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Tunnels in My Lawn When the Snow Melts [Voles?]

Posted by Brian Gerber on Mar 11, 2021 1:38:48 PM

We had a decent amount of snow fall this past winter and as all of this snow melts, we are hearing from several customers who are seeing series of small trail systems all over their yard. 

What are they? If this trail system is on the surface of your lawn, the odds are good that you have voles (or field mice) in your yard.  Their "highway system" will show signs of trampled grass from repeated use. What is the reason we are seeing this now? Snow melt.


A warm ground plus about 6 inches of snow pack throughout winter creates the perfect habitat for voles.  Snow acts as ground insulation and temperatures between the ground and snow usually linger around 32 degrees. Their protected tunnel system minimizes their time out in the open exposed to predators. 

What Are Voles?
  • A small rodent about 4-9 inches long and weighing 1-2 ounces.
  • Commonly know as “meadow mice” or “field mice”.
  • Herbivores.
  • They usually occupy no more than 1/4 sq. acre of land. 
  • Prefer dense ground cover. 
  • A vole's diet consists of  grass, roots, seeds, bark and bulbs. 
  • Active year-round. The do not hibernate.

What Damage Do Voles Cause?

  • Create tunnels/runways through the grass on the surface under the snow using the debris to stay warm during winter.
  • When snow melts, tunnels will be very visible.
  • Can damage small trees and shrubs by eating roots.
  • Leave damage at base of trees on the bark.
  • Leave trails about 1-2 inches wide and about 1 inch deep on surface of lawn. 
  • A vole will sometimes use a mole's tunnel but they generally travel above ground. 

Vole damage in spring

How Do I Repair Vole Damage?

  • Once the snow has melted, voles head back to fields and ravines which are easier for them to hide in. 
  • Start by lightly raking the debris and excrement from the runways to promote growth. If damage is minor this may be all you have to do.
  • If damage is bad - after raking, fill tunnels with top soil and seed the areas that do not recover.
  • If damage is to trees and shrubs, prune and fertilize them to help recovery process.

Bottom line:  The runways are the voles' path to get from place to place under the snow and they use grass blades to build their nests. They prefer tall weeds or thick ground cover so as soon as snow goes away, so do the voles. Rake out the damaged areas and weasel in seed wherever needed.

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