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:
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.
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.