Voles vs Moles: What are the Differences?

Last Modified on October 23, 2023 by Zachary Smith

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Moles and voles are two animals that may seem similar but are actually quite different.

While both can cause damage to your lawn, garden, and landscaping plants, they have different habits and different appearances, and the way you go about controlling them is different.

Here at Smith’s Pest Management, we’ve helped people get rid of damaging moles and voles for the past 15 years, so we know exactly how to identify and remove these pests.

In this blog, we’ll share our top tips for identifying and eliminating moles and voles and reclaiming your outdoor space.

Let’s dive in.

What are Voles?

meadow vole

Voles, also known as meadow mice, are small rodents about 3-7 inches long, with short tails and furred ears.

Their tails are short and about 1.5” long, while their ears are furred and set close to their heads. Most voles are chestnut brown and black.

They’re easily distinguished from moles because they’re much smaller, and their front feet look much different (moles have large paddle-like feet, while voles have feet similar to a mouse). Additionally, a vole’s eyes are black beads, while a mole’s eyes are invisible and covered with skin.

Voles eat grasses and herbs throughout the year but will eat bark on young trees and ornamental shrubs during the late winter and early spring, especially when snow cover is present to allow them to access the trunks of the trees.

Voles reproduce rapidly and can produce about 5-10 liters each year.

What are Moles?


Moles are small mammals that belong to the family Talpidae.

While there are several species of moles in the US, the eastern mole, Townsend’s mole, and broad-footed mole are the most common and the most likely to cause mole damage in lawns and gardens.

Moles are easy to identify based on their appearance. They have pointed snouts, large, paddle-like front feet with prominent claws, and a short, nearly hairless tail.

Most moles are about 5-8” long with short, dark, velvety fur ranging from gray to silvery gray. Their eyes and ears are small and usually concealed beneath their thick, dense fur.

Moles eat mostly beetle grubs, ants, earthworms, and other arthropods in the soil.

How to Identify Mole vs Vole Damage

Mole Damage

mole damage

In manicured and maintained landscapes, moles are destructive.

As they build their burrows, they produce ridges and mounds that can dislodge plants, destroy plant roots, and disfigure manicured grasses, lawns, and golf courses.

Since they displace so much dirt when they dig, mole mounds also provide fertile ground for germinating weed seeds. Over time, this can spread invasive species throughout a manicured area.

In addition to creating mounds, moles create two distinct types of tunnels: subsurface and deep runways, which they use to travel between foraging sites.

Subsurface runways are primarily used as feeding tunnels and usually look like raised ridges that extend through lawn areas. Moles can extend their subsurface runways at a rate of about 100 feet per day.

Deep runways, on the other hand, exist from 3-12” below the soil surface and are used daily as main travel runways to and from the mole’s nest.

As moles excavate these tunnels, they deposit soil onto the surface of the grass in volcano-like mounds. These mounds are easy to identify since they look different from the horseshoe- or fan-shaped mounds that gophers create.

For more information about what mole damage looks like, check out our comprehensive blog.

Vole Damage

meadow vole damage

The most common sign of vole damage is the presence of vole runways. In areas that receive snow, vole runways are often visible as ragged, destroyed grass areas in the spring after the snow melts.

These runways are where voles have been living and eating beneath the snow all winter.

How to Get Rid of Moles and Voles

Mole Control

To get rid of moles, follow these steps:

1. Identify mole runways and set traps

Trapping is the most effective way to control mole populations.

For trapping to work, you need to identify active mole runways and set traps directly within them.

Use 3-5 traps per acre of property to eliminate severe mole infestations.

2. Bait moles

In addition to trapping, baiting is an important control method for mole infestations. Grain pellet baits, gel baits, and synthetic worm baits all kill moles in their burrows and tunnels and can help control populations.

3. Apply fumigants

While there are three types of fumigants approved for moles – aluminum phosphine tablets, carbon monoxide injection, and gas cartridges – they can be inconsistent when it comes to mole control.

To use the fumigants to their full potential, place them deep in the mole tunnel and only deploy them during a season like the spring when the soil is moist enough to retain the gas within the tunnel.

4. Remove food sources

Make your yard less hospitable for moles by getting rid of the grubs and insects they love to eat. Beneficial nematodes and milky spore will kill grubs without harming your yard or other animals. Beware that if you’re trying to cultivate healthy soil and keep your earthworms alive, many of these insecticides targeting grubs can inadvertently kill your earthworms.

5. Install exclusion trenches

Exclusion methods can also work to reduce moles in your yard. For best results, dig a trench about 2 feet deep and at least 4 inches wide around your lawn, garden, or other space you’d like to protect.

Line the trench with rocks galvanized steel or stainless steel wire mesh so moles can’t dig through it.

Remember, moles can climb out of the ground, crawl over a barrier, and easily burrow back into the ground, so exclusion trenches are not 100% guaranteed to keep them out of your yard.

6. Keep your yard as dry as possible 

Lastly, keep your lawn landscape as dry as possible without causing your plants to wilt.

Beware that splashing water features or leaky pipes will moisten the soil.

For more information on how to get rid of moles, check out our comprehensive guide.

Vole Control

To get rid of voles on your property, follow these steps:

1. Get rid of their shelter and food

Voles are prey animals, and they need shelter to feel safe. To make your property less appealing, remove dense ground cover and lower branches on overgrown trees and shrubs, and trim long grasses.

To reduce their costly damage, place wire tree guards on the trunks of young trees.

2. Trap voles

To control vole numbers, use wooden mouse-type snap traps. These can be unbaited or baited with oatmeal or nut butter to catch and kill voles. If birds can access the traps, cover the traps with cardboard to keep birds out of the traps.

Next, place the traps in vole runways. Since voles consistently run along the same paths, they’ll step into the traps quickly.

Alternately, make “trap boxes” by cutting a 1-inch hole in the side of a shoebox. Set your mouse traps baited with peanut butter inside. Voles can’t resist the smell of fresh peanut butter or nut butter.

3. Use baits

Poison baits kill voles upon ingestion and can be a great way to control large vole populations.

Most baits contain zinc phosphide, a cellular metabolism arrestor, or warfarin, an anticoagulant.

If you use vole baits, secure them in tamper-proof bait stations, or, If the product label allows, place the bait deep in the runways. Be sure no dogs or wildlife can access the treated area if you use the burrow baiting method.

For more information on how to get rid of voles, check out our complete blog on the topic.

Are Moles and Voles Destroying Your Lawn? We can Help!

moles and voles control

Don’t let moles and voles destroy your lawn! Left to their own devices, these pests can dig up your grass, ruin your landscaping, and cause lots of expensive damage to your outdoor space.

Fortunately, you don’t have to live with this damage forever.

Here at Smith’s Pest Management, we provide mole control as well as vole control services to the San Francisco Bay Area so you can enjoy a pest-free outdoor space once more.

Ready to take back your lawn and stop expensive and annoying mole and vole damage? Contact us today!


1. When are voles and moles most active?

Voles are most active around the clock, with peak activities occurring at dawn and dusk. Moles, on the other hand, are most active when the temperatures are cool and will burrow and forage most during the early morning and late evening.

2. What is the fastest way to get rid of voles?

Snap traps are the fastest and most effective way to eliminate a localized area of voles. For best results, use multiple traps set in active vole runways and forage areas. Check and change the traps regularly and move them as needed as vole activity changes or ceases.

3. What is the best vole killer?

Poisons like zinc phosphide or warfarin blocks are fast, effective vole killers that can manage vole populations and help prevent infestations from spreading.

Author Bio: Zach Smith

Landscape Pro Turned Gopher Pro: Owner, Zach Smith, graduate of Cal Poly’s Horticulture program worked nine years as a landscape professional- dealing with gophers, moles, and ground squirrels and was quickly recruited by other local gardeners. Fast forward to the past 10+ years, where Zach and his team trap and remove burrowing pests from residential, municipal and commercial properties throughout the San Francisco Bay area, from Marin to Monterey.