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Delving into the hidden world beneath our gardens and meadows, voles are often mysterious and misunderstood creatures. This guide sheds light on these burrowing rodents, detailing their behaviors, dietary habits, and habitats. Whether you want to understand their impact on your garden or seek ways to control their population humanely, our guide provides the insights you need.


Voles, often mistaken for mice or moles, are small rodents with a stocky build. They have short legs, small ears barely peek out from their fur, and short tails. Their eyes are also small, and their fur typically ranges from brown to gray. Measuring 4 to 8.5 inches in length, voles have a rounded face that distinguishes them from the more pointed faces of mice.

Common Voles Species

Common Vole (Microtus arvalis)

This species, the European Vole, is found across Europe and Asia. It's typically brown or reddish-brown and inhabits meadows, grasslands, and cultivated fields. The Common Vole is known for its short tail and rounded muzzle.

Field Vole (Microtus agrestis)

The Field Vole is one of the most common voles in Europe. It is small, with a grey-brown fur, and prefers grassy habitats, including meadows and fields. The Field Vole is a primary food source for many British birds of prey.

Bank Vole (Myodes glareolus)

Distinctive for its red-brown fur, it is commonly found across Europe. It inhabits woodland edges, hedgerows, and gardens. The Bank Vole has a slightly longer tail than other voles, and it's known to climb shrubs and low branches in search of food.

Water Vole (Arvicola amphibius)

This is the largest of the UK's vole species. It has a chunky body with dark brown fur. As its name suggests, the Water Vole prefers wet habitats, living along riverbanks, wetlands, and marshes. They're well-adapted to their aquatic environments with water-resistant fur and partially webbed feet.

Meadow Vole (Microtus pennsylvanicus)

Native to North America, the Meadow Vole is found in many habitats, from meadows and grassy fields to forests. Its fur is usually dark brown, and it has a shorter tail. The Meadow Vole's population can fluctuate greatly yearly, influenced by food availability and predation.

Prairie Vole (Microtus ochrogaster)

Endemic to central North America, the Prairie Vole is recognized by its gray-brown fur. This species inhabits grasslands and meadows, and it plays a vital role in its ecosystem by being a primary prey for many predators. Prairie Voles are often studied for their monogamous mating behavior and social structures.



Voles are primarily herbivores. Their diet consists of seeds, plants, tree bark, and tubers. During warmer months, they munch on the roots and stems of grasses and other plants. In winter, they’re known to eat the bark of trees, which can sometimes lead to significant damage.


Preferring to stay hidden, voles create intricate burrow systems. These underground networks can often be spotted as thin, snaking pathways on the surface of lawns or gardens. They favor areas with dense grass cover, protecting them from predators. Voles are not limited to any particular type of environment and can be found in meadows, grasslands, forests, and swamplands.


How to eliminate Voles

  • Natural Predators: Encouraging the presence of natural vole predators can help regulate their population. Birds of prey, such as owls and hawks, snakes, foxes, and cats, are known vole predators.
  • Habitat Modification: Keeping your garden or lawn trimmed and neat reduces the hiding places for voles. Removing or reducing ground cover, mulch, or tall grass can deter voles from setting up residence.
  • Repellents: There are various commercial repellents available designed specifically for voles. These are often natural-based and work by making plants unpalatable to voles.
  • Traps: Live traps baited with peanut butter can effectively capture voles. Once trapped, you must release them far away from your property to prevent them from returning.
  • Fencing: Installing a fine mesh or hardware cloth around gardens can prevent voles from accessing plants. Ensure the fencing goes at least 10 inches underground to deter burrowing.


Are voles harmful to humans?

Voles are not directly harmful to humans and are not known to transmit diseases. However, they can cause significant damage to gardens, lawns, and young trees.

How long do voles live?

Voles have a short lifespan in the wild, typically 3 to 6 months. However, in the absence of predators and with abundant resources, they can live up to a year.

How can I differentiate between mole tunnels and vole paths?

Mole tunnels appear as raised ridges on the surface, while vole paths look like thin, snaking grooves on the ground.

Do repellents always work?

Repellents can be effective, but their efficiency can vary based on several factors, including the type of repellent, application frequency, and the specific vole population's behavior.

Is it better to trap or use repellents for voles?

A combined approach might be best depending on the extent of the infestation. Repellents might suffice for smaller populations, but trapping may be more effective for larger infestations. Always prioritize humane methods.

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