How to Get Rid of Voles in the Yard

Voles are small rodents that can cause extensive damage to lawns and gardens. If you notice tunnels and runways in your yard, it’s likely you have a vole problem. Getting rid of voles takes patience and persistence, but there are several effective control methods you can try.

Understanding Voles

Before getting into vole removal methods, it’s helpful to understand what voles are and why they can be such a nuisance in yards.

What Are Voles?

Voles, sometimes called meadow mice or field mice, are small rodents that are active year-round. There are over 150 species of voles, but some of the most common in North America include:

  • Meadow vole – Also called field mice, these are the most common vole species. They have greyish brown fur and grow up to 6 inches long.
  • Pine vole – Slightly smaller than meadow voles with reddish brown fur. They earn their name from their habit of burrowing near pine trees.
  • Prairie vole – Larger than other vole species and can be identified by their darker fur.
  • Montane vole – Found in mountain regions and have grayish brown fur with bicolored tails.

Voles are often confused with moles since their burrowing habits can cause similar lawn damage. However, there are some key differences:

  • Size: Voles reach about 6 inches long while moles grow up to 9 inches.
  • Appearance: Voles have small eyes and ears with fuzzy fur. Moles have no external ears and very small eyes.
  • Behavior: Voles stay underground but will commonly emerge above ground. Moles rarely come above ground.
  • Diet: Voles eat vegetation such as tree roots, bulbs, and grasses. Moles primarily eat insects, worms, and grubs underground.
  • Burrows: Vole tunnels leave visible surface runways with numerous burrow openings. Moles create hidden underground tunnels with conical mounds or ridges indicating their path below ground.

Why Are Voles Such a Nuisance?

Voles can be incredibly destructive in gardens and lawns. A single vole can make over 100 trips per day to and from their tunnel system, quickly wearing down the grass.

In addition to damaging lawns, voles also feed on tree roots, bulbs, and ornamental plants. Their sharp teeth allow them to easily gnaw through roots and stems. A vole population can decimate a garden in short order.

Voles dig extensive underground burrows and surface runways with multiple entry holes. These holes and tunnels not only damage lawns but can also be hazardous to children or pets playing outside.

Prolific breeders, voles can produce up to 10 litters per year with 5-10 offspring per litter. Their colonies can grow rapidly, leading to exponential increases in lawn damage. Quick control is key before the vole population gets out of hand.

Effective Vole Removal Methods

If you’ve noticed the telltale signs of vole damage, don’t wait to take action. The sooner you start vole control measures, the better your chances of protecting your lawn and garden.

There are several effective methods to get rid of voles:

Remove Hiding Spots and Food Sources

The first step is making your yard less attractive and habitable for voles. This involves:

  • Keeping lawn areas clear of debris like dead vegetation, mulch, or leaf litter where voles may hide.
  • Trimming ground cover or dense vegetation to reduce hiding places near foundations.
  • Removing any food sources such as fallen fruit or piles of seed/grass clippings.
  • Mowing the lawn regularly at a lower height to eliminate their above-ground runways in taller grass.
  • Protecting flower bulbs and tree roots with wire mesh to prevent voles from feeding on vegetation.

Removing cover and food deprives voles of essential habitat and should encourage them to leave your yard. It also makes any additional control methods more effective.

Use Vole Repellents

There are a number of commercial vole repellents available as granules, liquids, or spike formulations. These contain castor oil, garlic, capsaicin, or ammonia to create unpleasant conditions that drive voles away.

Some popular vole repellent options include:

  • Granular repellents (Ropel, MoleMax, etc.) – These are sprinkled around gardens or shoved into burrow openings. Granules release odors when moist that repel voles. Reapply every 2-4 weeks.
  • Liquid repellents (Repels-All, Rodent-Rid, etc.) – Mixed with water and sprayed/poured into burrow openings. Can also be sprayed along runways or building foundations. Lasts 2-3 weeks.
  • Vole stakes/spikes – Metal or plastic spikes containing repellent oils are inserted into the ground near plants or gardens. Effects can last up to 30 days.

Using 2-3 different types of repellents and reapplying regularly provides the best coverage. Focus on lawn edges, burrow openings, and areas with vole activity. Repellents provide immediate results with continuous use.

Use Vole Traps

Trapping is an effective and inexpensive way to remove voles from your yard. The most common traps include:

  • Snap traps – These kill traps deliver a swift and lethal snap when triggered by a vole. They are baited with peanut butter, apple slices, or oats and placed perpendicular across vole runways.
  • Repeating rat traps – Live traps allow multiple catches before needing to be reset. Check traps frequently and release voles at least 10 miles from your property.
  • Bucket pitfall traps – A 5 gallon bucket buried in the ground so the lip is flush with lawn level. Voles fall in but cannot escape.

For best results, set traps in areas with the most vole activity. Use at least 10-12 traps per active burrow system. Trapping requires diligence to promptly remove captured voles. It may take 2-3 weeks of intensive trapping to eliminate voles on your property.

Use Poison Baits

Poison baits containing zinc phosphide or chlorophacinone can be used to kill voles. These rodenticides stop blood clotting once consumed, leading to a relatively humane death.

It’s crucial to place bait in underground runways and burrows where pets or kids can’t reach. Avoid scattering bait above ground. Reapply bait every 3 days until feeding stops.

Poison baits provide thorough control when used properly. However, they aren’t suitable for all situations given their toxicity. Be sure to follow all label precautions when using rodenticide baits.

Install Physical Barriers

Installing physical barriers can prevent voles from entering certain areas:

  • Wire mesh fencing – Bury 1⁄4 or 1⁄2 inch mesh wire fencing 6-12 inches underground around flower beds or gardens to block burrowing.
  • Gravel barriers – A 3-4 inch layer of pea gravel around foundations can deter voles from approaching buildings.
  • Raised garden beds – Planting in raised garden boxes with wire bottoms keeps plants protected from voles.

Barriers take more initial effort but provide long-term protection against reinfestations. Focus first on high value plantings like vegetable gardens. Pair barriers with removal methods for best protection.

Encourage Natural Predators

Creating an environment suited to voles’ natural predators can provide biological control of vole populations. Raptors, snakes, foxes, coyotes, and house cats all prey on voles.

You can attract predators by:

  • Putting up raptor perches and nest boxes
  • Building brush piles as shelter for snakes or coyotes
  • Maintaining bird baths and feeding stations to draw in hawks and owls
  • Keeping pet cats active outdoors during peak vole activity in morning/evening

Predators work around the clock to pick off voles in yards. Boosting predator numbers and habitat provides free, natural vole control over time.

When to Call a Professional Exterminator

For minor vole infestations, the removal methods listed above can successfully eliminate voles from your yard. However, in certain cases, contacting a professional may be warranted:

  • You have an extensive network of vole burrows and tunnels throughout your entire property.
  • Voles have been present for many months and damage is accelerating.
  • Numerous voles are still active after trying traps, poisons, and repellents.
  • Voles keep reinfesting the same areas shortly after removal efforts.

Licensed exterminators have access to stronger rodenticides and fumigants that may better penetrate vole burrows. They can also use excavation equipment to destroy tunnel systems and flush out voles.

Professionals may charge $75 to $150 to assess, set bait, and offer advice for getting rid of voles on your property. More extensive vole burrow treatment could cost $500 or more.

Vole Prevention Tips

Part of effective vole control is taking proactive steps to prevent future infestations:

  • Keep lawn areas cut short to eliminate cover for runways.
  • Clear away debris like woodpiles that could offer shelter.
  • Install vole fencing around new plantings.
  • Seal any foundation cracks greater than 1⁄4 inch wide.
  • Check regularly for new vole burrows and runways.
  • Apply vole repellents preventatively in fall before breeding season.
  • Maintain predators like raptors and snakes to limit vole numbers.
  • Trap or use bait preventatively to keep populations in check.

With diligence and persistence, you can reclaim your yard and prevent voles from returning. Implement preventative measures to avoid having to battle voles year after year.

FAQs About Getting Rid of Voles

Still have questions about getting rid of voles? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

What are signs of voles in my yard?

Look for narrow surface runways in the grass, small 1-2 inch burrow openings, damage to lawn/plants, and cone-shaped piles of dirt from excavated burrows. Tunnels through mulch and gnaw marks on trees are other clues.

How can I tell if I have voles or moles?

Moles create underground tunnels that push up ridges in lawns. Voles dig visible surface runways along with burrow holes. Moles eat soil insects while voles feed on vegetation.

What damage can voles do in my yard?

Voles destroy lawns by burrowing extensive tunnels and runways. They also feed on plant roots, bulbs, and bark, killing trees and damaging gardens.

What scent repels voles the most effectively?

Castor oil and garlic oil have proven most effective for repelling voles. Look for repellents containing these as active ingredients. Ammonia or capsaicin-based formulas also deter voles.

How do you use vole poison bait?

Use zinc phosphide or chlorophacinone baits in underground burrows only. Avoid scattering above ground where pets could ingest. Apply bait into the openings of 2-3 burrows every 5-10 feet.

How long does it take for voles to die from bait?

Death occurs within 1-3 days after voles consume the bait. You may need to reapply bait every 2-3 days until all feeding activity has ceased.

Will mothballs or dryer sheets repel voles?

No, there is no scientific evidence that mothballs or dryer sheets effectively repel voles or other burrowing pests. Stick to baits, traps, and sprinkling proven vole repellents.

How do I keep voles from returning once removed?

Maintain your lawn short, eliminate food and debris, seal foundations, and use preventative vole baits or repellents. Installing vole fencing can protect gardens long-term.


Voles can be extremely difficult pests once established, but taking action at the first signs of their presence using recommended control methods can help protect your lawn and garden. Trapping, baits, and repellents allow for thorough removal when used together and applied diligently over 2 to 3 weeks.

Prevention is also key to avoid recurring vole problems year after year. Maintaining your yard to reduce habitat appeal, sealing entry points, and monitoring for signs of vole presence will keep infestations to a minimum. Don’t allow voles to overrun your yard – take control with prompt removal and ongoing prevention.