Snow cover allows vole populations to thrive in Cache Valley

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CACHE VALLEY — Voles are tearing up yards, and in some cases, wreaking havoc on lawns in Cache Valley.

Every several years, the populations explode, and some of the experts say the cover from the snow this year is helping keep them hidden from predators.

It's not exactly what Austell Cowley expected to catch on his wildlife camera.

"I thought I'd show her all the birds that came to feed in her feeder," he said.

Cowley placed the camera while his daughter was out of town, and later showed her what he found.

"Gave me the heebie-jeebies, like, it made my stomach turn," said Rachel Cain.

Cain said she did know there was at least one of what she thought was a field mouse.

"So, I named him Steve, and I was going to keep him, but when the snow melted I noticed there was more of them."

That's when Cain saw the tracks and pathways just tearing up the lawn.

"We've never had this big of a problem," Cain added.

Sadly, Cain is not alone, not by a long shot this year.

"Basically what we're looking at is if you've got a vole infestation in your yard, what you want to do is you want to get on it, take care of it, because if you don't, it will continue to get worse," said Terry Messmer, a Utah State University extension wildlife specialist and professor.

Voles are tearing up yards, and in some cases, wreaking havoc on lawns in Cache Valley.
Voles are tearing up yards, and in some cases, wreaking havoc on lawns in Cache Valley. (Photo: Mike Anderson, KSL-TV)

Messmer said the simple traps are typically the safest way to take back your lawn.

"You can bait it with peanut butter or something like that."

He said the poison traps can be dangerous for kids and pets, but some professionals may be better equipped to use them.

"We have these stations here that it takes a weird key to get in, so a normal homeowner or kid is not going to be able to get into it. They're also weighed down with cinder blocks," said Russel Jenson with Elevate Pest Control.

Jenson said they are keeping very busy with the voles.

"Our phones have been ringing off the hook, like so much we can barely get to people in time."

He said they always deal with them up in Cache Valley, but Jenson said, "The amount we're getting this year is significantly more."

It can also help to cut your lawn a bit lower to make the voles easier for predators to see.

Messmer said once you get rid of them, you'll also want to de-thatch your lawn heading into the fall to make it tougher for them to stay hidden if they try and come back.


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Mike Anderson
Mike Anderson often doubles as his own photographer, shooting and editing most of his stories. He came to KSL in April 2011 after working for several years at various broadcast news outlets.


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