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Stop Winter Lawn Damage From Voles and Moles

By Chris Williams on December 25, 2015.

We usually discuss this topic in early spring when our customers are first noticing damage to their lawns. When the snow finally melts and all is revealed, mounds and ridges and grooves and bumps are present where your lawn used to be. This year with a little forewarning, you may be able to head off winter damage from tunneling voles and moles.

The Trouble with Voles

In our region we have both pine voles and meadow voles. Pine voles live in a series of connecting underground tunnels while meadow voles move through grass in surface runways or in tunnels just under the snow, or sometimes use existing mole tunnels. Voles don’t hibernate in winter, they remain active just under the snow cover and feed on birdseed and any plant material they can find.

It’s not just lawn damage either. Voles will chew up bulbs and the entire root systems of perennial plants. Sometimes even young trees will suffer root damage. During winter, voles also chew the bark on small trees, especially bark that is at or below the snow line where it is available to them in their runways.

Moles are Master Tunnelers

Unlike plant-eating voles, moles feed on earthworms and insects and won’t harm your plants (see The Difference Between Moles and Voles). Moles are often blamed for the plant damage caused by voles. While moles don’t eat plants, they can accidentally uproot them with their extensive underground tunneling (see Moles Can Make a Mess of Your Yard). Moles also remain active in winter.

What Can You Do to Avoid Damage This Winter?

Of course the best way to prevent winter lawn and plant damage from voles and moles is to reduce their populations during the growing season. You can help eliminate voles by limiting the amount of mulch you use and by pulling it away from the base of trees and shrubs. Trapping is one way to remove voles and moles from your yard. Trapping is most successful in fall months but can sometimes be accomplished in spring or whenever snow is not present.

If you are concerned about vole trunk or root damage to young trees, protect them with a hardware cloth cylinder around the trunk and extending several inches into the ground. For more on steps you can take now to protect your lawn and plants from voles, see our blog Preventing Winter Lawn Damage From Voles.

While you may not be able to repair damage to trees or perennials, the good news is that the unsightly winter damage to lawns left by voles and moles is not usually permanent. Raking and removing dead grass will allow clipped grass to eventually resprout. Stamp down and rake out mole tunnels to even out the lawn and discourage more tunneling.

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