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Hole' Vole'-maybe not

Posted by squirejohn 4 (My Page) on
Fri, Mar 9, 12 at 9:20

Having purchased about 60 hostas the last two years, and only recently become aware of potential vole damage (through this forum), this past year I was on the lookout for vole activity. I found several areas that I assumed were vole holes and set mouse traps baited with peanut butter. The traps were set under a plastic flower pot with a door cut out so the vole in order to exit the vicinity of the hole had to pass over the trap. Whap! I immediately caught three critters which I assumed were voles but after a closer look they turned out to be Northern (Big) Short-tailed Shrews.

I thought this was atypical and figured the shrews, since they were caught out of one hole, had taken over a vole hole and nested. I didn't think the shrews being primarily carnivores would be attracted to peanut butter so I reset the traps in three more locations without the flower pot cover to guide them. Whap! Three more shrews. Not good. I assume the shrews to be beneficial by eating slugs, snails and perhaps even voles.

I thought about using d-CONN mouse poison but figured if the shrews were attracted to peanut butter they might also eat the poison. I then tried castor oil (drug store kind) by drenching the area around one affected hosta and closing the holes. That didn't work as the holes soon reappeared. I never did catch any voles or anything else (finger excluded)except for one in a nearby shed.

One reference I have states a high Big Short-tailed Shrew population to be about 25/acre whereas the six I caught equates to over 500/acre! I really don't know what to conclude from all this. My guess is the holes (photo below) were made by voles and soon after driven and/or eaten by an "exploded" shrew population.

Below is a photo of the holes I assume were made by voles. Do these look typical of vole holes to you?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Hole' Vole'-maybe not

No photo in your post.

Don't try to solve a problem that you don't have. Identify it first. Shrews are good critters to have around. They will eat slugs and grubs.

Voles will often use tunnels that others have dug. You know you have them when you see a "run" in soft dirt or mulch or under lawns. A run is like a little raised bump that snakes along under the mulch. You can test for voles by using apples as bait under one of your pots. Then if they take the apple, set another trap using just the apple as bait without peanut butter.

One of the places to look for vole activity is along side cement foundations or patios. I have my Great Expectations planted in just such a place. Last fall I saw a run in the mulch nearby, set a trap and caught two of the little nasties. This Spring when the ground is workable I'm going to dig up that GE and replant it inside a wire wastebasket (link below). These baskets cost a dollar a piece and are big enough to protect the crown of your plant. Roots will grow through the wire mesh and may be vulnerable to voles, but the plant will stay viable because the crown is protected. Here's a picture of a plant protected by a wire basket.
Lakeside Reflecting Glory

This is Lakeside Reflecting Glory, a valuable streaker in Kathie Sisson's garden in CT. You can see the basket easier with a small plant, but larger plants will work also. If you are trying to protect a Giant, then you may need to go to a hardware cloth collar. But any plant can be protected in this way.

Steve

Here is a link that might be useful: Dollar Tree Wire Baskets


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RE: Hole' Vole'-maybe not

I did a quick Google search, and one spot which discusses all the varmints which come to the garden are at the link below.
Philosophically speaking, you have to have a strategy to deal with them I suppose.

Here is a link that might be useful: Outwitcritters.com -- vole diet


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RE: Hole' Vole'-maybe not

Steve,

I do have a problem - at least around one hosta. There were numerous holes around a recently transplanted Krossa Regal. I poured water down one hole and could see it via another hole running underground on the other side of the hosta. Needless to say the KR wasn't doing well. The literature says the NS-tShrew will eat vegetation so I'll dig up the KR this spring and see what the damage is.

For continuity I'll post the photo referenced and one of the shrew. I don't know why I posted the photo in a different thread.

voles/shrews

voles/shrews


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RE: Hole' Vole'-maybe not

That's a mole, not a vole. Voles look like mice with longer tails.

Sometimes moles can cause damage with their digging, but they don't eat plants. They are carnivores and are after the little "C" shaped grubs in your lawn and garden. Once their food source (grubs) are eliminated, the moles go elsewhere.

Steve


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RE: Hole' Vole'-maybe not

This is the mole I killed last year after he killed one of my 4' evergreens by destroying the roots of it digging his tunnels.
I'm a dead Mole


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RE: Hole' Vole'-maybe not

Steve - I'm quite certain the photo I posted is not a mole, but the aforementioned NS-tShrew since it lacks the large "digging" front feet shown in franknjim's photo and there are no "molehills" common to the Eastern Mole. Also the critter I caught has dark stained teeth common to the N S-T Shrew.


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RE: Hole' Vole'-maybe not

Your picture does look like a shrew. Maybe the hosta isn't doing well b/c of what was eating it, and that's what attracted the shrews. According to wikipedia, shrews eat voles. I wouldn't try to kill them; they might be helping you. Maybe grubs were eating your hosta roots.

Deanna

Here is a link that might be useful: Shrew diet


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RE: Hole' Vole'-maybe not

I am quite certain squirejohns critter is a shrew, neither a vole or mole. Franks is definitely a mole, and even young ones have the huge digging feet in front. John's shrew is a different species than the one I am familiar with, which is smaller and with a very sharply pointed muzzle (better to eat you with, my dear) filled with really sharp teeth. My shrew has tighter skin(better for frequenting houses or fallen trees during its hunts for food, which is always). The ones I have seen are smaller than an adult church-mouse and have a shorter tail.

I have both voles and moles, and both leave the digging trails. Following along a vole run I find there is a hole about every 4 feet or so but the run can be easily seen connecting the holes.
In my opinion john's shrews are there because there was a vole problem,and still may be. I think in my case this this exists since my major vole damage to my hostas is much dimiinished, as stated in my previous posting about voles eating my acorn squash. My neighbor next door had set traps with peanut butter and claimed he'd catch4-5 voles a day, but he never saved any to show me. I didn't doubt him since I knew I had a vole problem. Nasty little dudes ate the center out of my huge S&S. Three trails led to the plant and when I dug it up they led to holes right under where the crown should have been.

I have a hunting dog and don't like to use poisons or traps. While it is not likely she will eat bait, or a poisoned critter, I don't want to chance it. My lawn suffers the worse. I would need to use a roller on it once a week if I cared about it looking nice. But I have very few problems with slugs damaging my hostas either.
So I am guessing shrews are helping me control the vole and slug problems.

If I had to declare ROYALTY to outdoor critters, my top ten list would include crowns for shrews and toads and I treat them royally. I would place THE Regal Crown on the toad's head, only because the shrew is such a voracious eater when voles get scarce they may eat toads, but I doubt if a toad would eat a shrew. But now I remember how big the Rio Grande Toad is - they could eat a rat. (lol) Never say never.

Les


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RE: Hole' Vole'-maybe not

I agree shrews are beneficial. However I believe the four holes shown in the photo were made by voles which were subseqeuntly extirpated by shrews (site of last trapped shrew). The question is, can I depend on shrews to take care of voles before they can do any damage? I don't think so; probably my best recourse is to use horticultural castor oil to get rid of the voles. It may also get rid of the shrews but wouldn't kill them. I also have a game camera and could make a few live traps that may provide further insight.


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RE: Hole' Vole'-maybe not

I gave pellet presents today into some mouse holes. Anyone who digs such holes is considered. Activity was only just next to the walls, there still is some frozen soil. I will do that until activities stop. If those critters do not like it, they have the freedom to go back to the woods, I need my peace!
Bernd


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RE: Hole' Vole'-maybe not

Bernd - Did you use the blue colored d-CONN mouse pellete? I also heard of some "poison seeds" for vole control but don't know what brand(s).


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RE: Hole' Vole'-maybe not

There's a unique method for trapping voles posted on the "pest forum".


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RE: Hole' Vole'-maybe not

squirejohn, yes I use the D-Conn blue-green rat and mouse pellets, in the yellow package. They seem to work for a while, but then there are new immigrants from the woods coming and using the same digs, so it is an annual battle, same as with slugs and nematodes. Neighbor's cats have no complaints. I have only seen 3 dead house mice, nothing else. Against moles I do remove their food supply in the lawn by spreading Grub Ex.
There is not much mouse activity yet because much of the ground is still frozen, but the next 10 days we will have in the 60s, nights in the 40s, rain coming for 2 days. I am around Albany NY.
Bernd


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RE: Hole' Vole'-maybe not

To continue the mole/vole discussion, I ordered some garden grade castor oil and it arrived yesterday. The directions say to mix 1 cup castor oil with 1 cup dish detergent and put in hose-end sprayer. I'm going to try it and see how it works compared to all the other things we've used that didn't work!

Have any of you tried this?
Karen

Here is a link that might be useful: Baar Lawn and Garden Castor Oil


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RE: Hole' Vole'-maybe not

another thread might be of current interest

Les


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RE: Hole' Vole'-maybe not

another thread might be of current interest

Les


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RE: Hole' Vole'-maybe not

Now that Les has bumped this thread, let me just update that the Baar Lawn and Garden Castor Oil did NOTHING to deter the moles! NH Hosta guy says I sprayed at the wrong time of year, that it should be done after frost but before the ground freezes. I have another bottle, so will try it in the fall.

Still continuing to use Dcon on the vole holes, but they seem to be less in number this year. Don't know why???

Karen


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