Help! – I Have Moles and Voles

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Help! – I Have Moles and Voles

by Dr. George Place


Catawba County Cooperative Extension Service

Lawn, landscape, or garden damage from wildlife is one of the most common calls that we receive at the Catawba County Cooperative Extension Service. Two of our usual suspects are moles and voles. While these two unwelcomed visitors can cause anxiety and a strong desire for immediate control, it is worth distinguishing which pest you have.

Voles eat roots, bulbs, and bark. Residents of Catawba County primarily deal with pine and meadow voles. Meadow voles spend most of their time above ground while pine voles are more burrow dwelling. These burrows are small since voles are the size of plump mice. Voles are in the Rodentia order of mammals and can be a serious outdoor pest, damaging the root system on many landscape and garden plants or even girdling trees when feeding on their bark. Vole management takes advantage of their tendency to avoid exposure in open spaces. Keep a vole prone area free of ground cover and pull the heavy mulch back from your trees by at least 3 feet. The best way to control a vole epidemic is to set large spring loaded mice traps baited with apple slices or peanut butter near the tunnels. Be sure to place a bucket over the trap so that the vole will be more encouraged to take the bait under the cover. There are also poisons that can be used to kill voles but one must consider potential risks with pets, children, or non-target animals. As with all pesticides – the label is the law. Read the label in its entirety before using any vole poison products to avoid illegal usage and/or unintended harms.

One additional tip in controlling voles, Master Gardener Gordon Hicks suggests tilling a vole infested area during the winter. Gordon says that he has trapped dozens of voles but winter tillage was the tactic that eliminated the vole problem in an infested field.

Moles eat insects, worms, and other invertebrates living in your soil. Moles are not considered rodents. The tell-tale sign of moles is the visible ridges that are seen as a result of tunneling in the lawn. There is a tendency to try to control moles by applying grub killer to your lawn. This isn’t a recommended approach since moles eat more than just grubs. Getting rid of a mole problem on your property is more complicated than dealing with voles.

The star-nosed mole (Condylura cristata parva), found mostly in the mountains and coastal plains, is listed as a NC Special Concern Specie and is protected by law. The eastern mole (Scalopus aquaticus) and the hairy-tailed mole (Parascalops breweri) are under consideration for designation as pests. Currently the use of poison is not labeled for moles in North Carolina but if approved, this designation would allow the regulated use of pesticides to control these species of mole. In the meantime, trapping is the recommended avenue for mole control. If you read NC law 15A NCAC 10B .0106 WILDLIFE TAKEN FOR DEPREDATIONS, found on the NCDA website you will see that it states, “No permit is needed for the owner or lessee of a property to take wildlife while committing depredations on the property, however the manner of taking, disposition of dead wildlife and reporting requirements as described in this Rule still apply.”  Be sure to fully read this law in order to trap moles in a legal manner.

Call the Catawba County Cooperative Extension Service if you need more information regarding garden and landscape management. Sign up for our monthly updates for the latest info on workshops, 4-H summer camps, local food, classes, and other landscape/garden educational programs at: //