Differentiate between vole and mole

Rugged lawns and dead garden plants? The vole (also called water vole ) is quickly suspected. Now, however, the first thing to do is to rule out whether it might not be a mole, as it is protected by the law. We will show you the essential features for differentiating between vole and mole and clarify the signs of an infestation and the damage caused by the vole.

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The appearance of the vole

  • Appearance – The body of the vole is between 12 and 22 cm tall, the tail is slightly shorter than half the body length. The vole can be easily distinguished from the house mouse, for example, by its compact, plump build and its relatively large, broad head and short tail.
  • Way of life – The vole lives in widely ramified duct systems just below the surface and is herbivorous. The vole prefers fresh, juicy roots from fruit trees, ornamental trees or herbs. There are over 150 different species of vole.
  • The vole or water vole is popularly referred to as water rat or vole rat and is preferred in open and cultivated land, also in green and horticultural areas. The vole is active around the clock, with phases of activity of around three hours alternating with about four hours. The vole does not hibernate and is therefore involved all year round. Reproduction takes place between March and October. During this time, sexually mature animals can give birth to up to 20 young.
  • The life expectancy of a vole is around two years. The vole duct systems are about 50-100 meters long and about 5-30 cm deep.

Signs of a vole infestation

You can recognise a possible infestation with voles by the following characteristics:

  • Elongated, flat heaps of earth, often streaked with grass or roots.
  • Broken earth passages – also soft, yielding soil, oval tunnel entrances.
  • A high oval corridor shape (about three fingers tall) – the walls of the corridors are gnawed, i.e. the impressions of the vole teeth are visible.
  • In contrast to the mole, the duct system runs relatively straight, close to the surface; There are no roots in the tunnels as these are constantly being gnawed off; the vole tunnels have a width of about five and a height of 8 cm. The highly oval shape is characteristic of voles and water voles.
  • Usually no open corridors; if so, the vole burrow is either uninhabited or taken over by the field mouse.
  • When the vole outlet is opened (“Verwühlprobe”), the vole reacts very quickly within an average of 2-6 hours. She controls the opening of the corridor, pushes it closed again and then digs up the side.
  • The vole causes groove-like feeding marks on roots and tree bark.
Here you can find more information about vole species.

Vole damage

  • Damage to vegetation from rhizomes, tuber and root erosion.
  • Root damage often leads to the death of affected plants in gardens, orchards and vineyards.
  • High renovation costs for destroyed green spaces and horticulture.
  • Acute risk of accidents from vole hills and sunken vole exits (tripping hazards).
  • Failure of membership and usage fees for sports and leisure facilities.

The appearance of the mole compared to the vole.

The mole reaches a body length of 10-15 cm and weighs up to 150 grams. Its body is cylindrical and resembles an auger with its long, pointed snout. The mole has a silky, black-brown fur without a “line” – the short hair stands upright and offers no resistance in the narrow running tubes, regardless of whether it moves forward, backward or sideways. The mole sees poorly and only perceives differences in brightness. In return, the mole has an excellent sense of touch and can smell even the most delicate vibrations. The mole has forefeet that have been transformed into a digging shovel and have long, flat nails with the inner surface facing outwards. The mole digs its tunnels at a speed of 5-15 meters per hour, depending on the nature of the earth.

In doing so, it pushes excess earth upwards at an angle to form molehills. The mole passes through its territory four to five times a day in total length. Moles are absolute loners with a pronounced territorial behaviour. His delicate nose, good hearing, and sense of shock tell him all the prey that has entered the corridors. In contrast to the vole, the mole is not a vegetarian but mainly feeds on insect larvae, earthworms, beetles, woodlice, caterpillars, snails or small amphibians and mice.

Signs of mole infestation

You can recognise a possibly present mole infestation by the following characteristics:

  • Piles of the earth are high and rounded – raised like a volcano from the centre; many banks of relatively equal size at regular intervals, corridor in the middle of the earth pile running vertically downwards.
  • Gait shape transversely oval and smaller than that of the vole – about two fingers wide.
  • The passage wall is scratched by the mole with the shovel-like front feet, with no traces of gnawing visible.
  • The passage system is disordered and very tortuous – in addition, the passages run at different depths and not just below the turf like the vole.
  • In contrast to the vole, the mole does not create storage chambers but instead has steep escape routes that run downwards.
  • The mole occurs preferentially in moist soils, in moor areas, at the edges of forests and along fencespreferably in “low-traffic” and calm soils.
  • In contrast to the vole, when a mole duct is opened (“rooting test”), the reaction occurs relatively slowly and usually only after hours or even days. The mole pushes the passage shut and then undermines the site, basically no open paths.

Damage from mole

As an insect eater, the mole is not a pest in the usual sense. It does not harm people directly through bites or stings, nor indirectly through the destruction of supplies. It also poses no threat to hygiene. On the contrary: the mole is helpful because it kills pests in large numbers. Under no circumstances does it gnaw away underground parts of plants, as is often assumed.

On the other hand, he is often perceived as highly annoying when he damages the roots of sensitive cultivated plants on his forays. With its typical and numerous molehills, the mole spoils the look of lawns. On riding meadows, for example, the hills can also pose a direct threat to the health of rider and horse. Excavated stones can damage combine harvesters and harvesters, and livestock can injure their legs.

Nevertheless: The mole is particularly protected according to laws protecting species and nature conservation and must not be disturbed. It is forbidden by law to catch and kill it.