Voles

Our battle with the voles is now getting serious. When we learned we had voles we were initially excited to find out what collective noun is used to describe them. We checked An Exaltation of Larks, followed by The Book of St Albans (also known as The Book of Hawking, Hunting, and Blasing of Armswhich is now online and has been the definitive authority on collective nouns for over 500 years). Neither listed voles. This could be because collective nouns were initially used to describe animals that were hunted, and we don’t often hear of anyone hunting voles. A web search turned up “a colony of voles” in several places. Really? This is disappointing compared to other collective nouns that are so delightfully original and clever. However, we note that collective nouns come about through common usage, so we are starting to use the following terms immediately, and in a few years we will see which of them makes it into the OED:
A vacuole of voles
A varmint of voles
A vigor of voles
Once we got past collective nouns the excitement started to wear off. We got educated about voles and found out some disturbing facts: they are destructive to plants by eating the roots; they reach maturity in about a month; a female can produce over 100 offspring per year. We have also observed that the voles in our yard are prolific – they can create mounds of dirt in the yard in less than an hour, often in the exact places where we just spread repellent or poison.
Here are some of the things we have tried or are considering trying to get rid of them:
-Catching them live. There are a number of traps that will do this, but then we still have to get rid of them somehow. Melissa “Pioneer Wife” Butson has dusted off her vole casserole recipe and is not afraid to use it. We printed a copy of it in large text and put it in the kitchen window with the text readable from outside.
-Poisoning them. We have an exterminator who comes to the house a few times a year to deal with our spider infestation (which is a whole separate story). We asked them about voles and they said they would bury poison in the tunnels. We are averse to poison because of the children and possible effects on groundwater, but thought it was worth a try. Instead, they came to the house and randomly threw poison pellets all over the yard. We were not happy about this and aren’t going to do it again.
-Killing them with traps. Most of these traps look like medieval torture devices that would not be safe for children. One uses a pneumatic blast to kill them.
-Mechanical vibration. We bought an aluminum tube that goes about a foot into the ground and creates vibrations that voles “hate”. Reviews on these devices are mixed. Our voles decided to dig new tunnels all around one of these devices.
-Chemical Repellent. There are many stories about how voles hate castor oil. So we whipped up a batch of Butson Anti-Vole Potion and sprayed it all over the grass. Within an hour a vole poked his head through and crated a new mound of dirt in the grass. We also bought a container of vole repellent pellets, which should be safe for children and groundwater because it is made of natural ingredients and contains no poison. Our yard now smells faintly of garlic, one of the primary ingredients. We still have lots of voles.
-Explosives. We have all seen Caddyshack. Multiple times. Granted they were dealing with gophers, but it seems like the same techniques would be successful with voles. However, upon reflection it now seems that even large amounts of dynamite were not successful in the movie. Under the right circumstances (i.e. no one gets hurt) this might even be considered fun, in the same sense that it might be fun to use liquid oxygen to get coals hot for a a barbecue.
At times like this it is important to gauge your expectations. We are in the midst of this now, and have since discovered neighbors who have been fighting this battle for years. We will ask them what collective noun they use for voles and report back soon.
Comments (4)

4 thoughts on “Voles

  1. So, I am thinking my brother might get a chair, a cup of coffee and a bb gun, or a 22, and wait for them to appear and then pull the trigger. Unfortunately, that takes time, precision sighting and no family around…and maybe a permit. Therefore, not the optimum choice of eradication I guess. There must be an answer out there somewhere. Good Luck!

  2. We have been down this path several times but with moles. We tried many things including juicy fruit in the tunnels, lots of water in the tunnels, smoke bombs (those are actually lots of fun)! Nothing really worked. One day we watched a neighbors cat sitting quietly in our yard waiting for a mole to pop up… And just that quick we were one mole down. Several weeks later we were mole free:-) The cat still makes visits to the yard so we feel confidant that all is well.

    My suggestion for you would be to sponsor a feral cat in your back yard. Alternately, a visit to a pet shop for a couple of hungry black snakes might make for an interesting experiment…

  3. we used to have a fair amount of voles. then we hired orkin. they come about once a month and “spray” some kind of powder down in the ground. no voles since.

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