How I Kill Voles

by Daisy

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I thought of titling this post How I Catch Voles, to avoid the use of the word kill, but the truth is, I don’t capture them and release them to the wild.

I don’t enjoy vole-icide, but when, the other day, I went into the garden and saw practically an entire row of almost-ready-to-be-picked, extremely delicious, purplehull peas lying rootless, wilted and yellowing, I began to question my stance on nuclear weaponry for the home gardener.

Tearing back into the house, I googled furiously, not for the first time, the subject of getting rid of these things.

I’ve used traps before and they failed to catch a single vole, so I researched deterrents, sonic devices, and even . . . poison.

The first two, apparently, don’t work.  The third works, but works by causing the animal to bleed to death internally.  Slowly.  I don’t like what voles do to my garden, but I don’t, it turns out, want to torture them.

I leave that to our cats.

So I was back to traps.  I decided to go with a better trap approach.  What I did killed 14 voles in three days.

The Murderous Plot:

1.  Assemble LOTS of mousetraps.  I used 10 in my smallish garden.

2. Bait the traps with chunks of apple, tie them on securely.  My voles love apples, but other suggestions I’ve come across include seeds, nuts, and peanut butter and oatmeal mixed together.  I’ve heard voles have sensitive noses and you should use gloves when handling traps, but at least fourteen voles at last count are not deterred by my handling of the traps.  It’s tricky enough baiting and setting mousetraps without being gloved.  I tried it at first and got over it.

3. Locate the vole tunnels.  If you have obvious vole damage, it won’t be hard to find holes in the surface of the ground that lead into their tunnels. They look like this:


or this:


4.  Take a trowel and excavate around the hole.  You should be able to see where the tunnel leads off into the earth, parallel with the surface of the ground.  Make a mousetrap-sized space facing the tunnel.IMG_1136

5.  Activate the trap.  Place it in the hole with the bait just outside the tunnel opening. You can just see the tunnel near the top of the photo if you look hard.


6.  Cover the excavated area with a board or something similar to block out most of the light coming in.


7.  Check traps at least daily and replace bait after a day or two to keep it fresh and attractive.

8.  If your trap has been sprung or the bait stolen, re-bait and reset.  You’re getting close.  Tie the bait on more securely and try again.  Keep it up until the traps aren’t being sprung, even with fresh bait.  After that, set a few traps out periodically to monitor for new activity, or when you see holes and/or damage.

Note:  I had the privilege of being confined to a Lowe’s garden center for three hours with an Agricultural Extension Horticulture Agent during a master gardener event this week.  You know I brought up my vole situation.  He said he wasn’t surprised they went for the legumes (in addition to my peas, they also ate my peanuts, plants and all).  Legumes are a rich source of tasty protein and carbohydrates, so if you have legumes, keep a special eye on them.  The voles do.





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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeff Atnip July 17, 2013 at 11:33 am

Wow, 14 voles. Way to go! Now show us how to make some vole skin moccasins.

Daisy July 17, 2013 at 12:02 pm

I could make them into smarty pants.

Hannah July 17, 2013 at 5:07 pm

One year, the vole population was high here; they tunneled under the tomatoes and beets, hollowing out all the big ones from underneath, under cover of the jungle-like tops. When I went to pick some veggies for dinner, I discovered that what looked like big, juicy tomatoes and beets, was actually empty shells still attached to the plants! They also liked the kale so much that late in the fall, when I opened the coldframe where I’d planted a few late kale plants for fresh greens, there were mostly just stumps left, plus a pile of kale branches beside a wee tunnel in the soil. Hmmm. Beatrix Potter made them sound so cute, little Timmy Willie the country mouse…. but she never mentioned that they ate so much.

Since then, I space my plants and rows further apart, and keep some open space around the garden, as I notice they don’t like to venture far into open areas. There has been no more damage, though the voles are definitely still around, as are the hawks and other predators.

I was interested to read that you can trap them, and I’ll keep it in mind if they invade the garden again.

Amy July 18, 2013 at 7:25 am

Wow, that’s impressive! I dub you the Vole Extermination Queen. You could start your own business. The kids will have quite a story to tell when school starts back. Keep a few that they can take for Show & Tell.:-)

Daisy July 18, 2013 at 8:01 am


Vickie July 18, 2013 at 6:40 pm

Wow am I glad I read this! We are having a terrible time with voles and I, also, didn’t want to use pesticides. Thanks so much for this information. I will try it this weekend!

Daisy July 19, 2013 at 5:52 am

Let me know how it goes!

Kathleen July 20, 2013 at 8:03 am

Thanks for sharing this. I tried the sonic deterrent, I think the voles think it’s funny. After they ate Another one of my hull pea plants, I think I may be ready to try traps. Next year, I plan on lining my beds with hardware cloth so they (hopefully) can’t tunnel in.

Kathryn July 20, 2013 at 9:14 am

I don’t like killing things either, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. Impressive number!! (My husband is dealing with live trapping chipmunks right now- who are just a bit bigger, and just a bit cuter)

SylviaC July 20, 2013 at 3:45 pm

My son sometimes does landscaping in the summer. In one garden, he turned on the lawn mower and killed a whole family of voles (he thought) and was very upset as he is a true nature buff. When he got home, a tiny vole crawled out of his pocket, so he now has a pet vole in a hamster habitat complete with exercise wheel, tubes to crawl around in between it’s bedroom and dining room. It is 5 years old now!
But he does not like voles in his garden. So I will ask next time I see him what he does and if he has any good ideas, I will be back to let you know.

DanielleCara July 20, 2013 at 3:47 pm

The only vole I’ve seen all season here in Baton Rouge was the one my tom cat brought to my front steps. Some boys bring ya flowers but my boy brings me (dead) voles, so no need for traps…yet.

Sarah in CA July 20, 2013 at 7:12 pm

this is great about eliminating voles. Now how about those pesky gofers. We have dozens of them. At the very least their holes are a trip hazard. Any ideas, any at all??

Daisy July 21, 2013 at 11:24 am

It’s the thought that counts.

DanielleCara July 22, 2013 at 5:18 pm

Yes indeed! <3

JStroda July 30, 2013 at 11:09 am

I had a problem with them for the past several years also. I used Caster Oil and now they are gone. I drizzled it around my fence line ( was afraid the oil would kill the grass, it didn’t) and poured some in the open holes. So far so good. Guess they don’t like the taste either.

Bonnie April 6, 2016 at 1:16 pm

We recently have a BIG problem with voles here in Black Forest, CO. They’ve been worse, I think, since the 2013 wildfire. So lots of discussion about trapping, poisoning, discouraging them ensues. One neighbor here tried the mouse trap method, but found the many squirrels here kept getting their tails caught in them, so they’d see mouse traps flying around. What they did that works for them is to put the traps inside pieces of gutter that enter the vole tunnels at some point. The voles like the gutter tunnel extension, but the squirrels don’t.

That all sounds like a lot of work to me. I read that planting daffodils around whatever you want to protect will stop voles. They like to eat tulip bulbs, but do not like daffodils.

Daisy April 6, 2016 at 7:01 pm

Bonnie–Yes, I just saw some evidence of them under my carrots today. I’ve recently seen that gutter method and may have to try it myself. It’s always open season on voles!!

sanhedrin June 15, 2017 at 12:35 pm

I have had success with traps..but they become wise…then ammonia or gasoline poured down the hole half a cup….or you can buy castor oil from BAAR on th4e net, castor oil from the drug or grocery is all deodorized now….I

sanhedrin June 15, 2017 at 12:37 pm

I have had success with traps..but they become wise…then ammonia or gasoline poured down the hole half a cup….or you can buy castor oil from BAAR on the net, castor oil from the drug or grocery is all deodorized now….also RODEX, the grains soaked with strychnine work good, put 5 on a hole and cover with dirt, tamp down……killing is so much fun!

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