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How to Identify Mole vs. Vole Damage To Your Lawn, Trees, and Shrubs

As we near the end of the winter, you may start to see signs of seasonal damage on your lawn, trees and shrubs. Mole and vole damage is common in our area of Pennsylvania, but it can leave your scratching your head trying to figure out who is the real culprit on your property. The experts at Giroud explain how to identify the difference between the two and what you can do to reverse the damage!

Vole Damage pathway in lawn
Voles carve out pathways in lawns closer to the surface.

How to Identify Vole Damage on Your Lawn

Voles, otherwise known as “Meadow Mice”, are small rodents with very active lifestyles in the winter. They live under dense shrubs and mulch and other hiding places like wood or rock piles. Voles eat grass, and in winter, the snow provides the perfect cover for voles to venture from their burrows in search of food without fear of predators. You can identify vole damage after snow melts by the telltale chiseled pathways through the lawn. Voles create these runways under the cover of snow where predators can’t catch them.

How to Identify Mole Damage on Your Lawn

Mole damage to lawn holes mound of dirt
Moles will burrow underground and pile dirt on the lawn surface as they dig out air vents.

Like voles, moles can do a lot of damage to a lawn. However, rather than pathways carved into the grass at the surface, moles tunnel underground and leave piles of soil that act as air vents in their tunnels.

“If you have a lawn that is really infested with moles, you can actually feel it as you walk across the grass,” explains Giroud Lawn Care Technician, Paul Ruffenach. “The ground will feel soft because the tunnels have been dug through under your feet.”

Damage to Trees and Shrubs

Although lawn damage caused by voles and moles is very to see, what can often go unnoticed until it’s too late is damage to trees and shrubs. These invasive little creatures feast on the bark of certain trees and shrubs.

“Both voles and moles will chew on the roots, trunks and branches of some shrubs because they are feeding on the starches and the sugars to stay alive in winter,” explains Drew Slousky. “If they chew the bark completely off, they could kill a shrub or a tree.”

Single stemmed trees like Dogwoods and Crabapples will likely die if voles or moles have girdled the tree by eating the bark completely around the trunk. Multi-stemmed shrubs like Juniper, rhododendron, Viburnum, Euonymous (Burning Bush) and Azalea can survive. Professional pruning or fertilization will help with recovery.

How to Protect Your Property from Mole and Vole Damage

Take away their hiding spots! Moles and voles burrow under anything that may act as a cover in order to keep out of the watchful eyes of predators. Snow, underbrush and overgrown ground cover are all perfect hiding spots.

As the weather warms, mulch also becomes a great cover for them. Giroud always stresses the importance of never piling mulch against the trunk of a tree or shrubs because it can lead to girdling roots. Garden pests like moles and voles are just another reason why proper mulching is important. Creating a space for these rodents to burrow is an invitation for them to chew on the bark of your trees and shrubs!

Check out this video from Giroud Arborist, Rob Nagy, which shows how he identified that a rodent was causing an ornamental holly to decline:

Mike McGrath of the popular NPR radio show You Bet Your Garden offers some other great tips for deterring voles on the Garden’s Alive website, including all-natural ideas.

Take Action Now to Correct Mole and Vole Damage

The good news is most lawns, trees and shrubs will recover from minimal mole or vole damage. For lawns:

  • Rake the debris and excrement from the runways on your lawn to promote growth
  • Fill holes and pathways with topsoil
  • Fertilize and overseed areas that do not recover

Getting on a great lawn care treatment and fertilization program is a step in the right direction! Giroud’s 6-part program will strengthen your grass’ roots and give your lawn a fighting chance against attacks from mole and vole damage and also other pests, insects and diseases!

If you see signs of pest infestation on your trees and shrubs, such as chewed trunks and branches, leaf dieback and discoloration, you should have them inspected by your Giroud Arborist. He may recommend pruning out the damaged branches. Also, a deep root vitamin fertilizer treatment will strengthen the plant and aid in its recovery.

Lawns, trees and shrubs with extensive damage may require intervention by an expert. Call 215-682-7704 Today to schedule a FREE Property Inspection with your Giroud ISA Certified Arborist!

Author: Jeanne Hafner

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