which are often confused with moles, are compact rodents with stocky bodies,
short legs, and short tails. Their eyes are small and their ears are partially
hidden. They are usually brown or gray, though many color variations exist.
Their length ranges from 4 inches (10 cm) to 8 1/2 inches (20 cm). There are 23
species in the United States.
Voles occupy a wide variety of habitats. They prefer habitats
with heavy ground cover of grasses, grasslike plants, or litter. They can also be found in
orchards, windbreaks, and cultivated fields, especially when their populations are high.
Unlike moles, voles eat a wide variety of plants, most frequently grasses and
forbs. In the late summer and fall, they store seeds, tubers, bulbs, and
rhizomes. They eat bark at times, primarily in fall and winter, and will eat
crops, especially when their populations are high. Occasionally they will eat
snails, insects and animal remains.
Like the mole, voles are active day and night, year-round. They do
not hibernate. Their home range is usually 1/4 acre (0.1 ha) or less but varies with season,
population density, habitat, food supply and other factors. Voles are
semifossorial and construct many tunnels and surface runways with numerous
burrow entrances. Voles may cause extensive damage to orchards, ornamentals,
and tree plantings due to their girdling of seedlings and mature trees.
Girdling damage usually occurs in fall and winter. Field crops may be damaged
or completely destroyed by voles. They eat crops and also damage them when they
build extensive runway and tunnel systems. These systems interfere with crop
irrigation by displacing water and cause levees and checks to wash out.
They also can ruin lawns, golf courses, and ground cover. Vole
girdling can be distinguished from that of other animals by the non-uniform gnaw marks that
occur at various angles in irregular patches. Marks are about 1/8 inch (0.3 cm) wide, 3/8 inch
(1.0 cm) long, and 1/16 inch (0.2cm) or more deep. The most easily identifiable
sign of voles is an extensive surface runway system with numerous burrow
openings. Methods for control and damage prevention include exclusion, cultural
methods, such as, eliminating weeds, ground cover and litter around crops and
lawns, and soil tillage. Frightening, repellents, toxicants, fumigant, trapping
and shooting are also methods used. The methods that are effective are
exclusion, on a small scale; cultural methods, such as eliminating weeds,
ground cover, and litter; mowing and soil tillage.
© North Carolina State University. This information sheet was
prepared by Rick Brandenburg, Gail G. Wilkerson, and Gregory S. Buol.
Departments of Entomology and Crop Science, College of Agriculture & Life Sciences, North Carolina State University. Prepared September 10, 2007.
Available on-line at www.turffiles.ncsu.edu. This publication was made possible
through a grant provided by the Center for Turfgrass Environmental Research
& Education (CENTERE) whose purpose is to support worthwhile projects that
will benefit both the private sector and the public, and protect the