The Vole – Bird Feeder Connection
By Chris Williams on March 8, 2016.
The snow under our bird feeder gets pretty much beaten down by birds and squirrels. Lately we’ve been noticing really fat mice darting around under the feeder. Are mice active in the winter in snow? B. H., Pepperell, MA
Mice do remain somewhat active in winter, but I wonder if you aren’t seeing voles instead (see Mice or Voles in Your Yard?). Voles are sometimes incorrectly called meadow mice. Although voles are rodents related to mice, they’re larger than mice and have a short tail, short ears, small eyes, and a stockier body than mice.
Voles can be very active in winter and can do quite a bit of damage to lawns and trees trying to satisfy their vegetarian diet. But, because voles travel about in tunnels under the snow cover, the damage (and their presence) isn’t usually noticed until the snow melts. During the summer months, voles can be a problem again as they raid gardens, feeding on crops and seedlings and often removing or killing plants in the process.
How to Make Your Yard Less Vole-Friendly
As they move along in their tunnel system underneath the protective snow cover, voles will feed on whatever they can find, and finding birdseed on the ground is a real winter treat for them. Try to clean up spilled birdseed under feeders as often as possible. Look for a catch tray that can be installed beneath the feeder. People who are feeding voles and mice under their bird feeders can end up with rodent predators as well! See Bird Feeders Attract Birds, and Rodents…and Snakes!
You can also discourage voles by clearing vegetation around the base of trees and shrubs (a common burrowing site), remove or pull back ground covers around plantings, keep grass and weeds cut short, and thin mulch to a depth of only one inch. Removing leaves and plant debris in the fall will eliminate winter cover for voles. For more, see Preventing Winter Lawn Damage From Voles.
If voles seem to be taking over your yard, give Colonial Pest a call. We know how and where to trap or bait voles for quick results. Give us a call!