Another in our series, "Common Garden Animal Pests - Signs of Their Damage and How to Control Them". This week's topic is Mice and Meadow Voles.
Mice have found a good thing with people. They love to eat what we eat. They enjoy using our shelters as their own shelters. We always create a very good mice habitat where ever we go and with whatever we do. Mice are a constant companion to people, even when best efforts are taken to keep the mice away. Normally, you’d never notice mice or their damage around you when their population is kept at a reasonable number- but all too often mice become happy. When they become happy, they multiply and they begin to make themselves more visible.
Meadow voles, also called field mice and meadow mouse, are found all across the United States and Canada. Active year-round and usually at night the meadow vole digs burrows underground for food storage and nesting. They often cause damage to fruit plants, shrubs, and other garden plants.
Aside from actually seeing a mouse or vole, their damage left behind is just as good as identifying your mouse or vole problem. Here are some pretty obvious signs that your mice or vole problem in your garden is out of control:
- Gnaw marks around tree and shrub trunks and branches that are low to the ground on under the snow line. Gnaw marks are really small- about 1/8 of an inch long. They start out as irregular patches of gnaw marks but they will eventually coalesce into a ring of gnaw marks around the trunk or branches, fatally damaging young trees and shrubs. If you have a veggie garden, you may notice these same gnaw marks on corn, and on squash fruits.
- You may come across a nest of mice or meadow voles inside of things like empty plant pots that haven’t been disturbed in a while. Boats and other recreational equipment kept outside are often made into nesting sites. If you have a chicken coop, you may find a nest or two in a corner or under debris that have been left out for a long time. Nests will be made of whatever soft material they can find, and are often lined with their own fur or fur they find. Near the nest, you may find little caches of nuts.
- Watch for tunnels and paths, about 2 inches wide, in grass and in the garden. Mice and voles create their own sort of expressways that they frequently travel on, and these expressways become trodden and smooth with lots of use. Where it snows, you can easily see these pathways through the yard. They will be visible as tunnels through the snow.
The best method of getting rid of the mice and vole problem is to practice good prevention. Here are some good ways to keep the mice and voles away:
- Don’t offer them shelter and a place to nest. Keep your yard free of debris as best you can, and seal off open spaces in small structures. Keep boats and other sporting equipment off of the ground.
- Protect plants, trees and shrubs with tree protectors, especially young trees and shrubs.
- Repel mice and voles with plants such as chives, lavender, mints, and euphorbias. Plant bulbs that they won’t eat such as daffodils and hyacinths.
- If you have backyard chickens, remove their food at night or only feed what your chickens will eat in a day. Avoid keeping food out overnight. Mice and voles love chicken feed!
- Allow your cat or dog (or both) to be with you when you’re out in the garden. Their scent will help repel mice and voles.
If you need to get a handle on a mice or vole problem that already exists, you may need to resort to traps or eradication measures. There are plenty of very good mouse and vole traps, from lethal traps to friendly traps. Bait traps with goodies that mice and voles rarely see and can’t resist. Peanut butter always works. There are poisons that work well too, but if you have pets and children, poisons might not be a great option. Follow the manufacturer’s directions carefully when using a lethal trap method or poison.
We hope this advice helps you get a handle on your mice and voles!
Identifying a Meadow Vole