Is it a mole or a vole?

Nothing is more irritating to a homeowner than seeing volcano-shaped piles of dirt in the lawn or bare trails in the grass. These are signs of mole and vole activity. Moles have paddle-like front claws, no visible ears and tiny eyes. Voles resemble mice but have shorter tails and smaller ears.

Kelly McGowan is an extension horticulture field specialist at the University of Missouri. She another way to distinguish between the two is by what they eat.

"Think of the word mole, it starts with a M, so moles are meat eaters which means that they feed on things in the soil whether it be grubs, or earthworms, or insects, things like that," says McGowan. "Voles start with a V so they’re vegetarian. They’re going to feed on plants. Mainly they’re going to feed on the underground portion of plants so that would mainly be the root system."

Since moles are meat-eaters, they tend to snub their small snouts at poison baits. She says the best method for keeping moles under control is setting a mole trap in an active run. It often looks like there are a ton of moles out there, but these critters are solitary. If you trap one or two, you pretty much have the problem under control.

Voles like to hide in heavy mulch and weeds and make trails through the grass or snow. They have golf ball sized exit holes in their tunnels. Because they’re at the bottom of the food chain they don’t come out into the open very often, but you can trap them, too.

"Just kind of old-fashioned mouse traps work well with voles. You can put peanut butter, cheese in there to kind of bait them. But, don’t just leave those mouse traps out in the open," she says. "You can put some kind of a covering over it because they don’t like to feed in the open."

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