Sunday, May 15, 2016

Battle Lines are Mown

My vegetable garden has been overrun with voles. These mice-like critters tunnel through dirt and eat seeds and roots and plants. They showed up in one of my raised beds last fall. I tried a few traps, but gave up, figuring I would deal with them in the spring. That was a mistake. A HUGE mistake!

Source: Wikipedia

Wikipedia tells me:
"They can have five to 10 litters per year. Gestation lasts for three weeks and the young voles reach sexual maturity in a month. As a result of this biological exponential growth, vole populations can grow very large within a very short period of time."

So, here is a Math problem for you....

Dreaming noticed voles in her garden at the beginning of August, and for the sake of this problem let's say that at that time there was only Daddy Vole and Mommy Vole. If they had 8 cute little baby voles (litters range from 5-10), half of them were girls, and Mom and the girls subsequently had one litter of 8 more cute little baby voles every month...  and those babies joined in the baby vole production the next month, how many voles would be plaguing Dreaming by May 1st?

It makes my head hurt just thinking about it. It makes my head hurt just looking at the mess in the garden and thinking of the battles to come.

Look at the holes in my raised bed.
The dirt from the bed was moved outside of the bed,
I think to give them safer access to the garden.
Voles are active all year long. When snow is on the ground, they create "runnels" just under the snow.
I don't like to use poison, having dogs and a cat in residence. And, I like our hawks, and would hate to poison them or cause collateral damage to other wildlife. So, according to Mr. Google and the Colorado Extension information, my best plan of attack is to make the extended vole family uncomfortable in my garden, make them decide to move elsewhere. Voles don't like open spaces, knowing that Mr. Hawk may be around. So, I have to keep the grass trimmed very short around the gardens. I need to pick up all clippings, so the vole varmints can't hide or tunnel under them.

As I began to clean up the garden I started thinking about where the vole varmints might go once they decide this area is to exposed. Uh oh. Voles LOVE trees. They like eating the roots. They like eating through the bark and killing the cambium layer underneath. They kill trees. Trees fight hard to live in this area of Colorado. They are precious. We coddle them. I changed my focus and began cleaning a wide swath of grass around the trees closest to the garden.

Grass is cut short around the trees, and I have raked up all mulch.
I'll just have to water a bit more often this year.
My next attack plan is to "plant" traps if I find any new tunnels or burrows. My attempts at trapping failed last year, and in the past I have had little luck, but I'll try again.

Black Box trap that I used for Pocket Gophers.
I don't know if they'll work with Voles.
I guess I'll find out!
If I still encounter problems I can also block their access to the garden beds by burying 1/4" hardware cloth 4" in the ground and having it extend 18" in the air. It sounds like work to me! But... the battle lines are drawn. The battle lines are mown. I dare you Voles, to cross that open area to get to my vegetable. This is war!!


  1. I've heard the sound of a small windmill keeps them away but I've heard many things in my life time.

    1. Yes, I've heard that too. I think the vibration is supposed to keep them away. I've also heard that we should put Juicy Fruit gum in their burrows!

  2. Oh dear. Good luck. We are battling the striped ground squirrels. My husband likes to put out the black hole traps, but I found a weasel in one of them not long ago. Gasp! It was still alive so I set it free. Maybe you could import some weasels.

    1. I had trouble with those little guys when I lived up there. They seemed too smart for traps! Dick A traps them and shoots them. He keeps a count of how many he has dispatched! (And reports it to me with glee!)

  3. The cat should have helped get rid of a few! :)


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