Or chewing marks on the trunk of your fruit tree? Could be voles. These little rodents, also known as meadow mice, can inflict some serious damage. They have a compact, heavy body, stubby legs, a short-furred tail, small eyes, and partially hidden ears. Their long, coarse fur is blackish brown to grayish brown. When fully grown they can measure 5 to 8 inches long, including the tail.

Active day and night, year-round, you’ll normally find them in areas with dense vegetation. Voles dig many short, shallow burrows and make underground nests of grass, stems, and leaves.  They feed on a wide range of garden plants including vegetables, gnaw the bark of fruit trees like almond, apple, avocado, cherry, citrus, and olive, turn over turf and damage other landscape plantings.

Trapping is the most effective method of managing voles. For a small garden, a dozen traps are probably the minimum number required. You can use a simple, wooden mouse trap baited with a peanut butter-oatmeal mixture or apple slices, although often you won’t need to use bait, because voles will trigger the trap as they pass over it.

Trap placement is crucial. Voles seldom stray from their runways, so set traps along these routes. Look for burrows and runways in grass or mulch in or near the garden. Place the traps at right angles to the runways with the trigger end in the runway. Examine traps daily, removing dead voles or resetting sprung traps as needed. Continue to trap in one location until you stop catching voles then move the trap to a new location 15 to 20 feet away. Destroy old runways or burrows with a shovel or rototiller to deter new voles from immigrating to the site.

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