Animals, such as moles and groundhogs, can quickly become a nuisance and damage both the lawn and property. They will burrow under foundations, sidewalks, streets and any other portions of property that may offer shelter. This can become problematic to structures as solid ground is replaced by air pockets. Below is information about some of these mammals which are common on sites throughout Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan.
Moles are insectivores, not rodents, they are related to bats and shrews. Their runways follow the course of their main food source, the earthworm, and the most prominent sign that you have moles is the volcano-shaped mounds of soil (between 2"-24"). As they tunnel, moles dig and damage the root structure of many landscaped plants, flower bulbs and even gardens. Like the other ground burrowing mammals, moles can cause extensive damage and undermine important structures, sometimes leaving costly damage in their wake.
The mole can tunnel at about 12 feet per minute and can move through pre-existing tunnels at about 80 feet per minute. Their tunnels contain an active runway, one which is frequently traveled. Off of their active runways, the mole will branch off and produce new tunnels for feeding. Many times these tunnels are only used once or twice and then abandoned. During the winter months, they may dig as deep as 3 feet to escape the frost line. Moles tend to be antisocial creatures, therefore the mounds and tunnels do not indicate the amount of moles on ones property, but rather the activity level of what mole(s) are present.
Although moles can be beneficial to help rid the yard of unwanted pest such as grubs and insects, they can also cause a lot of damage to the landscape and structures with their extensive tunneling. Usually the damage is an unsightly 'vein' of tunnel networks throughout the lawn, though the damage can sometimes exceed simply being a visual nuisance. Some damaged areas need to be filled in with truck loads of dirt to level-out a damaged lawn or foundations, pools and post need to be fixed and re leveled. This can be expensive or impossible to fix.
There are a variety of vole species in the U.S., our area houses the Meadow, Pine, and the Prairie Vole. Voles are active day and night and do not hibernate, leaving signs of activity year-round (very noticeable after the snow melts and tracks are visible throughout areas of the lawn). Visually they resemble a mouse with shorter tails. The vole, like the mole, may cause extensive damage to lawns and fields as they construct multiple shallow tunnels and surface runways (roughly 1 - 2" in width) with numerous entrances. Although they prefer locations with dense vegetation growth, homeowners and property managers may find these little guys trailing through well manicured lawns, especially during our winter season as their food source is scarce. Since voles are not good climbers, it is rare that they would enter homes or other structures.
Another sure sign of vole activity is the damage they do on crops and other plants by gnawing or girdling at the bark or stem of the plant.
The voles burrow system is used for protection, food storage, and nesting. Sometimes the vole will utilize a moles pre-existing tunnel system to reach sources of food. The image to the left shows a shallow burrow with an obvious surface runway branching off. Voles feed on a variety of grasses, plants, bulbs, bark and roots (even tree roots). The gnawing may do damage to the plant and cause die-back, typical tree damage may exhibit poor fruit yields, yellowing of leaves and an overall weakening of the plant (which may be mistaken for salt damage).
Although voles trail through tunnel systems which may measure up to 100's of feet, the damage they do to the turf is rarely severe and/or permanent. Every couple of years, voles will have a 'population boom' which may reach 200+. Within a season or two, the populous will return to normal size and damage will become less evident.
Mouse traps with peanut butter, a sprinkle of cocoa, and oatmeal as bait may be used. Place the traps near the voles surface runway and check back often to clean or release the trap
As with all pesticides and traps, read the label and instructions carefully before use. It should also be noted that if these animals are not causing considerable damage to your property, control measures may not be needed.