of 100% unrefined castor oil with two tablespoons of liquid dish detergent and 1 gallon of water or you could just buy a commercial concentrate.
This will cover about 300 square feet. Liquid products are more effective than granular. Castor oil has an odor that digging and burrowing animals dislike, the product itself is non-toxic (and should not harm the animal; only chase it away).
There are several mole killer baits on the market containing the active ingredient zinc phosphide. Protect humans and non-target animals from the bait as it has toxic properties if consumed or inhaled.
Never apply grub control products just because mole damage is seen. Check for the presence of grubs to see if that is the primary reason moles are in the lawn. If your property borders a wood line, then moles may be impossible to control, but some success may be better than no success.
Consider putting in a woodland garden consisting of native plants that will take the place of damaged lawn.
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Vole Anatomy and Characteristics
- A vole ears are rounded.
- A vole’s body is brown, reddish, brown and black in color with a gray underside.
- Voles prefer to live in low-lying or creeping vegetation, and make trails through the grass or snow.
- Voles are primarily herbivores and will feed on the seeds, roots, bulbs, and bark of many ornamental plants and grasses.
Meadow voles, also known as meadow mice, are stocky with small, but prominent, deadly black eyes and almost concealed ears.
Their short tails are about twice as long as their hind feet. Meadow voles are 5-7 inches long at maturity and weigh twice as much house mice.
Their dense, shaggy fur is gray to brown with gray under-parts, sometimes mixed with buff or yellow.
Their close relative, pine mice or pine voles, have smaller bodies, shorter tails, sunken eyes and underground burrow homes. Pine voles feed on crowns and plant.
In Connecticut, meadow voles are plentiful and more destructive than pine voles. Meadow voles eat varieties of plants and crops, with special love for grasses.
Once their population become high, many field crops are eaten. Their extensive tunnel systems cause root destruction and interfere with crop irrigation, as well.
In late summer and fall, voles store tubers, bulbs, seeds, and rhizomes in their tunnels. Voles are active day and night the whole year. They construct a complex tunnel system with surface runaways and numerous burrow entrances.
A single tunnel system may contain many young and adults. Voles have short lifespans, ranging from 2 to 16 months. Breeding occurs majorly in summer and spring, producing from 1 to 3 to siz young per year. Females mature in thirty-five to forty days.
Eliminate ground cover, weeds, and crop litter in and around cultivated areas. This reduces the availability of food and cover for voles, and the capacity of these areas to support them.
Spurge (Euphorbia) and crown vetch may provide a deterrent when planted as borders around orchards, beds, and fields.
Permanent sod strips between raspberry or blueberry rows must be mowed regularly. A vegetation-free strip or weed-free is an excellent buffer around areas to be protected. The wider the buffer strip, the less likely voles will cross it to the cropping area.
Frequent tillage removes cover, destroys existing tunnels or runways and destroys a percentage of the existing population.
Metal barriers (tree guards) or Wire barriers at least 12 inches high, with a mesh size of 1/4 inch or less around trees or blueberries, will keep meadow voles out. Bury the bottom edge six to ten inches to prevent pine voles from digging underneath the barrier.
Snap=back traps, or mouse traps, can be quite effective in the reduction of the vole population. Place the trap perpendicular to the runway with the trigger end in the runway. Peanut butter-oatmeal mixture or Apple slices makes good baits.
A section of roofing shingle placed over the burrow opening and baited with an apple slice will attract voles. A trap can also be placed under this shingle, as voles are readily attracted to pieces of plywood or shingles placed on the ground.
Shingles should be bent to form an A-shaped root. Flat material or Plywood should have small blocks under the corners to allow for a crawl space. These shelters can also serve as bait sites. Leave in place a few days before baiting to allow the animals to become accustomed to it.
Commonly, fumigants are not effective due to the shallowness and complexity of vole tunnel systems. Frightening agents have not proven to be satisfactory controls.
Shrew Anatomy and Characteristics
- A shrew snout are pointed
- A shrew’s front feet are not enlarged.
- A shrew’s eyes are tiny, but visible in most species
- Shrews habitats are many, depending on the species.
- Shrews will reuse the tunnels made by voles and moles, and will also occasionally invade buildings.
- Shrews feed on slugs, insects, small animals, earthworms, seeds and roots.
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The Eastern chipmunk is the only Chipmunk you’d ever find in Connecticut. It is reddish brown with a single black stripe running down the center of its back.
A white stripe between two black stripes runs down each side of its body from the neck to the base of the tail. The chipmunk has a white stripe above and below its eyes and its white underside.
Their size range from 8 to 10″ long (including the tail) and weigh between 2 to 5 ounces. There is no difference in appearance between males and females.
Generally, the eastern chipmunk is located in deciduous forests, forest edges, shrub habitat, and suburban and urban areas where there is abundant cover to protect it from predators.
By nature, chipmunks are omnivores, feeding on both animals and plants. Their diet consists of berries, nuts, seeds, nuts, flowers, mushrooms, worms, insects, snails, frogs, bird eggs, and small birds.
An enormous amount of food can be held in their cheek pouches, which can stretch to three times the size of the head. When gathering large nuts, chipmunks bite off sharp stems and edges.
Chipmunks can be a nuisance in the garden and yard where they eat flower bulbs, seeds, fruits, and seedlings. They also may cause structural damage by digging under walls, patios, porch stairs, or foundations.
To keep chipmunks away from flower beds and gardens, Use 1/4-inch mesh hardware cloth to keep them away.
Trees, Ground covers, and shrubs should not be planted in a continuous fashion connecting wooded areas with the foundation of the house.
Avoid locating debris or wood piles near the house.
Chipmunks are attracted to bird feeders where they gather spilled seed. Position bird feeders at least 15-30 feet away from buildings.
Taste repellents or Moth flakes can discourage chipmunks but usually requires multiple applications. Repellents should not be used on any plants intended for human consumption (as this can lead to food poisoning).
Bait traps can be used, including raisins, peanut butter, nut meats, prune slices, pumpkin or sunflower seeds, or common breakfast cereal grains.
Bait traps should be placed close to structures along the ‘running’ path of the chipmunk.
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House mouse Mus musculus
You cannot talk about Voles vs moles without talking about our common neighbour “the housecritter”
House mice are tawny to dark gray on the back, slowly changing down the sides to ashy gray on the abdomen. Their feet are shorter, broader and much darker than those of white-footed mice. Their tails are as long as their bodies but are less hairy and shorter than white-footed mice tails.
Commonly, mice have huge damage causing physical abilities. They are excellent swimmers and climbers. White-deer and house mice can run up almost any vertical, roughened surface and balance on wires.
Their chewing of electrical wires have at times started fires. Mice can jump one foot straight up, live in temperatures as low as 14ºF and squeeze through an opening slightly larger than 1/4 of an inch.
Their sense of smell is precise. In 6 months, a pair of house mice can eat about 4 pounds of food while excreting some 18,000 fecal pellets or droppings. Although mice are not blind, they do have poor vision and are unable to see clearly beyond six inches.
When trying to use control measures for mice, it is vital to know how they feed and where they live. Mice live in bushy or grassy areas, nesting underground in shallow burrows or aboveground in densely protected or vegetated areas.
Plus, they can build nests in thick leaf mulches or hay in the cropping or garden areas. Nocturnal feeders, mice are active throughout the year.
They forage along narrow surface runaways from their nesting areas to their food sources of food. Also, they feed and travel underground via old mole tunnels.
The roots and bark of young trees are feasted on and severely damaged by mice. Cucumbers, beans, peas, ripening tomatoes and other fruit close to the ground are bitten into.
Potatoes, carrots, beets, parsnips, tubers or roots of tomatoes are dug into and eaten by mice, as well. Mice often invade sheds or homes in the fall.
In wintertime, their runways are made below the snow cover where they dig up and eat seeds, bulbs, and nuts. They feed on foliage bulbs of shrubs, tender bark, roses and small fruits such as blueberry.
White-footed and Deer Mice
Deer mouse Peromyscus maniculatus David Cappaert,
White-footed mice, the most common species, and deer mice have white feet and abdomens, large ears and eyes, and tails as long as their bodies. The color of the sides and back of these mice varies from dark gray to nearly black. Their weight is 50% more than the house mice and lacks the mousy odor of house mice.
White-footed mice are generally found in various habitats including grassy, brushy, open and wooded areas. They spend the winter as a family group in a nest made of leaves, sticks, stems and roots lined with fur, shredded cloth or feathers.
Nests are in protected areas or underground such as hollow logs, under boards, old burrows or buildings.
Breeding occurs from spring to fall, with two to four litters of one to eight young per year. Mice born in spring or summer may breed that same year. White-footed mice feed in an area from 1/3 to 4 acres.
- Use good cultural methods to enable planted seed to grow as quickly as possible. Newly-seeded flats and seedbeds can be protected by placing small plastic strawberry-type baskets or 1/4 inch wire mesh over seeded areas. In the field, make sure edges are buried several inches into the soil. Cages can be made large enough to protect blueberries, small trees, and other shrubs.
- Cages should be at least 1/2 to one inch from the trunk. In the field, trellis, stake or cage plants such as tomato or peas to keep the fruit off the ground.
- Common snap-back mouse traps are effective to eliminate mice in structures or. Bait with oatmeal, cheese, peanut butter, sunflower seed, cotton balls (for nesting materials), or moistened rolled oats.
- Use many traps, check them daily, re-bait and reset as needed. Traps should be placed along the sides of runways and perpendicular to the runways.
- Gloves should be worn when setting traps to reduce human scent. Placing unset baited traps in runways for several days to allow mice to become familiar to them may increase effectiveness when they are set.
- In out-buildings, such as barns, cats have been a popular traditional method of mouse control for long periods of time.
- Although mice have an aversion to some tastes and odors, at present no repellents have been found to solve a mouse problem completely.
- The use of frightening sounds is not effective in field situations.
How to Get Rid Of Voles
Now that we’ve compared voles moles, shrew, mice, squirrels and other annoying pests, let’s also look at ways on how to get rid of voles.
You’ll notice vole damage in your yard when you can see visible runways on the surface of your ground along with damaged vegetation and small gnaw marks.
Compared with other ground-dwelling mammals that cause damage, voles’ runways will never be larger than 3” and won’t create any tunnelling. Voles do burrow, however, so you may also see small holes where they’ve created entryways to their nests.
Like mice, voles are also small with hairy tails and similar coloring that often ranges from brown to grey or black. Voles, on the other hand, have smaller ears, eyes, and tails.Successfully identifying voles and the evidence of their damage will lead to a better-targeted treatment plan.
This is the first step in treating a vole infestation. You must remediate the problem at hand. If you focus on removing the voles first, others could still be attracted to your yard and start the cycle all over again. This is why we advise you to clean up your yard before moving into strategies for eradication.
Voles love to eat where they have plenty cover to keep them safe from predators. Ensure you trim back bushes and trees in your yard and regularly rake up leaves, brush and branches.
For the same reason, voles love when there’s a nice pile of mulch leading up to a plant or tree. If you mulch in your yard, take care to leave a good amount of room between the mulch and any of your plants or trees.
Promote a Dry Yard
Voles easily dig through soft soil. While regularly watering your yard is important to promote vegetation growth, a few simple measures can ensure that it won’t get more moisture than it needs:
- Trimming back trees prevents voles from hiding underneath them and helps the sun reach your lawn in order to dry it out after it rains.
- Keeping grass short or removing debris ensures that different areas of your yard are draining properly.
- Fill in dips within your yard and use a ground roller to keep the grass level and compact.
While some traps on the market are designed majorly for voles, you could also easily use mousetraps since voles are the same size.
These usually come in the form of spring traps, which snap onto the vole once they’re triggered, or glue traps that cause the vole to get stuck to the trap until they either die or are removed. You can also buy live traps that work by using one-way or spring-loaded doors.
Now that you know voles vs moles, let’s move on to more eradication systems
How to Use a Trap for Voles or Mice
With care, read all of the instructions for the device you’ve decided to use. Especially when it comes to spring-loaded traps, these can be dangerous if you accidentally snap it onto your fingers (based on experience; it’s a nasty wound). Each trap should come with detailed instructions and tips for use.
Place the Trap
Carefully place the trap strategically where it where it will receive a lot of traffic. Since vole runways are open-faced, you can look inside them to see which areas look well-used.
These areas will likely be slightly wider or deeper, and there will be more vole droppings.
Next, place some bait inside of the trap. Voles are herbivores that enjoy a variety of different nuts, seeds, plants, and fruits, so you could try pieces of fruit covered in peanut butter or even a piece of the vegetation they’ve been feeding on.
While the trap is set and you’re waiting for it to be used, keep your pets and children away from the area. Especially if you have outdoor pets, they’re likely to be similarly attracted to the vole bait you’ve laid.
Check the Trap
Check the trap on a daily basis for a vole, regardless of whether you have a kill trap or not. If the trap is meant to kill the voles, you’ll want to remove the dead body as soon as possible before it draws other animals.
On the other hand, you’ll want to release a vole from a live trap as soon as possible before it dehydrates and dies. Regardless of whether you’re handling a dead or live vole, always use gloves to prevent disease transmission.
There may be specific state laws regulating vole trapping and where you can release them, so it’s always a good idea to check first. By rule of thumb, you should release the voles at least five miles from residential property.
Poison is a great way to effectively reduce vole populations. It can be more work than many people realize.
It’s also important to prevent pets and children from tampering with the substance. You’ll also need to use it in an area where it won’t affect your plants, even if it rains and the poison is washed away.
Similar to trapping voles, you can use vole poison or those designed for either rats or mice.
You must read the instructions thoroughly before using any type of wildlife poison. Some may take up to a week to affect a vole, even after it has been ingested. This makes it important to actively monitor the poison as well as the vole surroundings and runways areas for any dead voles. Never leave a vole carcass in your yard, or it can attract other animals and cause even worse problems.
Poisons are more effective in fall and winter when their usual food sources aren’t as plentiful and they’ll be more likely to take the bait. Remember to always wear gloves when removing dead voles in order to prevent disease transmission.
Store-bought repellents either come in spray form or granule and usually contain castor oil with a mixture of other ingredients that repel voles with their odor and taste. Apply repellents directly inside vole runways, near burrow entrances, and around vegetation from which you wish to keep the voles away. The product instructions will let you know how often you should be using them and how long.
Use repellents either as a preventative method before you have spotted any voles or in conjunction with other treatment methods to prevent voles from coming back. By themselves, they aren’t likely to be as effective.
Because voles avoid the scent, castor oil is used in almost every store-bought product to repel voles. Buying your own bottle of castor oil to mix into a spray solution rather than buying a prepared spray from a store is cheaper.
Mix one part castor oil and one part castor oil and one part dish soap with a gallon of water. Add this solution to a spray bottle and use it around any areas where voles are present.
Like Castor oil, garlic can help keep away voles with its pungent smell. You can either mix several minced garlic cloves into water to create a spray solution, or drop crushed cloves near your vegetation and vole runways.
This can be applied in two ways:
- Pouring ammonia around runways and
- Use a container with a lid and a rag. First, cut a medium-sized hole into the container’s lid. Put on some gloves and pour some ammonia into the container.
Soak the rag in the ammonia and then stick it up through the hole in the lid. This way, the ammonia will continue to disperse throughout the air rather than being washed away by rain.
Dogs and cats can serve as natural vole repellents because of their inherent predatory nature. A cat may also bring the voles directly to you, which can actually help you see how many they’ve taken care of, and you’ll gradually notice the population begins to thin out.
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Aside voles vs moles, below are some FAQ you might need to know
Is it a mole or a vole?
A vole( meadow mouse), has rounded ears and body and is brown or reddish and black in color with a gray underside. And finally, a mole has pointed snout, enlarged front feet, and ears and eyes so tiny that they are not visible.
How can you tell the difference between a mouse and a vole?
The difference between voles and mice is: Although they look alike, voles are stockier than mice with shorter tails, larger eyes, and smaller, less prominent ears.
What is a vole and how do you get rid of them?
In small areas, trapping can be an effective way of reducing vole populations. Try Havahart live vole traps. Bait traps with peanut butter work like magic too. Set baits midday to early evening when voles are most active.
What does a vole look like?
This rodent is commonly mistaken for mice, but can be identified by their stockier bodies and shorter tails. Voles also look like moles, but the latter have enlarged forefeet with claws and no external ears.
Are voles dangerous?
Voles do not physically hurt people; but, they are dangerous in the sense that they can spread disease through their feces and urine and may introduce parasites onto your property. They also can cause major damages to lawns, grain crops, fruit trees, and landscaping.
How to Get Rid of Voles in Your House
Mix equal parts peanut butter and oatmeal. Place the traps where you have seen the voles before, preferably perpendicular to the runways they commonly use, Hold a cardboard box upside down and place it over each trap. Then Check the traps every morning and evening.
Can voles get in your house?
Voles do not like to end up in peoples home. If are convinced that what you see is indeed a vole and not a mouse, you can begin the process of eradication. Given a choice, the animal prefers the dark tunnel system they create throughout the yard.
What is the best way to kill voles?
To kill voles, set snap-type traps at the entrances of the vole’s tunnels if you’re dealing with a small infestation. If you have a large infestation of voles, you may need to use posion near the tunnels and continue refilling them for 5-10 days or until the voles die.
Does a vole have eyes?
Yes, a mole has eyes. You can‘t see them because they are buried beneath its fur, so that dirt does not get into them.
Will Voles eat peanut butter?
Yes, they will eat peanut butter-oatmeal mixture or apple slices.
What is the difference between a mole and a vole?
A mole tunnels underground, lifting the soil upwards and making your yard “squishy” when you walk on it. Voles tunnel under the snow pack in winter, but remain above ground and create those “highways” in the grass you see when it melts.
What are voles favorite food?
Voles, also known as meadow mice, favorite snacks are grasses, tree bark, roots, tubers, and vegetable crops. The rodents generally prefer to live in moist areas with plenty of grass and ground cover where they can scavenge for food without being seen by predators.
How many voles does a nest have?
They live in colonies; two adults, several young voles, and nests with almost five newly born voles. An underground vole colony occupies an almost area of 30 feet in diameter. They also have above ground colonies which may cover the area of 100ft in diameter.
How do you keep moles away?
By taking away their source of food. Replace the carpet grass in your lawn with gravel, stones, or clay. Grass is more conducive for the bugs and grubs that serve as food for the mound-building moles. And of course, moles cannot dig through rocks. A common solution for mole infestation is to apply a castor oil-based mole repellent to your yard.