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Moles and voles are mouse-like garden pests that can cause subterranean plant and landscape damage. However, the mole’s preferred diet is a carnivorous one. It normally eats earthworms, grubs and adult insects. The mole is not a rodent, so any damage caused by gnawing of plants is unlikely to have been caused by moles. In contrast, the vole is a rodent and will sometimes use the mole’s burrows and tunnels to access plants, shrubs and bulbs, which it will readily make a meal of. Voles commonly girdle the bases of woody shrubs and their damage is easy to spot. When confronted by landscape damage, it is important to determine which animal is causing the damage since treatment methods differ. A thorough inspection is warranted when burrows or tunnels are spotted in and around lawns and gardens.
Moles rarely travel above ground, preferring to travel in established tunnels traversing large areas under the root structure in yards. There are usually visible humps in the sod showing where the moles are tunneling. Voles feed on vegetation as a primary food source, so will normally stay closer to landscape plants and shrubbery. They will sometimes take over mole tunnels for ease of travel, but will have exit and entrance holes visible in feeding areas.
Traps are rarely an effective means of controlling both moles and voles. Toxicants have shown to be the most effective means of control. The bait attractants are different for each type of pest, and knowledge of their biology is critical to effective control.
Moles and voles are not dangerous to family or pets; however, they can do considerable damage to landscaping and yard grasses. They can be a challenge to control, so as soon as evidence is present, they should be dealt with on a pro-active basis.