Although the vole is sometimes called the meadow mouse, it is not a mouse at all. In appearance, it is similar to a mouse, but its body is chunkier and heavier than a mouse’s. It’s about 4 to 8 inches long and is dark brown to grayish brown. Compared to a mouse, a vole has longer hair, a much shorter tail, its nose is more blunt, and its eyes and ears are small.
Voles are found almost exclusively outside and are considered agricultural pests since they feed on seeds, leaves, seedlings, root crops, fruits and vegetables. They will even girdle small trees and shrubs while feeding on bark. They live mostly where there is heavy grass or weed cover, in pastures, orchards, roadsides, yards, or gardens. In gardens, it is usually voles that cause the plant feeding damage often blamed on moles. Many gardeners consider voles to be their number one pest.
Besides damaging plants by feeding, voles destroy landscaping and gardens with their tunneling. They use both shallow underground tunnels and above-ground runways to move from place to place. They often leave visible runways through vegetation. This extensive surface runway system will have numerous openings into their underground tunnels just below the surface. Voles are also known for using abandoned mole tunnels as travel routes to reach seeds and roots.
Unlike mice, voles rarely enter buildings. If they do end up inside, they are always found on lower levels and can not reproduce indoors like mice.