Voles And Other Burrowing Rodents - Knowledgebase Question

Peterborough, NH
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Question by pritsign
May 1, 2000
In our New Hampshire garden, we were not bothered by borrowing rodents for fifteen years, but for the past five years we've been battling a population explosion. (Could this be a by-product of global warming?) I've watched parsley quiver and then disappear into a hole in the space of ten minutes. Carrot tops fall over...when pulled up, there is no root. We gave up on vegetables, and They developed a taste for flowers: this spring, where my astilbes were, there were only holes when the snow melted. They seem to have a special love for any members of the violet and vinca family (wherever the myrtle is sparse and yellowed, it's not hard to find tunnels two inches or less below the soil surface.) Last spring I found that some varmint had eaten every scrap of an Emerald Cushion Euonymous that had lived unscathed by my front steps for fifteen years. This year, other groundcovers were decimated: lamium, sweet woodruff, moneywort. They tunnel in the ajuga, disturbing the roots, but don't seem to eat it.
Last year we set traps, and got quite a variety: mice, voles, shrews and chipmunks. (No moles, by the way: even though some of the tunnels were visible on the surface - I'm convinced that my voles dig their own tunnels and don't depend on moles to do the heavy work.) I was always distressed to catch a shrew, since I understand they travel in the tunnels only to kill and eat voles and mice...a noble occupation. When we switched to live traps, we found that voles are too cute to kill: they look like tiny beavers - not ratty at all. What do you think: a new pet sensation? Adopt-a-Vole campaigns, wherein people would buy our voles for their kids and feed them purchased plant roots?
Bloodthirsty though I am at this point, I dislike the idea of poison -- too indiscriminate ...besides, it leads to persistent odors in the shrubbery. This year, we are trying various repellents. Dried

Answer from NGA
May 1, 2000
Such population explosions are apparently cyclical, and I would expect the blacksnakes to be booming in tandem with their food supply although you may never see them. If you are seriously in search of a snake, you might try contacting naturalists and wildlife rehab specialists as well as animal and pest control companies in your area and see if they have been asked to relocate any snakes -- to which you could offer a home. In the meantime, traps baited with oatmeal and peanut butter work pretty well but probably are more effective in the fall; vole predators include short-tailed shrews, badgers, coyotes, foxes, bobcats, barn owls, great horned owls, long-eared owls, short-eared owls, barred owls, screech owls, and some snakes. Another possible repellent besides the one syou listed is red pepper; another approach is to wrap wire mesh around the base of the most prized woody plants. I'm sorry about the destruction -- know first hand how disheartening and extensive the damage can be.

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