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Published on: 4/12/2016 12:37 PM
Six species of voles of the genus Microtus occur in California. They are collectively called meadow mice or voles. Two species of voles are responsible for the majority of damage. The California vole (Microtus californicus) is the most widespread vole in the state, found in the Owens and Central valleys and nearly the entire length of the coast range. The montane vole (M.montanus) inhabits northeastern California and the eastern Sierra Slope. Voles do not commonly invade homes, and should not be confused with the house mouse, Mus musculus. Voles are intriguing small mammals because some populations regularly go through cycles from low to high numbers with occasional irruptions that can send numbers soaring (up to several thousand per acre).


Voles are mouse like rodents somewhat similar in appearance to pocket gophers. They have a compact, heavy body, short legs, short-furred tail, small eyes and partially hidden ears. The long, coarse fur is blackish brown to grayish brown. When fully grown they can  measure 5 to 8 inches long, including the tail.

Biology and behavior

Voles are active day and night, year-round. They are normally found in areas with dense vegetation. Voles dig many short, shallow burrows and make underground nests of grass, stems, and leaves. In areas with winter snow, voles will burrow in and through the snow to the surface.


To prevent vole damage, you need to manage the population in an area before it reaches high numbers. This can often be achieved by removing or reducing the vegetative cover, thus making the area unsuitable to voles. Removing cover also makes detecting voles and other rodents easier. It is important to act before vole numbers increase rapidly because the damage these animals dot o ornamental and garden plants and trees can be quite severe.

Other Control Methods 

Burrow fumigants are not effective for the control of voles because he vole's burrow system is shallow and has numerous open holes. Electromagnetic or ultrasonic devices and flooding are also ineffective against voles.