These two pests can both be found in your lawn and/or planting beds. They feed on different things, but the damage they cause can be similar in some cases. One feeds on vegetative material and the other on soil insects, grubs, and worms. One easy memory tool is alliteration, and, in this case, voles eat vegetation and moles eat meat. The damage they cause to lawns here on the North Shore is readily recognizable as the snows of winter recede.
Moles are sturdy little soil dwelling mammals noted for their pointed snout, small eyes and ears, and strong front limbs and paws specialized for digging. Depending on the type of mole, they can be brown or black, and even other colors. Moles also have a long nose that somewhat resembles a pencil eraser. While they are forever immortalized in the classic children’s book Wind in The Willows, they are not always found palling around with rats, badgers and toads down by the river.
Your common mole can appear anywhere and can cause significant damage to your lawn in their hunt for their daily sustenance. As they excavate their tunnels, they damage your lawn’s root system and the expelled soil forms mounds on the lawn. Removing moles from a lawn can be a difficult process and may best be left up to a professional exterminator. They are typically solitary creatures except when mating and the pups will move off to find their own territory when mature enough.
Voles are generally smaller, brownish in color, and resemble mice. They are known for making runways in the lawn. They run along the surface of the lawn chewing on the grass plants down to the growing points or crowns. They will also feed on the unprotected stems of plants in gardens and ornamental beds severely weakening or killing them by partial or complete girdling of the base of the plant.
While they feed on the surface, they will make burrows underground for shelter and nesting so you may observe holes, often in planting beds where the roots have disturbed the soil so that digging is easier. Most of their damage occurs under the blanket of winter snow. This ground cover protects them from predators like foxes, coyotes, cats, dogs and even raptors. With no predator pressure they freely dart around eating grass shoots and can even damage trees by chewing on the bark and sapwood of shrubs and small trees.
Typically, a good firm raking of the damaged areas and fertilization in the spring will be enough to allow new growth of the grass to occur though it may be necessary to seed some areas if damage is severe. Unlike moles, entire families of voles, up to 300 in an acre, may be in a yard. They are difficult to catch with traps and vole populations are usually so high that removing a few individuals doesn’t do much to prevent further damage. Poison baits should be used with extreme caution to protect children, pets, and predators who might consume the poisoned animal. The best control is an extended period of no snow cover so that predators can do their job.
These pests can do serious harm to your lawn and landscape but you need to know which one you are dealing with so the correct measures can be taken. Contact a professional pest control company if you are not sure.
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