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Voles in the home lawn

Beth Jarvis.

Voles are small brown rodents about the size and shape of a mouse. They have small ears and a short tail. Voles are common in yards and fields where they spend a lot of time eating grasses and roots and making trails. We usually observe their small surface tunnels winding through our lawn right after snow melt.

The grass in these areas is usually eaten to the soil line, leaving the crown of the grass plant intact and healthy. In time, new leaves will emerge from the crown and fill in the bare areas. If no new growth is noticed after the rest of the lawn is actively growing, the affected areas can be reseeded with a good lawn seed mixture. 

Voles will always be present but there are steps to take to help discourage them from taking up residence in your yard this fall. Continue to mow the lawn while it is actively growing. Avoid mowing shorter than two inches as this may expose the crown of the grass plant to severe temperature extremes resulting in winter injury. Eliminate any weeds, wild grasses, or litter from around the yard so it does not provide food and cover. Spilled bird seed is another source of food for voles. Remove the bird feeder or keep the ground under the feeder clean. 

Large vole populations can most effectively be reduced using toxic baits. There are some available for home use. Bait should be placed inside bait stations to reduce the risk of non-target species ingesting the poison. Baits are generally used in late fall or early winter when natural food supplies are low. When using bait stations check them several times a week and replace any bait that has been consumed. Be sure to read and follow all directions and precautions on the label. Bait stations should be used with extreme caution because they may pose a threat to children and pets.

If voles have damaged your lawn, just give it some time, it will likely fill in once the weather warms. Remember that voles are always present and most of the time it is not worth the effort to try and control them.  Source: Menken, Jennifer. 2018. Voles in the landscape. 


Randy Nelson
Extension Educator, Home Hort & Ag Production Systems
(218) 299-5020

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