How to Deal with Voles (Field Mice) in Your Yard or Garden

By: Julie Day
Vole held in gloved hand

Vole (field mouse) found in my yard.

I’ve seen the damage that voles (field mice) can do in a yard or garden; including vanishing bulbs, gnawed bark, crippled roots, nibbled stems, and pathways in the lawn. But it wasn’t until I got a cat that I got a good look at a vole itself!

Don’t worry, animal-lovers, this little guy lived to nibble another day. But after being batted around by my cat in the yard, he didn’t seem to mind catching his breath for a minute in my gloved hand.

My yard didn’t show any damage, so I decided to “live and let live” as long as the vole kept the same attitude. However, not every vole is willing to make that agreement, and an overpopulation of the critters can wreak havoc on yards and gardens.

Here are some tips on how to control voles in your yard.

About Voles

Voles, a.k.a. field or meadow mice, are little brownish grayish rodents with tiny ears, small eyes, and a short tail. Like other rodents, voles have four toes on their front paws and five on the rear. Unlike their house mouse cousins, voles tend to stay outdoors and low to the ground.

The best way to identify a vole problem is by their runways. Voles make little paths through the lawn caused by trampling and eating grass. You can see these little aboveground highways by parting the grass, and a severe problem might even be visible from above. As further evidence, you might see small brown droppings on the runway, along with openings to their burrows – holes about 1½” in diameter where voles make their underground nests.

Voles are active year-round and are prolific little critters, having up to ten litters per year with a handful of babies each. Populations are often cyclical, swelling and shrinking every 4-5 years or so.

Vole in yard near plants

Voles like to hide in vegetation and other debris.

In addition to munching on plants, voles can cause considerable damage by gnawing the bark off trees and shrubs, girdling the trunks or roots and eventually killing the plant. Their irregular, patchy gnaw-marks can be seen near ground or snow level, particularly during the winter. They also can wreak havoc on bulbs, garden vegetables, and root crops.

How to Control Voles and Vole Damage

To manage a vole infestation, you should first modify your garden to protect your plants, then if necessary take steps to reduce the vole population. Here are some tips:

Vole Habitat Management

    1/4-inch mesh hardware cloth

    1/4-inch mesh deters voles.

  • Tidy Up: Voles hide and nest in vegetation and lawn debris. To make your lawn less inviting to voles, keep your yard tidy, weeded, and mowed. Avoid planting dense groundcovers.
  • Wrap Trees: If bark damage from voles is a problem, surround the lower trunks of trees and large shrubs with a loose cylinder of 1/4” wire mesh buried a few inches into the ground and reaching above the snow line.
  • Fencing: Protect vegetable and flower gardens from voles with 1/4″ or smaller mesh fencing, buried a foot deep to prevent burrowing.
  • Line Raised Beds: Line raised beds with mesh before adding soil, to keep burrowing critters at bay. You can also plant bulbs in mesh cages.
  • Underground Barriers: Voles will avoid burrowing through coarse soil. Surround beds or individual plants with a trench of sharp gravel or a product like VoleBloc.
  • Drawing of mesh guard for around tree

    Mesh tree guard.

  • Create Buffer Zones: Since voles tend to avoid open spaces, incorporate a plowed or graveled buffer strip at least 4’ wide (preferably 15’ or more) around vegetable gardens and orchards.
  • Keep Mulch Back: Avoid piling mulch directly against the trunks of trees and shrubs to reduce temptation for vole burrowing and munching. Ideally, leave a 3’ diameter cleared space around trees.
  • Encourage Predators: Cats, foxes, hawks, and owls love to eat voles. Predators probably won’t eliminate the vole population, but natural predation can help keep it under control.
  • Till Garden: Plowing or tilling reduces cover vegetation that harbors rodents including voles.

Vole Pest Control

  • Trapping: You can use either humane live traps or mouse traps to catch voles. The best time to trap voles is in the fall. Place live traps directly in the vole runway; place mouse traps perpendicular to the runway with the trigger in the vole’s path. Bait the traps with diced apples or peanut butter mixed with oatmeal. Avoid mouse traps if you have children or pets in your yard!
  • Snap trap for small rodents

    Snap trap for small rodents.

  • Poison: While rodent poisons and baits are effective in killing voles, I wouldn’t recommend putting any kind of poison outdoors if you can help it, to keep from endangering other animals. If you do resort to poison, use tamper-proof bait containers and/or insert the bait directly into vole burrows to reduce exposure to ground birds and pets. Some baits must be applied by a licensed pest control professional.
  • Fumigants: Vole burrows are shallow with many openings, rendering fumigating poisons pretty ineffective.
  • Repellents: Critter repellents, such as sprays and ultrasonic devices, have only limited success with voles. Predator urine (such as fox urine) can work for a while, but any repellent needs to be frequently changed and reapplied.

Further Information



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30 Comments on “How to Deal with Voles (Field Mice) in Your Yard or Garden”

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  • Linda Mashiter Says:
    October 12th, 2016 at 9:46 am

    I live on the isle of Wight and have a few raised beds and have found my tulip and daffodil bulbs on top off soil and small holes also the soil my apple trees are in pots dug out what can I do please

  • lionel mokry Says:
    August 4th, 2016 at 5:39 pm

    My brother just came back from being up north and he was talking to a farmer who has 100acres of corn. My brother told him that he has a small pepper and tomato garden in markham but he tried the traps and they’re just going around them. The farmer said to buy cayenne pepper and sprinkle it all around the garden and the voles wont come near it and said it will alsokeep other pests out. So far so good.

  • Jen Riedz Says:
    July 30th, 2016 at 2:04 pm

    People people people do not use poison!! Please don’t unless I can slip some antifreeze in your drinks! Chances are your little mice were there first. But don’t be so inhumane. I read that the one Neanderthal did that and then detailed how he did it. Disgusting. It’s 2016 please don’t kill there are way many more options.

  • Mitch Says:
    June 25th, 2016 at 11:29 pm

    Thanks to all for ideas. To Steve Says…you advocate for a rodent. A pest to we country folks that live in the rural areas that feed the USA. Yet, you refer to a domestic cat being owned by a vile moron. You are entitled to your opinion, as am I. If you spent hours in the summer heat, grooming your lawn, tending to ornate shrubs, perennial flowers etc etc and a nuisance rodent began destroying years of blood, sweat and a small fortune, you would be more open minded. The vole can infest in 8-12 mos, with females bearing on average 8 young, which from the litter, the females can be impregnated at 30 days old, multiplying exponentially. As the tactful lady told you, you are welcome to come save them. After a short period, you would be annoyed by voles instead of being a rodent pest lover. Takes a moron to interject an uneducated opinion to attack we rural folks for being inhumane to a pest, yet you slam a cat. Idiot…

  • Bill Says:
    June 11th, 2016 at 12:12 am

    My dog loves to catch them as they come out of the rain spout , he will grab them and flip them up in the air . I really can’t stand rats, mice and these voles , the voles have done a lot of damage to my yard etc. Maybe I should get a couple of cats to help clear them out , although the foxes and hawks help a lot , I have a trail camera that showed a fox catching them at night .

  • Maggie b Says:
    June 8th, 2016 at 10:33 pm

    Get a cat that only likes to catch them and bring their live trophies home. I have spent many hours stalking them in my dining room. The cat is so proud of herself!

  • Nancy Hurley Says:
    May 27th, 2016 at 4:01 pm

    have a vole population under my sunroom without a foundation would it be beneficial to put rock under the sunroom or is that not a deterent?

  • Kelley Says:
    May 6th, 2016 at 10:38 am

    Don’t be dense. Nobody said they wanted to kill all the wonderful little voles. We just don’t want them in our gardens and yards we spend tons of money trying to perfect for the enjoyment of our families. I get it you like animals and that’s great, so do I. In fact I sign petitions frequently regarding the real mistreatment of animals. However, this is not one of those situations. I want my children to be able to play in the backyard on grass not dirt and without twisting their ankle in a vole or gopher hole and without stepping on some little critter scurrying from one hole to another or their disease carrying feces. I’ll tell you what, if you think it’s such an atrocity so many of us want to keep these animals out of our yards, you can start collecting them from us and release them into your yard. I’m sure many of us would be willing to make the donation to your habitat.
    All that being said, I’ve been researching and dealing with this problem for three years since we bought our new house and voles (and even gophers for that matter) are difficult to get rid of. We live in a new subdivision and repelling them hasn’t worked, I suppose because of all the undeveloped lots they can flee to before returning. Anhydrous ammonia has been the most effective (it must be applied by a licensed exterminator in some areas), but still hasn’t eradicated them completely. It also converts to nitrogen in the soil, so acts as a fertilizer – get ready to mow often, but it’s nice and green afterwards as well. I think the frequency of application would have to be great for the first few years at least. Poisons and fumigation have been ineffective for voles (their holes are too shallow with too many openings) and moderately effective for gophers. The only redeeming aspect to this problem, I suppose, is the voles only seem to occupy about 1200 1500 square feet for their colonies. They made quite a network on about 1/3 of our backyard, but seemed to leave the rest and our front yard alone with the exception of a few isolated holes.

  • steve Says:
    April 24th, 2016 at 7:47 pm

    I must say I’m totally appalled that such a small and appealing looking creature can attract such vile attention. I was looking for advice on how to help these poor little critters and not how to annihilate them!
    I’ve seen a little mouse ripped to pieces in my garden by some vile morons cat after me and the kids had spent many hours watching this wonderful animal climb a tree to take a bit of the bird food I put out. He was far cuter than anything in the pet shop but as I’ve said that didn’t last for long as some cretins viscious scum bag cat got into my garden and killed my wildlife.
    This planet is being destroyed by human activity and this just highlights how we let nothing else live. I do not believe any creature this small causes any garden damage at all and they only add an all too rare dimension to the otherwise over slabbed and over sanitised gardens everyone has these days.
    Widen your horizons and take another look. Without the ecosystems we rely on humans will exterminate themselves one day and why should all other life be seen as an enemy when they are not. Human nature really has some seriously evil elements when I can’t find anything but advice on how often kill small harmless mammals on the Internet. Have you ever thought that feelings might belong to all species? Science is proving that this is true and the vastly over inflated egos of humans and their capacities is in fact not correct.

  • Cris Says:
    January 1st, 2016 at 5:13 pm

    The creatures seemed to like the craft corn I left in the garage. I found six babies inside a box and droppings all along one side of my garage. I can not stand the smell of droppings. I removed all the corn, got rid of papers, leafs, fabrics, and cleaned as much of the garage as possible, then I bought some of the more humane traps, and followed these natural methods I found on a site. I haven’t seem them in the garage for a few weeks now. I used peppermint oil (pure Young Living peppermint oil). My neighbors used a different, diluted brand and didn’t work. I also spread cayenne pepper, cloves, and dryer sheets. Hope it helps.

  • Kat H. Says:
    December 11th, 2015 at 10:51 am

    I am pretty sure now after reading the posts that I have a or some voles. My little dog goes out and will bark and dig at an area until I go outside and get him. I don’t want him to disturbed the other neighbors, but unless I can get rid of these rodents my dog is going to keep barking. My yard is fenced in and he has a doggie door so he can go out anytime. Anyone have any ideas how to chase the voles away. Thanks!

  • alma panioty Says:
    September 26th, 2015 at 4:06 am

    I just sent away for a fruit tree catalouge pomona fruits and they say they sell 10 bulbs of anti mole bulbs and cost £16.95. Could this be the answer? I asked what the bulbs are and am waiting for a reply.

  • Simone Says:
    September 13th, 2015 at 8:10 pm

    I read somewhere that a spray of olive oil will deter varmints. Can any one corroborate this suggestion?

    Incidentally if this works, where can one purchase bulk oil. I have looked all over, but the shipping charge is exorbitant


  • Carla Says:
    July 21st, 2015 at 9:31 am

    I am so sorry to hear of your bird seed and lovely birds. But you chose a country area where other pests live. I have both a feeder, feed and log for winter with holes we fed winter birds. But you have to ask if it is worth feeding the pests. I can no longer put bird seed out cause it feeds mice, and other night time animals. If concern, use a camcorder to record this at night. You will stop using feed for those pests. Then they come inside for more food.

  • Darlene Smith, ry Says:
    July 21st, 2015 at 9:00 am

    Best way to get digging voles, moles, racoon, or any animal pests digging at the foundation of your home. Had this on our nice country new property. I got what worked best over the years. MOTH BALLS. It works like a charm. I got rid of digging, and if close digging I use MOTH BALLS. Gone! Gotta try that. A mouse hates purgent things. By ammonia liquid cleaner with water recommended. Boy, it cleans good. In house, I heard dryer sheets work too anywhere. Use totes in house and keep cleaning.

    Do not use mothballs if have a pet. We do not. Ask the professionals online. A dog will not get rid of voles. Only a cat can do that. Mice will not come near. For us, we would rather buy moth balls, caulk everywhere possible. Voles can come in house if you leave a door open a minute. Also can enter inside the size of a dime or pencil.

  • Peter Says:
    July 12th, 2015 at 8:13 am

    Thanks for all the comments posted in this site. I am not sure if I had a self inflicted problem, but I just found a couple of little visitors appearing in my back yard under the bird feeder with sunflower seeds where I had put up since last summer. I love the different kinds of birds showing up year round but these little creatures scared the hell out of my wife and myself. I think we will just have to give up the beautifull sights of blue jays, cardinals and finches as a painfull trade off.

  • mel Says:
    July 2nd, 2015 at 9:39 am

    i live in southwest France. We have a 1200 sq. metre lawn which is very well maintained. Short! But lately i’ve noticed it’s riddled with holes. Bit worried in case it could be rats, but i suspect it’s voles or field mice. Really don’t want to use poison as i have two dogs. Urgh!!!

  • Peter B Says:
    June 22nd, 2015 at 7:30 am

    Made a bird-stoat-weasel etc. proof poison dispenser by cutting a small hole in the side of a plastic pot at the rim end, place a shallow dish with the poison in the infested area, cover with the upturned plastic pot, put a plastic pot-saucer upside down to cover the drainage holes in the upside down pot and weigh the whole thing down with a stone or brick on top. This has worked well for me as, bordering fields my garden is overrun with mice and they eat leaves, stems,flowers of Phlox, Echinacea, Rudbeckia, etc. etc. My borders are protected from rabbits and their predators by electrified netting, but the damage is almost identical to that made by rabbits!
    PSB Somerset UK

  • Lydia Says:
    June 2nd, 2015 at 11:22 pm

    I love all this info. Thank you so much for sharing. with so many options I would really like to encourage people not to use poisons. Despite being a painful and cruel way for voles to die, your poisons may also kill wildlife inadvertantly. Even if you place poisons inside the vole holes, there is still no garuntee that the vole will not be caught by another predator while it is in the process of slowly being poisoned to death. If it is consumed during this time, you will most definitely end up killing wildlife as well, or possibly a domestic cat or dog. I live on a homestead in Northern California and occasionally volunteer at a local wildlife rescue. This is huge issue where I live because there is quite a lot of wildlife here and also lots of agriculture. So please in your quest to rid your gardens of voles, Avoid poison at all costs. Thank you!

  • Randy hoover Says:
    May 17th, 2015 at 7:30 am

    I walked around my house….dozens of little holes dug all around my home. Not knowing what they were…I set a couple regular mouse traps. Low and behold…Voles. One rather large one and several small ones.. Now how do I get rid of this infestation?

  • Meena Says:
    March 28th, 2015 at 3:46 pm

    A couple of years ago they devastated every thing in my front lawn. It seemed like Canadian Highways 401,403 and QEW combined. Anyhow I planted some Cuban Habaneros among my flowers in the retaining wall that summer. Since then I have not seen any voles. Fingers crossed hope they don’t come back. I continued to plant at least one Habanero in the flower garden and one in the vegetable garden every summer since.

  • Diane Says:
    March 12th, 2015 at 6:53 pm

    We have trails in our lawn. I thought maybe Moles but they r u derground right? So field mice might b the pest that r doing this. How do I get rid of them before they completely destroy my lawn? Please help!

  • sharon Says:
    October 6th, 2014 at 1:44 am

    Each winter I get large voles coming in from a back field 100ft. from me. There eat the roots of my grass & make track all over my lovely yard. We have used dried fox urine along the border of our yd. It worked we put same down before first snow fall. In spring we were clear of damaged grass in our yard. It gets expensive constanly have to repair the yard. Our local greenery no longer sell this where can I purchase this miracle treatment. Were seniors, this is hard to maintain each spring with the damaged.

  • Shelley Says:
    August 28th, 2014 at 9:14 am

    We have an over grown back yard due to our lab dogs. We had mice in our house last winter but now I see them in the yard. I have found your info great but is there anything else we can do? We also have a wood pile and a shed not too far from our house. Thanks for any info you can give.

  • linda Says:
    August 20th, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    We have voles & a significantly large vegetable garden. I’ve told my husband repeatedly to get humane traps he got the old fashioned ones & we’ve caught a few but also caught a bird. Stick with humane traps. We are guilty of having a compost pile another issue I’ve mentioned finally we have 2 dogs don’t leave doggie deposits on the lawn rodents love the stuff its often a secondary food source. Our Buffalo summers have given me a new found respect for farmers all that work can’t imagine how upsetting it would be to loose an entire crop to weather or vermin

  • Freda Says:
    July 1st, 2014 at 8:00 pm

    I believe I have voles in my garden, they come out from under my many shrubs after dark. I have never seen them in daytime only late at night, when my dogs eventually come inside. I’ve always thought they were cute and never worried about them like I would if they were mice and may come inside but since reading about garden damage I’m having second thoughts. I have a very lush, shrub, tree, flower filled garden and the only thing I have noticed are some of the pansy flowers totally disappearing, which I put down to slugs as I don’t use pesticides. Having read what other people have said I’m thinking of setting some humane traps and releasing them on farmland nearby. I have three malamute dogs with very high prey drive, one which caught and ate a vole the other night, also two terriers and never dreamed a mammal like this would find my garden a sanctuary.
    Do voles eat flower heads and why just pansies as I’ve got loads of other flowers that haven’t been touched? I’d like to just live and let live but I don’t want to be overrun with them. Is it posdible to live on harmony with these cute little souls or am I being misguided?

  • ann winder Says:
    June 20th, 2014 at 10:02 am

    I was busy transplanting my begonia’s into a larger pot when I felt something further down in the soil, thinking this was a begonia tuber I put my hand in to gently raise it to the surface to my horror I found an animal as big as a large orange . This animal had long whiskers no tail but very large floppy ears. Could this be a vole. I am not sure if it is alive or dead as I got the fright of my life and the pot is still in the middle of my garden .Such a coward.

  • chris Says:
    August 2nd, 2013 at 7:33 pm

    Hello…I have a nice large population and my yard look like crap and I want to ELEMANATE thae problem what is the fastest and most effective

  • Pat tollivr Says:
    May 13th, 2012 at 11:47 pm

    Help voles! Called Orkin got rid of them last season but they are back this year. I am ready to put poison out everywhere just to Kill them. Any new products you are aware of?

  • Elizabeth Holland Says:
    May 8th, 2012 at 3:08 am

    I have found your comments very helpful – far more so than those from the RHS of which I am a member. I have had a real “plague” this year – worse than any previous year. They ate first my hellebores (Christmas roses) as they were emerging from the ground, then my wallflowers, aquilegia, thalicrum, small roses, clematis, love-in-the-mist and even one of my lilies. Also small shrubs to the extent that I wondered if a rabbit had entered my rabbit-proofed garden. I did have some success by spraying with an anti-animal deterrent. I then tried putting poison pellets down the holes. The voles are still with me. I need a stoat or a weasel, but how do I bring them into my garden? I live in the countryside near Hastings. Any further comments from you would be much appreciated.

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