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RANGELY I A high population of voles, often called field mice, has exploded this year in the Rangely area.
This onslaught of rodents in Rangely is largely due to the extremely favorable winter and spring weather that was perfect for an expanded food supply as well as cover to hide in, Rio Blanco’s CSU Extension Agent Bill Ekstrom said Monday.
Under these conditions the animals will have multiple litters (3 to 12) per year with up to six young in each litter, he said. Then, with high temperatures drying up those nice lush green food supplies, it has consequently directed them to places like the golf course, ball fields and, of course, to residential green lawns and gardens.
Voles often damage lawns and golf courses by constructing runways and burrow systems. Vole damage to trees and shrubs is characterized by girdling and patches of irregular patterns of gnaw marks about 1/16 to 1/8-inch wide, Ekstrom said, adding that voles at times may enter homes.
Methods to prevent and control damage are: habitat management, exclusion, trapping and poison grain baits.
Habitat Management: Elimination of weed ground cover and tall grasses by frequent and close mowing, tilling or herbicide application. Voles are active both during the day and night. Removing cover eliminates places to hide from natural predators like house cats or birds. If they are damaging your trees over the winter, simply use mesh cloth around the base.
Trapping: Use mouse snap traps to remove small populations of voles from backyard lawns. Place traps perpendicular to runways with the trigger end in the runway and bait with small amounts of rolled oats or peanut butter. Set traps in the fall before most damage occurs.
Trapping is not as successful when feed source is lush and green, but it does work.
“One trick I personally use is to create an artificial tunnel (3 to 4 inches tall and a little wider than the trap you are using) place at the opening of the burrow, then place the sticky trap or mouse trap in the center for them to run over,” Ekstrom said.
Poison grain baits: Usually a short term solution but can be effective especially in large areas. Always read the label prior to buying and using to assure it is appropriate for your circumstance. Baits work best in the fall or early spring.
Call CSU Extension Agent Bill Ekstrom for specifics and recommendations on using grain baits or if you have any questions. At 970-878-9494.