If you spot a small animal that looks like a mouse scurrying across the yard, it could be a vole, also known as a meadow mouse. But how can you be sure if it a mouse or a vole? Both of these rodents are five to eight inches long and have gray or brown fur. Voles are stockier than mice with shorter tails, larger eyes, and smaller, less prominent ears.
In general, mice thrive anywhere with food and shelter, including homes and barns. Voles live outside, dig burrows, and create pathways of dead grass, called runways, in lawns. They consume a variety of garden plants and gnaw the bark of trees.
Signs of mice indoors:
- Droppings, fresh gnaw marks, and tracks, which indicate areas where mice are active
- Nests made of finely shredded paper or other fibrous material
- Musky odor associated with mice
Signs of voles outdoors:
- Well-traveled, above ground runways that connect burrow openings
- Protective layer of grass or other ground cover usually hides the runways
- Greenish-colored droppings about 3/16 inch long in the runways and near the burrows
Managing voles or mice involves modifying their habitat, though each pest requires slightly different changes. Keeping floors and countertops free of crumbs and spills deters mice. Mowing and removing protective foliage in the yard can help prevent voles.
Snap traps are the best tool for managing mice and voles. Don’t use poisonous baits; animals that ingest this toxic material can die in hidden places, create bad odors, and be difficult to locate. As they take days to work, predators may eat a poisoned rodent and die.