How to Identify and Repair Vole Damage to Grass
What are Voles?
Voles are about 4 to 8 inches long and vary in color from brown to gray. Voles eat grasses, forbs, vegetables, and gardens. They can also eat bark on trees and shrubs, especially during the fall and winter months. While they prefer young, succulent trees and plants, their diet is fairly adaptable. Voles are active throughout the year and do not hibernate. Their inhabit areas that are usually less than one-fourth of an acre and are very adaptable. Voles can cause severe damage to lawns especially during the winter months. They construct many surface runways and underground tunnels with numerous burrow entrances. A single burrow may contain several adults and large population can reach as many as 500 voles per acre.
Strange looking ruts or paths may appear in the lawn around February and March. These ruts may be particularity large and extensive, especially if the lawn was covered by snow for an extended period of time. These irregular ruts in the lawn are actually the paths created by a small rodent called voles. Without preventative measures, voles can cause a lot of damage to your lawn.
Voles are a nuisance to lawns and the damage they cause can be aesthetically unappealing.
Preventing and Repairing Vole Damage in Lawns
Vole damage to lawns is usually first noticed in the early spring after the snow has melted. The damage to the lawn usually occurred earlier in the winter months, but it isn’t noticed until a few months after the damage began. In lawns, there will be irregularly shaped groves or ruts in the turf. These paths tend to be more severe near the edges of the lawn and are usually more severe after winter months when the snow cover lasted for an extended period of time. Vole damage can also be severe if there is a nearby field grass or prairie grass area.
To repair the vole damage it is important to perform a very thorough core aeration. Fertilizing the lawn with a high quality organic product like Synergy will stimulate rhizome root growth. Later in the year when the irrigation is turned on, make sure to follow the 1-2-3-2-1 lawn watering technique as this watering technique will stimulate deep digging grass roots. Most vole damage will be repaired quickly after proper fertilization and a thorough core aeration.
Mowing the lawn short in the fall will help reduce damage from voles to lawns. If there is a nearby native grass area it is important to mow the tall prairie grasses grasses that are adjacent to turf grasses. This practice will reduce the habitat for voles and in theory, should reduce damage to the nearby turfgrass areas. If severe vole damage occurs and is a re-occurring problem then an exterminator or traps might be necessary to prevent recurring lawn damage over the winter months.
Voles also do damage to trees and shrubs. Vole damage to trees can be identified by girdling and patches of irregular patterns of gnaw marks. Gnawed stems may have a pointed tips near the end of the branches.
Professional Lawn Care CompaniesTreatment of Vole Damaged Lawns can be complicated. Our recommendation is to contact Organo-Lawn in Boulder (303) 499-2000 or Fort Collins (970) 225-9425 and schedule a disease diagnosis with one of our professional lawn care technicians. Our state licensed lawn care technician will come up with a plan to correct the problems that are causing this situation.
Photos of Vole Damage
FAQ – Voles & Lawns
How do Voles Cause Damage to Grass?
Voles tend to do their damage without being noticed. They dig underground and create paths in lawns by feeding and walking in paths underneath the snow. It is common to see the damage to a lawn many weeks after after it was created. By the time most homeowners see the the damage to the lawn it is too late to save the grass and the voles have already relocated to a different a field or a different area of the landscape.
- Vole damage is normally not noticed until after the snow has melted.
- The damage to the lawn looks like irregular sunken tracks or paths that have been carved into the lawn.
- The most severe damage to the grass tends to be near the edges of the grass and not in the center of the lawn.
- Thorough core aeration, proper organic fertilization, and proper lawn watering will fix the majority of vole damage.
- To prevent future damage to a lawn from voles the homeowner should set traps or contact an exterminator.
- Organo-Lawn does not have any products that will stop vole damage.