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Wedel's Nursery, Florist and Garden Center

Holey Moley, Shrew or Vole!

black mole in molehill, intruder or pest

By Gary Miller, CGIP
  Mole, vole or shrew: ever wonder what the difference is between these pests, or why you should care? All three of these mouse-like creatures may be seen in or around your garden. Identification is important in determining if and how you should control these critters.        


Here in Michigan we have two types of mole: the Eastern Mole and the Star-Nosed Mole.
The more common Eastern Mole will grow 5-7 inches long from snout to tail, with the Star-Nosed Mole slightly larger at 6-8 inches long. Eastern Moles have a long, blunt snout, whereas the Star-Nosed Moles have pink, fleshy appendages ringing their snout. Both moles use their snout as a touch sensory organ; have soft, thick, velvety-gray fur, and an approximately 1-inch long tail. Their eyes and ears are inconspicuous, hidden under their fur. Their paddle-like front paws are two to three times wider then their rear paws, and are use for digging tunnels.    
Moles, in search of grubs, beetles and earthworms, burrow in the ground and create tunneling in the lawn and garden. They surface occasionally leaving small hills of loose soil. Moles are solitary, subterranean creatures.  
Use natural/organic repellents containing castor oil such as Repellex® Mole & Gopher Repellent. You can reduce mole’s food supply by controlling grubs in the lawn with products such as Hi-Yield® Grub Free Zone III, or a natural/organic product such a Natural Guard® Grub Control.  Eliminate moles by using toxic baits, such as Sweeney’s® Poison Moleworms, placed in the tunnel but out of reach of pets, or you can also use traps such as the Mole Eliminator®.  


Voles, often called meadow mice, are a little larger than common moles reaching 5-8 inches long at maturity. Their heads are rounded, their eyes are larger than shrews, their fur is brown, short and smooth, their front paws are about the same width as their rear paws and their tails are about 1 ¾ inches long.  
Voles are herbivores that feed on bulbs, tubers and tender young plants. During the winter, often under the cover of snow, voles will eat surface roots and chew bark from the base of trees and shrubs often causing the plant to girdle and die. Voles, unlike moles and shrews, are social and where you find one, you will find many. Voles will often tunnel in mulch or ground cover above ground leaving surface trails. They sometimes run through old mole tunnels eating plant roots.  
Use repellents such as Repellex®. Set up mouse traps baited with peanut butter, a piece of tulip bulb, or apple slices. Keep mulch away from tree trunks. Remove snow from the base of trees and shrubs in the winter. Protect young trees by wrapping the lower trunk in wire mesh. Apply predator urine, such as Shake Away® Rodent Repellent Granules, to the area and reapply frequently. Do not use poisons as they would be within reach of children and pets.  


A mature shrew will reach 4-5 inches long. Shrews have a thin tail about 7/8 of an inch long, soft, grey, short fur, small beady eyes, small ears and a pointed snout.  
Shrews, like moles, are insectivores. They eat earthworms, grubs and other insects. Shrews, however, are often seen above ground although they tend to use old mole and vole tunnels to get around. Shrews cause no real damage to plants and eat a variety of insects making them beneficial in the landscape and garden.  
None necessary.

Not sure what to do about these pesky garden visitors? Stop by Wedel’s to see our complete line of safe, effective pest control products and to ask for expert consultation about which visitors should be welcome in your garden and which ones you should gently encourage to leave.
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