Posts Tagged ‘how to get rid of voles’

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Summer Crop 2011: Part II

August 8, 2011

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The most recent and urgent problem in my garden is an uninvited, vegetable-eating vole. This doesn’t have anything to do with the poor yield previously mentioned in Part I, but it impacts how many veggies reach my dinner table versus the mouth of rodents.

I first noticed runways in the main raised bed beneath cucumber and squash plants. Flipping over the cucumbers some had been partly munched on. I decided to flush the varmints out, so I jammed the end of the water hose into one of the openings and turned on the faucet full force. A title wave flushed through the burrows. Then out came one vole. He hid on the edge of the raised bed between trailing squash vines. I had a perfect shot. But I couldn’t commit murder with a shovel and not destroy the squash plant.

That evening, I loaded the .22, jammed the hose in a hole, turned on the water, and shouldered the .22. As if the fat-bellied rodent knew I was armed with a gun, he ran for shelter beneath the tomato plants. He was so fast it was as if brown lightening had passed before my eyes. Then I became concerned he would move into the melon bed—the only crop that has produced well this summer. Sure enough, the next day when I flooded the burrows in the squash and cucumber bed, he never surfaced. Checking out the melon bed I discovered openings and runways so I flushed the burrows. Out he ran, in the open, straight for his old eating ground. I chased after him with a shovel. Of course, he won the race. I could have shoot him with the .22 .

I absolutely hate these pests. They’re smart! Quick! Hide-and-seek experts! They can eat enough food for an elephant. What little crops I do have this summer, much of it is being devoured by one measly vole.

Vole (meadow mice) Facts:

  • Voles usually live 3-6 months, rarely beyond one year.
  • There are six species in California. They weigh ½ ounce to 3 ounces, and are very prolific breeders fluctuating in numbers from a few to thousands per acre.
  • Voles can carry disease that can be transferred to humans through food cross-contamination or direct contact.
  • Voles do not hibernate. In colder climates, voles are more active during the afternoons when it’s warmer. In warmer climates, they scurry about early mornings and late afternoon when summer heat is lowest.
  • One can determine voles from gophers and moles by their aboveground runways between multiple openings located closely together.
  • Voles eat seeds, tubers, bark, tree needles, vegetables, various green vegetation such as grass and clover, and insects.
  • Voles are intelligent. Once they witness a family member caught in a trap, they know to avoid the same fate. They are very hard to trap.

Helpful (but not foolproof) Solutions:

  • Remove food and protection from predators by cleaning away weeds, heavy mulch, and dense vegetative cover.
  • Keep a weed-free strip around garden areas. Voles don’t usually go into the open. A minimum width of 15 feet is recommended by Integrated Pest Management at http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7439.html
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Managing Pests in the Garden

August 18, 2010

Lately, there’s been more action in and around my garden than I care to have. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy activity, positive changes, and the challenging journeys that gardening and country life sometimes take me on. It’s the damages and losses (even near losses) that I don’t cotton too. Here’s what’s been happening.

In the vegetable bed, voles have devoured two cantaloupes, one ready to harvest and the other green as grass. Voles run above ground on the paths they’ve created between holes. I placed two mousetraps and four glue traps on the running trails. If you place two traps back-to-back on the paths, you’re bound to capture one. So far, I’ve caught four. I plunked a blend of peanut butter and oatmeal on each, although a small piece of spearmint gum seems to attract them better. Ralphie, however, is also attracted to the gum, not the peanut butter, so I have to go with the latter.

The vole number is low so far. When hundreds of voles invade a garden or raised bed like my neighbor (or as I’ve experienced before), there’s not much you can do. I’m hoping this year’s vole litter in my garden isn’t a prelude to next year’s over breeding.

I’ve heard some master gardeners say pouring a mix of plaster of Paris and oatmeal down the opening works well. The voles, supposedly, eat it and die.

In addition to voles, it seems that I now have to be watchful of coyotes. Around 3:30 in the afternoon, a coyote tried to take my hens hostage. Ralphie and I just happened to be in the hammock, a few feet away, when we heard the ladies squawking frightfully. Between Ralphie’s barking and my yelling, the coyote fled silently without bloodshed, not even a nugget of country chicken. Thank heaven. (I also have to stay extra close to Ralphie now when he’s outside.)

A lot of dust and feathers flew overhead as the ladies ran for cover. I counted hens (all present, unharmed) and consoled them with a reassuring voice. The next morning, when I checked the mousetraps, one was gone. If triggered, mousetraps can fly a distance. This one, however, had vanished. I imagine it tangling on the nose of a sore loser, the coyote.

Here are some tips to help you decide who’s tunneling in your beds:

Vole:  Diet consists of vegetation, roots, and grass. Creates several open holes within a small area with above-ground trails between them.

Mole:  Diet consists mainly of earthworms and insects. Creates horseshoe-shape mound around the hole.

Gopher: Destroys roots while digging for food. Uproots and eats vegetation including tree roots, flower roots, and bulbs. Creates a round mount with hole in center.

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