We have had several customers come in this spring asking about damage that they see in their lawns and gardens. Several have had rose bushes that were completely gnawed off at ground level. Others bring in photos of trails on their lawn or in their flower beds. Many assume that the damage is caused by moles, but this isn’t the problem. Voles are the culprits here.
Voles eat plants while moles eat worms, grubs and similar soil-dwellers. Voles are particularly active in winters like we’ve just experienced: long periods of very cold weather and constant snow cover. The snow offers protection for the voles as they move through the landscape looking for food to eat and because the ground is frozen, they often move on the surface and eat the crowns of plants where the stems meet the soil. Sometimes voles target perennials that have fleshy roots, and in this area they seem especially attracted to rose bushes.
The question on all of our customer’s minds is this: what can I do now…and do I need to treat in some way to get rid of the voles?
The reality is that you’ll never get rid of all rodents in the landscape. During the growing season natural predators such as cats, skunks, owls, hawks and fox keep them under control. The best thing you can do at this time of year is to top-dress the damaged lawn and reseed. If the turf hasn’t been aerated recently it might be a good opportunity to have this done first, with top-dressing and seeding to follow. In our area April and even early May is a fine time for this if it hasn’t already been done the previous fall. Bushes and perennials that have also been damaged can be replaced.
If you think the damage is continuing, the use of a vole repellant is a good idea. Shake Away can also be put around roses and other vulnerable plants next fall before the snow comes again.
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