We are seeing a lot more Vole damage this year than in years past. These small runways in the lawn can be a little alarming because in some cases they are very extensive. We always see a little vole damage in areas near green spaces or tall grass areas but this year it is much more wide spread and extensive. Most of this increase is attributed to the extended snow cover we had this winter.
The culprit is this little field mouse looking critter called a prairie vole. These guys are vegitarians and feed on grass shoots and bark of young trees and shrubs. Most of the time this isn’t a problem as most of the feeding is spread out and not in one place. But during heavy, extended snow fall periods the feeding area is concentrated to the runways under the snow and around the base of small trees and shrubs.
The good news bad newspart. The good news is that the runs in the lawn will grow out as soon as the lawn come out of dormancy. Their feeding doesn’t damage the crown of the grass plant. Some light raking with a leaf rake will clean up the mess and when the turf starts growing it will fill in. The bad news is for the trees and shrubs. If the vole has gnawed completely around the branch or trunk it will girdle it, cutting the flow of nutrients off from the roots to the top and that branch or tree will die. It may leaf out with the rest of the plants but it will wilt and die shortly after. The only thing to do is to prune out the branch or remove the tree.