Voles dig tunnels under snow, leave tracks in Spring

In Spring we hear a lot from people finding a web of matted down grass criss-crossing their lawns like a highway system. Many blame white grubs, either for directly killing the grass or attracting burrowing animals. Some are seriously upset about the ‘devestation’.

The truth is that their lawns are in no danger from the ‘highways’.

Vole runways in a lawn after spring thaw

Vole runways in a lawn after spring thaw

Highways is a good name for the tracks too, as what customers were seeing on their lawns were the under-snow travel tunnels of voles. Voles are tiny animals, usually found in fields, ravines and newly constructed areas. They’re vegetarians so there is no way they’d even look at a grub; what they’re after on your grass is the grass itself for food and shelter.

The little guys loved winter 2009 because of the big dump of snow we had. A thick layer of snow is a great place to hide under from predators. There’s lots of food, and the snow insulates the tunnels, especially when the voles line the tunnels with dead grass and thatch. Winter 2010 was much lighter on snow and milder, so we expect to see fewer vole tracks.

Once the snow is gone, the voles head back to the fields and ravines where it is easier to hide, abandoning the paths they’ve stomped down. A nice raking – something you should be doing after the thaw anyway – to get the grass to stand up again, and your regular spring shot of pick-me-up fertilizer will erase those tracks fast. Kyle Tobin has even more information about vole tracks and other Spring concerns in our April lawn care checklist.

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