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Natural Awakenings Rhode Island

Critter Confusion

Dec 01, 2017 02:07PM
By David Jones

Voles and moles are often confused with each other. Despite the similarity in names, they are quite different animals in general and in particular with their daily habits. They do, however, have some similarities. They can both cause significant damage to border plants, trees and shrubs and especially in common, damage to our lawns.

Voles are vegetarians and will travel just under the grass looking for young plant shoots. They particularly like rhododendrons, camellias, gardenias and other acid loving plants that put out lots of tender shoots. This causes the plants to be stunted in their growth and some will even die if attacked often enough.

Voles will change tactics in winter and will tunnel under snow looking for bark at the base of trees and shrubs as their main food source. Junipers are a favorite and we should check the bark from time to time. If the bark shows any signs of being chewed, take action as soon as possible or risk having to replace them or look at brown, ugly patches.

Now, moles are very different as they are carnivores and relentlessly hunt down earthworms, fat grubs and occasionally adult forms of some insects. They tunnel under the grass several inches deep. They dump the excavated soil on the lawn in ugly piles. When we walk on the lawn, the grass will often give way as the tunnels collapse. This can cause potential hazards if we trip up on unseen holes. The turf will usually feel spongy and is often the first indication of a problem.

Voles can often be seen, and look like mice with short tails and slightly pointed noses. They are shy and often brownish gray. Moles are much bigger, dark gray and are easily identified by their large shovel like front paws which are strong excavating tools.

Since all creatures have roles to play in life, non-lethal control methods are recommended to protect your property from voles, moles and other critters.

David Jones works at Bio Tech Pest Controls, located at 18 Granite St., Westerly. For more information or questions, call 401-315-2400, email  [email protected] or visit

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