Voles vs. Moles: What’s the Difference

Moles and voles' appearance, habits, habitats, diets, and the damage they cause. Plus, some tips on getting rid of them.
By
Phyllis McMahon
Phyllis McMahon
Research Writer
Phyllis teaches English Literature at a local college and loves writing in her free time. She’s also a great cook – her British beef Wellington is something the best res read more
reviewed
Reviewed By
Chas Kempf
Chas Kempf
Expert Consultant
Chas works in a professional pest control company and knows all the nuances of this job. Also, he’s a fantastic tennis player and loves to organize BBQ parties for his fam read more
Last updated: December 22, 2022
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People often mistake the rodents causing damage to their lawns or any landscape they own for moles. But in reality, it may be a mole, a vole, or a shrew.

Any curious individual would wonder why it is necessary to note the difference between a vole and a mole. The importance of distinguishing between voles vs. moles vs. shrews is for proper pest control. So, what is the difference between a mole and a vole?

A beginner’s guide to distinguishing voles from moles can be through their names. As much as this is an obvious fact, it can be helpful for memorization. The ‘M’ in Mole is an acronym for ‘Meat-eating,’ while the ‘V’ in Vole is an acronym for ‘Vegetable-eating.’ Differences between their diets can help assess the extent of pest damage. We will go into detail about contrasting voles and moles’ appearances, behavioral patterns, and control methods.

Appearance and Habits

Looks can be deceiving, especially when distinguishing between moles and voles. The untrained eye may not be capable of separating the features of a mole’s appearance from that of a vole. We will address these features carefully so anyone can easily differentiate a mole from a vole.

Voles

Voles vs. Moles: What’s the Difference

Voles are 5-7 inches long critters that look like mice. People traditionally dubbed Voles with names like meadow mice, ground moles, field mice, and meadow moles. In describing the simple anatomy of the vole (Microtus sp.), they have short tails, compact bodies, small eyes, and brownish-short legs. An adult’s fur color ranges from brown to grayish black, but its young are uniformly gray.

Voles are diurnal creatures and mate at any time of the year. Voles are fertile, breeding all year long, but mostly during spring and summer. They have 1 to 5 litter per year. Litter sizes range from 1 to 11 young (average 3 to 6 young). The gestation period is about 21 days. Young are weaned by the time they are 21 days old, and females are sexually mature in 35 to 40 days. Voles are generally short-lived, with lifespans ranging from 2 to 16 months.

Voles are bad climbers, so you won’t find them in the house but rather invading your lawns, yards, or gardens.

Moles

Voles vs. Moles: What’s the Difference

Moles are easier to spot when compared to voles. They have pointy noses, black furs, and wedged-shaped, larger-than-life feet. Moles lack external ears, like the voles. They grow up to 15cm, adding their 4cm tails. They averagely weigh 70-130g.

Moles regularly live solitary lives, and they also have short lifespans. They spend their time digging holes and hunting for food. When they are ready to mate, they create more space for their young. The females give birth to 3-4 hairless pups. The weaning period is about four weeks, and by the 5th week, the young will leave their homes.

Habitat

Voles vs. Moles: What’s the Difference

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines habitat as “the place or environment where a plant or animal naturally or normally lives and grows.” How does habitat help us differentiate between voles and moles?

Voles

Voles yearn for any location with abundant vegetation. As a result, you will normally find them in orchards, farms, gardens, etc. 

Voles share a common preference for agricultural land as suitable habitat. The crops will protect the voles from predators and provide a steady food source.

Moles

They are generally ubiquitous in any continent except Antarctica and South America. Moles take residence in grasslands, urban areas, gardens, or any landscape with soil to dig tunnels. 

They usually avoid areas with acidic soil and mountainous areas, though, according to The Young People’s Trust for the Environment (YPTE).

Their tunnels serve as a place to sleep, a birthplace, and a food store.

Diet

Voles vs. Moles: What’s the Difference

Discerning the feeding patterns available to voles or moles is critical to an efficient control strategy. We are already aware that diets help us to assess the extent of pest damage. If we can distinguish their food sources, feeding habits, and probable storage devices, we can fundamentally adopt the right methods for getting rid of them.

Voles

As discussed earlier, voles are herbivores. They eat various types of plants, especially grasses and forbs. They have a pattern of feeding on the basis of seasons. Their feeding pattern is affected by man’s seasonal farming cycles and weather. They store seeds, tubers, bulbs, and rhizomes in late summer and fall in their burrow systems. During fall and winter, they may primarily eat bark. During an occasional population surge, usually every 2-5 years, they eat grain crops. Sometimes, they may feed on insects, snails, and animal remains, although that is more of an exception than a norm.

Voles are also important in the food chain. They serve as prey for birds, snakes, foxes, raccoons, and house cats.

Moles

The question of what moles eat is important for assessing pest damage. As discussed earlier, moles are meat-eating critters. Different species of moles have different preferences, but they are mainly insectivores. 

Moles eat worms, mostly. An average mole requires 50g of earthworm per day. They store large numbers of live earthworms, about 470, in their tunnel chambers, keeping them alive and non-motile by removing their heads. 

Voles and Moles Damage 

What kind of damage do you expect to see when a vole or a mole invades your home? 

Tunnels and Runways

Voles are semi-fossorial creatures, creating tunnels and surface runway systems with burrow openings. Sometimes, they may build underground tunnels or use the ones created by moles. They hide their surface runway systems by covering them with grass. Their runway systems look similar to a maze; they are very narrow, measuring about one and a half to two inches in diameter. They are easily discovered during the spring, when the snow melts and reveals the maze-like runways, and by pulling back overhanging ground covers. 

These runways and tunnels are found in the lawn, farmyard, and golf course, but the damage is temporary. 

Moles also create underground tunnels and runways into gardens. Since they spend lots of time underground, their tunnels have chambers for sleeping and storing food. They create permanent tunnels, 2 inches in diameter and 2-3 inches below the surface, and temporary tunnels, usually directly below the ground surface. These underground burrowing damages plant roots, causing headaches to agriculturists.

Holes and Mounds 

The runways created by voles and the holes that burrow into the ground are easily seen on the surface. Accumulation of grass cuttings and droppings, usually green or brown in color, indicates holes still in use. Roots, mold, or vegetation suggest that the runways are not used. Once again, the damage caused is generally temporary.

A characteristic feature of a mole’s burrowing damage is molehills. Molehills consist of loose soil they push to the surface when digging tunnels, forming heaps of earth and making the lawn surface uneven.

Health and Safety

Moles raise concerns because they transmit plant diseases through their movements. Their droppings can be safety hazards for children, who will likely put their hands into their mouths while playing on the lawn.

Getting Rid of Moles and Voles

The methods used to get rid of moles and voles are unique to them. It is painfully common for people to mistake them for other rodent pests. For example, mice and voles look very similar to each other. It is easy to mistake a vole for mice and attempt to get rid of them in ways that are ineffective to voles. In essence, efficiency in control is specific.

1. Traps

Voles vs. Moles: What’s the Difference

Trapping is the safest method to eradicate voles and moles on a small scale. Fall and late winter periods are the best times for trapping. Place a rodent-sized trap at burrow entrances, leaving bait. A good example of bait used to eradicate moles is the Taliprid Mole Bait. All you need to do is make a hole, place the bait, or drop it in any burrow opening. There are plenty of traps on the market for each pest, we’ve prepared a compilation of the best mole traps for you.

2. Biological controls

Biological methods of control are many. Some of them are as follows;

  • Keep pets that are natural predators of voles and moles, e.g., cats, birds, e.t.c.
  • Habitat modification: Regular weeding, reducing the frequency of watering lawns to keep earthworms from coming to the surface, and tamping.
  • Hand-picking them is also an option, although not a favorable one.
  • Establishing paths, hedgerows, or native plantings that provide a habitat for birds and other wildlife is also effective.

3. Professional Pest Control Services

The best, safest, and most effective way of getting rid of voles and moles is to call an expert for consultation. The integrated management approaches are good, but contact a Professional Pest Control Service for more assistance.

Pest control services commonly use rodenticides to get rid of voles and moles. The Contrac All-weather Blox Rodenticide is a good rodenticide known for being very effective.

Voles and Moles vs. Mice, Gophers, and Shrews

Voles vs. Moles: What’s the Difference

Since we have seen the fundamental difference between voles and moles, it is also important to know their differences from other rodents since they are all mixed up regularly.

Mice 

Mice and voles look extremely similar to each other. A distinguishing factor is their tails. Mice’s tails are long, in contrast to that of voles.

Mice are usually found indoors. They are ‘thermophilic,’ which means they love making contact with surfaces. Mice problems don’t present holes or tunnels underground; they’re generally hidden under covers. Eliminating mice is different from moles and voles so be sure to identify your pest infestation and select your type of getting rid of mice either with the help of the best mouse repellents or best mouse poisons.

Gophers

Gophers are larger than moles and voles, weighing between one-half and two pounds and measuring about 14 inches. They have characteristic cheek pouches, small ears, easy-to-see eyes, and long incisors protruding from their mouths. 

They make bigger holes that are horse-shaped or crescent-shaped.

Shrews 

In contrast to moles, shrews have a pointed snout but no enlarged feet. They also have many habitats, and they regularly invade homes. Even though their eyes are tiny, they are visible in most species. 

Final Thoughts

Moles, voles, mice, shrews, and gophers cause varying degrees of damage that are off the radar of the untrained eye. It is important to note that the differences between them can help you adopt the best practices available for eradicating rodents that disturb your lawn, yard, farm, and beautiful orchard.

Knowing the voles vs. moles’ anatomy, feeding habits, and habitats makes it possible to control each rodent pest specifically, reducing unnecessary stress and frustrations.

Various specific methods of controlling these pests are available to integrate into your landscapes, but if things are beyond your control, don’t hesitate to contact an expert for assistance.

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