Peak Nuisance Period: Any time of year.
The type of damage changes seasonally.
- Early spring (mid-April through end of May): can ruin lawns, golf courses, some perennial bulbs (especially tulips and irises), newly planted vegetables (peas, beans), and some ornamental shrubs
- Spring and summer: they damage hay, leafy vegetables, and legumes (beans and peas)
- Summer and fall: voles eat root crops (carrots, beets, potatoes, as well as kohlrabi)
- Fall (Sept. through Nov.): they damage lawns, golf courses, fruit trees, and some perennial bulbs
- Fall and winter: they will girdle trees and shrubs, (especially fruit trees and some ornamental shrubs).
Common Nuisance Situations:
- Burrow through and damage lawns and golf course turf.
- Girdle some fruit trees and ornamental shrubs.
- Eat flower bulbs, especially tulips and irises.
- Eat some vegetables in gardens and farms, especially legumes (peas, beans) and root crops (carrots, beets, potatoes).
- Chow on hay crops. A population of 100 voles/acre may reduce the crop by a half-ton over the course of a season.
- Disease risks: minimal because of their infrequent contact with people, but voles can carry tularemia.
Description: There are two types of Voles found in the Northeast United States, the Pine Vole and the Meadow Vole. Voles are typically 4–7 1/2″ long and weigh 1/2–2 1/2 ounces. The Meadow vole is larger than the pine vole. The meadow vole’s tail is longer than its hind foot; the pine vole’s tail is shorter than its hind foot. These animals have short, soft reddish-brown fur on the upperparts and greyish brown underparts. They have short ears and a short tail, somewhat darker on top. Voles are active all day and night, with alternating periods of rest and feeding. They do not hibernate. In fact, voles may even breed and bear young through the winter if snow cover is deep enough to provide sufficient insulation for their nests. Voles do not migrate.
Voles have small eyes, small ears, furry noses, mouse-like feet
Diet: Green plants, roots, tubers, bark, mushrooms, and occasionally snails, insects, carrion, and each other’s young. They store food for the winter (grains, tubers, bulbs, and rootstock). Pine voles generally eat roots and tubers. Like rabbits, hares, and beavers, they eat their feces to extract more nutrients from grasses and tree bark, which are difficult to digest.
Habitat: Fields and moist, meadow bottom lands, but adapt well to suburban woodlots, gardens, and ornamental plantings as well as orchards. Pine voles prefer deciduous forests, brushy areas, and orchards with dense vegetation. They are excellent swimmers and decent climbers (though the pine vole is a bit clumsy).
Breeding: Voles are polygamous. They breed year round, weather permitting. Gestation takes about 20 to 30 days. Typical litter size is 3 to 5 pups. However, you may see as few as 1 pup or as many as 9.
- Voles are often confused for moles. Here’s how to tell them apart: