Voles: 15 Interesting Facts & 4 Ways to Prevent Them

A vole is eating nut on icy snow.

Voles, sometimes referred to as field mice belong to the group of rodents. There are more than 155 types of voles that can be discovered everywhere throughout the world. Voles can get by in various living spaces such as Knolls, woodlands, grasslands, prairies, lush meadows, swamps, as well as in Arctic areas. Their reproduction rate is high; they may significantly increase in number if the food sources are plenteous. Voles make tunnels in ground to get the plant roots and bulbs to eat. They can even ruin the plants by eating barks and shrubs. Voles are hardy rodents, but environment changes can affect their survival. They can survive up to 6 months, and they are not considered as endangered species.

15 interesting facts you may not know

1. The size of voles depends on the species

Vole species are found in Northern Hemisphere, possessing North America, Europe, and Asia. There are more than 150 species of vole around the world, 23 of which are local to the United States. The average size of the voles varies from 3.5 to 9 inches. The size depends on the species. The North American species which include the population in Canada, Alaska and northern part of United States, have the body length ranging from 3.75- 4.75 inches. While In Britain, three species are mainly found, European water vole, field vole and bank vole and the size of their body reaches to 9 inches starting from 4.75 inches.

2. Fur-covered body

These mouse-like rodents have around and stout body. Their tail and legs are short, and they have tiny eyes and blunt nose. Voles’ body is covered with fur. The nature of their habitat causes the color variation in their fur. They can have gray, brown or white fur. The whole body comprises of the furry except for the tale.

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3. Resemble with the mouse

Voles are often confused with a mouse. However, they are different as compared to mice. Their appearance is similar, but a vole has a shorter tale and stocky body. The head of a vole is big, but eyes and ears are smaller than a mouse. Their legs are also short. Although voles and mice, both are rodents, yet they have got distinguishing features.

4. Vole: herbivore or omnivore

Some species of vole are a herbivore, and some are an omnivore. Most of the species are usually herbivores; they are fond of eating grass, tree bark, vegetable crops, seeds, roots, and tubers. They are found in the moist areas where they can find plenty of grass and where they can make tunnels to protect themselves from predators. Some of their favorite places are cultivated fields and orchards where they can inflict havoc on the crops.

Furthermore, there are some species which are herbivores as well as omnivores. They prey on other small animals, fungi, and insects including snails, ants, other small insects and residues of other dead animals.

5. Vole is nocturnal

Voles are active during both day and night, but most of the time they are nocturnal. When they are active during the day, they can be hardly seen because they remain concealed beneath the vegetation cover. As semifossorial rodents, most of their time is spent in their complex burrow system underground where they nest, feed themselves and seek protection. Their underground nests are close to the surface of the ground where they can rush back when feeling threatened.

6. Voles are excellent swimmer

Voles are not only outstanding swimmers but also good divers. Some of the species of voles live near water such as European water voles. You gain water vole insight near European rivers. Their ability to swim can make them survive periodical tides and flooding situations. Their swimming skills and ability to climb to nearby vegetation save them from natural calamities. They can swim up to 50 ft under the water surface.

7. Some voles are arboreal

Most of the times we hear about the voles living on the ground. However, certain species are arboreal as well. They spent their lives up in the trees, for instance, red tree vole of coastal Oregon. These tree-dwelling species are the expert climber, skilfully moving from one branch to the other warily, unlike other little rodents. A strange fact about these species is that only female voles live in the trees. On the other hand, male voles, are also able to climb, but they like to live under dense ground cover. However, for breeding with female voles, males do climb trees.

8. Most voles live in the underground burrows

Due to their semifossorial nature, they build many tunnels and wide runways having several tunnel entrances. Their home covers the area of about ¼ acre or less. Their home area varies with different living situations such as season, availability of food, and population density. In their single burrow system, quite a lot of adult and young voles reside. They also make their short tunnels in winters, above the ground, in the snow. These burrows are vacated when the snow starts melting.

9. Voles live in colonies

Voles live in the settlements, and some species are also known to display human-like social activities in a group. There are family colonies which may contain 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. They are supposed to defend their territory from the other voles. One colony can hold up to 300 animals.

10. Voles can produce sharp and quiet squeals for communication

Voles possess acute hearing and an excellent sense of smell. They communicate with each other by sending voice messages when they feel threatened, to warn the other voles. They recognize a predator with a quick sniff. Voles can deliver sharp and calm screeches for vocalization. Their perception channels are tactile and chemicals. They also interact through scent marks.

11. Voles have many predators due to their size

There are some animals which prey on voles due to their small size. Hawks, owls, snakes, badgers, coyotes, cats and red fox are the primary hunters. They are aggressive in nature and also attack while the voles defense. They make themselves safe from the predators through their burrow system. In addition to that, they are killed by people if they affect their crops.

12. Voles are very fast animals

Voles weigh only a couple of ounces. Their lightweight body makes a move quickly. They can move around with the speed of 6 miles per hour.

13. Voles can mate throughout whole year

Voles may breed consistently, yet most generally in spring and summer. For the most part, they have 5-10 offspring for every year and 3-6 young per litter. They are physically ready to reproduce even when they are only three or four weeks old. Their population fluctuates due to the climate, predation, physiological stress, food availability, and genetics.

14. Pregnancy lasts 21 days

The gestation period of voles is about 21 days. Young are ready to reproduce as soon as they are 21 days old while the females become sexually mature in 5-6 weeks. A female produces 3 to 6 babies at a time. The newly born voles have no fur on their body and are unable to see. Newborns feed on mother’s milk during the first two weeks and become mature in three weeks.

15. Voles have very short life span

Voles do not have a long lifespan. They typically live less than half a year.  Nevertheless, it is possible that they can live for almost three years if they remain in captivity. When a female vole gives birth to a litter, 90% of them do not survive their first week. It gets difficult for them to survive in prolonged dry spell as the crops get dry.

How to get rid of voles

Voles may become the reason of extensive damage to your plantations, ornamentals, and trees. They gnaw on the bark with their sharp incisor teeth of seedlings and mature trees as well as damages grass. Voles eat the entire crops and cause destruction by constructing long runway and tunnel systems under the fields.

They take on the small roots, girdle large roots and barks from the base of trees when they are in their bouncy castles beneath the surface in their burrows.

Some common signs show the presence of voles in the yard, such as surface runways having 1-2 inch width, small holes about 1.5-inch diameter in the lawn, irregular gnawing marks, damaged roots, stolen bulbs, yellow, wilted plants.

However, homeowners should beware of them. They can cause damage to your household items. They can chew your hot chocolates and can make holes in your favorite stovepipe hats. If you are a job holder and only get time on Sundays, this is the time for you to get rid of these creatures. They can totally kill the trees in the garden by feeding on the barks and roots, especially in winters. You should get rid of them by following the proper control methods.

Ways to prevent them

Damage control techniques can be different, depending on the population size of voles. If the damages are not extreme, that means the population is small, and exclusion or trapping can avoid such losses. These are the most reasonable ways to prevent injuries. Other methods are using repellents and toxicants. These are the solutions if the damage is extensive. Otherwise, pest control operators is also an option.

  1. Habitat modification

Natural surroundings change practices can diminish the probability and seriousness of vole harm. The roots and stems of grasses and other ground cover are the real nourishment hotspots for voles.

Disposing of weeds, ground cover, and litter is an incredible strategy for accomplishing long haul control of voles. Rehashed mowing that keeps up the ground cover at the height of 3 to 6 inches diminish both nourishment and cover as well as open voles to predators.

On the off chance that voles are harming trees, clear the covering 2 feet or more from the bases. Setting up sans vegetation zones that reach out no less than 2 feet from tree trunks under tree shelters will keep the voles away from the base of trees, where they cause the most harm. Sans vegetation zones can be made by cutting, applying herbicides, developing, or putting a layer of squashed stone or rock 3 to 4 inches thick around the storage compartment. Try not to let snipping, leaves, or rotting vegetation to mount up around the bases of trees.

  1. Build a fence around the garden

The best defense to your plantation is to install a fence. Make a boundary of ¼-inch fence rolls throughout your garden. The fence should be buried at least a foot down because voles are diggers. Through these fences, you can keep voles at foot length.

  1. Trap and release

Another way is to set a trap to the vole runway. You can get the traps from the home improvement stores. Bait the trap with apple slices or peanut butter. Once they are caught, release them at some place distant from your house.

  1. Remove the attractants

Various green vegetation is the primarily attractive for voles. They love to live under a dense vegetative cover. Try to eliminate the attraction by cutting the grass and pulling the weeds regularly. Moreover, remove the bushes and shrubs, check-out soil and mulch to remove the burrows to overcome this situation. In addition to that, if you have birdseed, berries, and nuts scattered on the ground, remove them.

Conclusion

Voles share the features with many other rodents; this is the reason they are often called as meadow mice or field mice. They are wild species, and you will not find them as pets like their cousin rodent species.

In fact, they are the reason of complete destruction if they invade your place. You have to keep them at arm’s length if you would like to avoid damages. For that reason, necessary measures have to be taken such as removing attractants, using repellents, setting traps, using toxicants.

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