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Grow with KARE: Dealing with vole damage

Most gardeners are happy to see the snow melt, but disappointment can settle in if that melted snow reveals a lawn damaged by voles. Here's what to do about it.

GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. — Most gardeners are happy to see the snow melt, but then disappointment can settle in if that melted snow reveals a lawn damaged by voles. 

If you see pathways through your lawn that look like this… that’s the remnants of a tunnel made by a vole, a form of field mice, eating its way through the grass and roots of your lawn. 

Voles do not eat grubs. Moles eat grubs and the two rodents are often confused.  

Fixing the lawn is pretty easy. Lightly rake the damaged lawn. You can reseed the area, or simply let the surrounding grass grow and fill in. The damage is not permanent. By summer, the trails will likely have disappeared. 

Voles can also damage trees and shrubs by chewing away the bark. If this happens, unfortunately there’s nothing you can do to repair the chewed areas. Using tree wraps during the winter can help prevent this in the future.  

You’ll never be able to fully keep voles away, but eliminating wood piles and keeping the area under bird feeders clean can discourage their presence. 

For large infestations, some choose to use traps or bait stations. The University of Minnesota Extension office can offer guidance if this is your choice. 

Most of the time this route isn’t worth the effort or expense involved, since lawns will recover quickly on their own.  

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