We have a problem. We aren’t making a mountain out of a molehill, either. Nope. The problem IS the molehill. Or, actually, it’s the volehill!
Several years ago, while sitting quietly on our folding chairs, we noticed this furry little creature ambling up to my hubby’s foot. It was like the furry little thing was oblivious to our human presence! It was brownish, maybe 6-8 inches long, a cute pinkish-brown button nose and little itty-bitty beady eyes. At first we thought it was a deer mouse, but no. It’s body was a little longer, ears a little smaller, and deer mice don’t get quite that big. (thank goodness) Immediately we figured it was a mole or a vole. As soon as the little scoundrel saw movement, however, it scurried off quick as a wink into tall grass and was not seen again.
After a bit of research, we decided it was, indeed, a vole. Microtus Californicus, to be exact. Voles are critters that live for the most part in underground tunnels, eating the roots of various grasse, plants and trees. Moles, on the other hand, eat mostly grubs, worms and insects. Voles are excellent diggers and can destroy a garden quickly. One day you see beautiful plants – the next day they are wilted over completely. When you pull them up – NO ROOTS!
Nasty little schmucks!
Because of this encounter, and our discovery afterward of the tell-tale tunnels – everywhere – we knew that when we planted trees in our orchard, we would have to put metal basket guards around the roots. This wasn’t a problem – where we bought the trees (Peaceful Valley Nursery), they also had the 15 gallon baskets just for this purpose. The baskets have worked very well! We haven’t lost a tree yet because of the baskets. At first we were worried that the baskets might girdle the roots, but apparently they are made to disintegrate within about 5 years, so that the tree, once established, can grow bigger roots. By that time the vole isn’t going to nibble enough of the tree roots to do significant harm.
Unfortunately, we didn’t think about doing this for our artichoke patch, and it looks like voles like to eat artichokes. 🙁 When I removed the heavy mulch from our artichoke plants, we could see that the vole ate three of our five plants this past winter. How do I know the vole did it? Well, just look at the tunnel where one of the artichoke plants used to be! I think it’s an open and shut case, don’t you? You can click on the picture to see it larger.
You can see in the picture on the right where our friendly neighborhood dog tried to dispense with the problem for us. At least we think it was the dog. It could have been a bear, a fox, a raccoon or any number of predators. Apparently the dog could smell the vole and knew he was in the tunnel, so he started digging up the tunnel to find the vole. Good dog! I wish I could have been there to see that – it must have been epic! I was hoping that the dog won, but, alas, a new tunnel popped up last night, so the critter (or it’s mate) is still around. Or it’s babies. Or grandbabies. Voles are very prolific, reach sexual maturity at about 21 days of age, and have three to six litters in a year of 4-6 young on average.
Now we know with absolute certainty that we will use raised beds for our vegetable garden, laying metal wire under the dirt first so they can’t tunnel up into the garden.
I searched online for ways to eradicate the voles and found quite a few different methods. Of course, I prefer to be as organic as possible (no poisons or gas, please), and don’t want to use any method that might be dangerous to the “good” animals. My brother-in-law, Tom, suggested Bubble Gum or some other good smelling gum, as they apparently will eat it because of the smell but can’t digest it and will die. Hmmmmm, that sounds like a slow, painful death and might be considered cruel – but hey – those critters ate my artichokes! It’s worth a try. At least, if it doesn’t work, our voles will have the freshest breath around! 🙂
Disclaimer (sort of): I am not being compensated by www.groworganic.com or Peaceful Valley Nursery. I just like to mention them because they are my very favorite nursery. They have an awesome on-line catalog and their customer service can’t be beat. I have never had a complaint with them. Take a look at their website. They have informative videos of everything from making cheese to planting berries to pruning trees!
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