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Meadow Voles in the Winter

 
Mike Haych
Posts: 225
Location: Eastern Canada, Zone 5a
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These guys not these guys.

The past few winters we've seen evidence of a fairly healthy meadow vole population. It's usually not been a problem so we're comfortable coexisting with them. Young trees get white plastic tree guards until they are large enough to survive the wee predators. However, this winter I plan to do a fair bit of hard wood sticking in pots. Rather than providing dinner, I'm looking for solutions on how to deal with them. I'm not interested in poisoning. Cats/dogs/etc. are a solution since the pots will be under the snow. I've contemplated 1/4" hardware cloth but that involves constructing a complete surround which is more than I want to do in the area where the pots will me. What I'm looking for is a repellent that will last the entire winter. Ideally, each pot would get the repellent on top of the mulch.

I'd be interested in hearing from anyone who has some first hand experience. I can google as well as anyone but it hasn't been productive - I've not come across anyone who clearly states that they've done what they say works.
 
Matu Collins
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Mike Haych wrote:These guys not these guys.

The past few winters we've seen evidence of a fairly healthy meadow vole population. It's usually not been a problem so we're comfortable coexisting with them. Young trees get white plastic tree guards until they are large enough to survive the wee predators. However, this winter I plan to do a fair bit of hard wood sticking in pots. Rather than providing dinner, I'm looking for solutions on how to deal with them. I'm not interested in poisoning. Cats/dogs/etc. are a solution since the pots will be under the snow. I've contemplated 1/4" hardware cloth but that involves constructing a complete surround which is more than I want to do in the area where the pots will me. What I'm looking for is a repellent that will last the entire winter. Ideally, each pot would get the repellent on top of the mulch.

I'd be interested in hearing from anyone who has some first hand experience. I can google as well as anyone but it hasn't been productive - I've not come across anyone who clearly states that they've done what they say works.


I wish I had an answer for you, we have lots of meadow voles too. Keeping hiding places for them at a minimum has helped, although it makes to seven layer forest garden an impossibility. They love to be in brushy places and under tarps. Having children play around the area you want to keep safe helps. Cats help, A healthy fox and coyote population helps, but the voles ares till here. The edge trees/bushes always see more damage.
 
Cassie Langstraat
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Ann Torrence
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Leave somewhere unmowed far away from the nursery site. Encourage cat to visit the unmowed site. My cat nailed 11 in one weekend in a strip 8' wide by 50' long. He has to range into the neighbors' 40 acres now to get his vole fix.
 
Lee Daniels
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Mike Haych wrote:I'd be interested in hearing from anyone who has some first hand experience. I can google as well as anyone but it hasn't been productive - I've not come across anyone who clearly states that they've done what they say works.


listed in order of effectiveness and cost;

1. traps -
or


First pic works well on voles - second pic works very well on voles and pocket gophers. #1 because they work every minute they're in the ground.

2. momma cat - NOTHING hunts (and harvests) better than a mother with kittens to feed. Coyotes ate my last female cat and the remaining male only likes to eat birds. Seriously, I killed a vole and tossed it in the cat food dish.... picky prick ate around it. I finally removed it after three nights.


If cost is an concern, I'd suggest traps. Buy once, zero upkeep unless you send one through the lawn mower. Cats require food and some form of security, so the neighbors dogs (and coyotes, owls, hawks) don't eat your vole killers.


- L. Daniels


Edit to add -
Trap in the second pic works better than these Victor #0610's

http://traplinetraps.homestead.com/Voles.html - more rodent info



 
Mike Haych
Posts: 225
Location: Eastern Canada, Zone 5a
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Can't lay traps under the snow in the winter not that I would lay traps at any time. I'm looking for something that will repel them, something that I can put in the pots that won't affect the plants.

Note: My original post says Cats/dogs/etc. are a solution; it should say Cats/dogs/etc. aren't a solution.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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I hope you find an answer to this. I have a pretty serious vole situation in my garden, field, and forest edge. The use my raised beds for winter condominiums. They did significant damage to my straw mulched potato crop last season, as well as turnips, carrots, and especially beet crowns.
 
Ernie Schmidt
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Location: Olympia, Washington
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Mike,
I have been lucky enough to have lived on my little farm here for over 35 years and spent most of it learning to live in balance with the wildlife on and around the farm. Over the years there were always fluctuations of wild creatures that would affect the balance on the farm. We have learned to live in harmony with the raise and fall of the populations of deer, hawks, eagles, coyotes, raccoons, opossums, even herons that would enjoy our frogs and fish being raised in the pond. The most important thing I learned all those years is that many times working on a balance that didn't require killing them will usually take time. We can live with peacefully nature if we understand how it works. What I would suggest for your situation is to invite wild quests that find your voles delicious, but not any of the domestic creatures you may have like chickens or ducks. Probably the easiest way to invite them is to provide reasonable habitant and especially a place to raise a family. Not only is that pretty neat for you to watch, but they will need to eat more of your voles to feed the "kids". Here is a link for building and using a Barn owl house, one of several possible solutions I would try if I had a vole population problem. As I said it might take time- for the owls to find the house, start a family- it is possible for a pair to find your house very quickly but I would give it a couple of years to see if it worked.
http://modernfarmer.com/2014/05/build-barn-owl-nest/
There are also small hawks that will use man made houses, a bit of search on the internet will provide tons of help in that area. The secret to this kind of solution is not to attract birds of prey or any other wildlife that might find whatever your domestic "fare" is- attractive also.
 
Mike Haych
Posts: 225
Location: Eastern Canada, Zone 5a
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Ernie,

I agree with you completely. But it seems that where I am Nature is being destroyed. In seven years, the deer are gone, even droppings. We no longer see bats, bluebirds or barn swallows and the nests we build remain as tombstone markers. We rarely hear coyotes or screech owls at night anymore. Farmers are removing hedgerows at an incredible rate, destroying habitat and "highways" in the process. And so the vole population increases every year.

But thanks for the barn owl thought. I'll build the barn owl nest. Maybe, just maybe .............................
 
Roberto pokachinni
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I have my doubts that a few barn owls will stop the flow of voles. I have to agree with Mike. I live in a wilder area than what Mike describes, but still there is further and recent encroachment nearby. I have regular coyotes, foxes, wolves, weasels, hawks, eagles, owls... pretty much anything that might eat a vole in my hood is present, but still lots of voles. To add to the trouble-while habitat for predators is being destroyed-the predators themselves are killed regularly by neighbors (a large commercial dairy farm who also keep chickens). The natural balance is getting kicked in the teeth twice. I think the issue is that cleared land = meadows = meadow voles, as Mike pointed out, but also that wild predators can not be present in the numbers that might be sufficient to check the vole population. The more cleared land, the more voles. The more predator control, the more voles. At least where I live, I believe the population is increasing because of more cleared land AND increased predation by farmers on prey animals. I'm considering fencing the entire garden and cell grazing felines. By controlling the predation, I might be able to get on top of them. This is unlikely to happen for a few years as I have way too many infrastructure projects that need to happen (like building a house and water system) to get to that one any time soon. It's sort of a pipe dream.
 
Marsha Richardson
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We have been cursed with the voles for many years and have developed a multi-pronged approach. At first I tried trapping them but there are just too many to do that. What has worked is just leaving them alone, encouraging vole predators such as snakes, foxes, owls and my personal favorite - shrews. We have habitat in the form of rock piles, brush piles, houses (owls), etc. This has made a gigantic difference in vole populations and a major increase in predators at least in our little corner of the world.. Planting castor beans in various places through the garden tends to keep them out. I imagine that leaving the chopped remains around special plantings would protect them in the winter. There is a product called "Mole Max" that is basically castor oil mixed with ground corn cobs. It has been very effective here in keeping them at bay. Perhaps sprinkling something like that on your pots and around them would be effective for you. When starting special cuttings in pots, I sink the pots into a bed made from hardware cloth that goes down about 10 inches into the ground and is above ground by 5 or six inches. This is sprinkled with a castor/corncob mix all around the pots. I also start tree seeds in pots this way. So far this has kept them safe -- even chestnut seeds which are like crack for voles (and squirrels). Keeping them all in one large bed makes it easier to protect them and I also lay a wire covered frame on top of them (squirrels!).

It is a terrible trouble to have these little pests but they do keep the soil stirred up and take bedding into their dens which adds to underground composting sometimes.
 
Mike Haych
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Location: Eastern Canada, Zone 5a
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Boy, do have the pots caged! Maybe it's that and not Molemax. LOL

I'll try it though. There'e nothing to lose except voles.
 
paul ogel
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Can you use duck tape to deter the voles? I ran a strip of duck tape up apple seedlings and then folded the tape lengthwise to cover the stem. First time trial in long grass in a ditch this year should work. You may need to open the top of the tape at budding time. Also can you space the pots apart to make less cover for the mice. If damage happens under snow, pack the snow down when the snow is about 3-12 inches deep -pack a large area about 3 to 6 feet around the trees. This works well, but you need to redo the packing down snow in the spring when the snow is going away or when the packed snow softens so mice can use it for cover again. If the pots are standing it should help deter them also.
 
Mike Haych
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paul ogel wrote:Can you use duck tape to deter the voles? I ran a strip of duck tape up apple seedlings and then folded the tape lengthwise to cover the stem. First time trial in long grass in a ditch this year should work. You may need to open the top of the tape at budding time. Also can you space the pots apart to make less cover for the mice. If damage happens under snow, pack the snow down when the snow is about 3-12 inches deep -pack a large area about 3 to 6 feet around the trees. This works well, but you need to redo the packing down snow in the spring when the snow is going away or when the packed snow softens so mice can use it for cover again. If the pots are standing it should help deter them also.


I have been 10-15 cuttings in each pot so duct tape wouldn't work. Nor would packing snow given this density. I'm assuming that you are using it sticky side out.
 
Ernie Schmidt
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Mike,
This is an excellent example of what I was trying to explain with "working with nature"
Marsha Richardson wrote: We have habitat in the form of rock piles, brush piles, houses (owls), etc. This has made a gigantic difference in vole populations and a major increase in predators at least in our little corner of the world.

Marsha,
Thank you for sharing your similar successful experiences and methods.
 
Ann Torrence
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WRT to owl nesting boxes, I am now of the opinion that wherever I put one nesting box, I should put a second nearby. I am starting to think the birds want a first choice and a back-up unit, or they won't stay. Not validated by science or a heck of a lot of observation, just what I'm doing.
 
Ernie Schmidt
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Ann, I have to ditto your observations. I don't want to sound obsessive about this owl house subject, but there are simply very few people that even remotely find attracting owls as fascinating as I do. I thought the "multiple choice" nesting box thing was just me increasing my odds that they would choose one. Nature can be fickle at times . I don't think I have had any more then one pair species of owls on the place in the houses at one time. To be honest, I find a whole lot about interacting with nature at this level fascinating. I built my first bird houses as a small child and now as I am just past the 60 year old mark, I still build them, bat houses, bee hives, I even had a contractor come on the place years ago and excavate a run off pond. I realized how important a permanent source of water was for wildlife. Having seen the wildlife around that area before it was dug and now. There is clearly a whole eco system that revolves around that pond that would not exist without it.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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owl nesting boxes
I'm definitely going to try to get into the owl house thing too. Something has to get on top of the voles. I do appreciate your experience, Ernie.

I am now of the opinion that wherever I put one nesting box, I should put a second nearby.


I think the idea of the second (alternative) house of the owls might be successful because all creatures have their own particular needs and desires in housing. You might not notice that a nearby tree is protecting the nest box from the habitual patrol of egg and nestling raiding ravens, or that it simply blocks a breeze. There could be a hundred variables that might make one nesting box favored over another, but that humans can not predict because we are not owls.
 
steve bossie
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i too have a big problem with voles eating my trees in the winter. i tried hardware cloth ,tree sleeves and traps. caught some but the abandoned field next door is full of them! they climb the hardware cloth to the top and girdle the tree there. this fall i applied deer off spray to the trees. its supposed to give off a odor herbivores don't like and it protects for 5 months. just long enough for the snow to melt. the buggers ate 5 of my cherry trees that just started producing cherries the year before! i may look into the owl nest also. war has been declared!
 
Ann Torrence
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Even though the OP said cats won't work in his situation, for others, cats are a great help. The best was when we mowed the one acre orchard close right before winter except one strip. The voles concentrated there within a couple weeks, then bang, the cat got most of them in one weekend when we let him into the orchard fence.

But tree guards work. They aren't free, but neither is a tree. We have 8-10 with serious damage this spring because we ran out of guards and didn't get more.

AT
 
Ann Torrence
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Thinking back now way too late for the OP, I remember that Michael Phillips recommends a couple inches of pea gravel at least a 1' radius around every tree. Apparently the voles don't like to dig through it they way they do through soil. Perhaps setting the pots on a thick gravel bed could help in his and similar set-ups.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/cards
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