The Difference Between Mole and Vole

June 8, 2022

Moles and voles can both be furry little forces of destruction in our gardens, and many people confuse one for the other. 

Use this handy guide to learn about the differences between them and find out how you can prevent them from wreaking havoc in your garden.


Differences Between Moles And Voles


vole in natural environment



Let’s begin by taking a look at several aspects of how moles and voles differ from one another.


  • Appearance

Moles are small mammals that are usually between 4 to 7 inches long. They have small eyes and, instead of external ears, they only have ear canals. Their tails are approximately 1 inch long. The short brownish-gray fur that covers their bodies almost completely hides their tiny eyes and ear canals. As their fur doesn’t grow in one specific direction, they can move freely forwards and backwards in their tunnels.

Moles do have two prominent features you can use to distinguish them from voles and other small mammals you might find in your garden. Those features include a hairless, elongated snout and the front feet, which are turned outwards and have prominent claws, making them perfect digging tools.

Voles are rodents that are usually between 5 to 8 inches long, making them roughly the same size as moles. While some people mistake voles for moles, others mistake them for mice. Voles have small, rounded ears, and their tails are approximately ¾ of an inch long. Their fur is reddish-brown, although their bellies are gray. 

Voles also have a few features that you can use to tell them apart from moles. Those features include shorter, more rounded faces, orange front teeth, and small front feet with skinny claws. 


  • Diet

Moles are carnivores, and their diet mainly consists of various bugs that live in the soil, many of which are considered pests in gardens. Some of those bugs are beetles and grubs. However, moles also eat helpful animals that live in the soil, such as earthworms. They’re hungry little critters, and they can eat as much as 100% of their body weight in food every day, or a whopping 50 pounds of food in one year.

Voles are omnivores, so they’re happy eating plants as well as animals. They mostly prefer plant bulbs, garden vegetables, roots, seeds, grass, and tree bark. They’ll also eat snails, gypsy moths, and other small insects. Voles occasionally also snack on the remains of dead animals.


  • Behavior And Habitat

Moles are continually on the lookout for their next meal, so they spend most of their time in the tunnels they dig while searching for food underground. Their preferred habitats include grasslands, woodlands, meadows, and wetlands, although they’re certainly not strangers to gardens. You might find shallow mole tunnels occasionally, but their tunnels usually are approximately 10 inches deep. They dig by using their front feet to push soil to the side with a motion that almost looks like someone doing breaststroke in a swimming pool.

Moles are most active in the early morning and late evening, especially in spring and fall, although they are still active during summer and winter. Instead of hibernating during winter, they dig even deeper tunnels that take them below the frost line. You’re most likely to see moles emerging from underground after warm rain.

Rather than living deep underground, voles prefer shallow burrows in low-lying vegetation. Sometimes, instead of digging their own burrows, they live in abandoned burrows made by other animals. Voles prefer to move above ground, so most of their activity takes place in sheltered areas, such as under shrubs. While voles occasionally do dig tunnels, they prefer making pathways through grass or snow. Like moles, they’re most active in the early morning and late evening throughout the year.


  • Damage To Your Garden

The majority of damage that moles can do to your garden is through digging tunnels in the soil. They’re experts at it and are able to dig at a rate of up to 18 feet per hour – which means digging as much as 150 feet of new tunnel daily. Moles push the soil from their excavations up to the surface, forming mounds or molehills that look like miniature volcanoes. If you don’t spread the soil from those mounds over your lawn, the grass under them is likely to die. What’s more, moles’ tunnels affect the structural integrity of your garden. If you step on an area above a tunnel, the ground will feel soft and might even collapse, forming a depression. Last but not least, moles eat beneficial insects as well as pests, which could affect the ecological balance in your garden.

Whereas moles can wreck the structural integrity and appearance of your garden as well as decrease the number of helpful insects, the destruction that voles cause usually affects your plants and shrubs. Voles chew through grass to create pathways across your garden, and they eat the bulbs and roots of your plants, shrubs, and fruit trees. This can cause your plants and shrubs to wilt, weaken, and even fall over or die. If voles dig tunnels, they will do it just below the surface of the ground, which also can affect the appearance and structural integrity of your garden.


mole in natural environment


Mole And Vole Prevention

If you have a pest problem you can use the following simple yet effective DIY methods to prevent moles and voles from causing havoc in your garden.


  • Mole Control And Prevention

Moles don’t like vibrations, so install pinwheels, homemade thumpers, and spinning daisies in your garden. The vibrations they create when they spin should bother moles enough to scare them off to new digging grounds.

Dip an ear of corn in roofing tar and place it in a mole tunnel entrance. Moles hate the smell of roofing tar, so they’ll probably look for other digging grounds. Alternatively, mix 3 parts of castor oil and 1 part of dish soap and soak mole tunnel entrances to taint their food supply’s flavor and encourage them to look for food elsewhere.

Water your lawn less frequently to make the soil harder and more difficult for moles to dig. They should move to an area with softer soil.

Create barriers to protect your plants. Dig a hole that’s 2 to 3 feet deep around the plants you want to protect. Line those holes with ½-inch wire mesh screen and then fill them up again.

Consider adopting a pet cat, as its mere presence should be enough to scare off small pests. Another option is to use a humane mole trap. If you catch any moles, release them at least 5 miles out of town.

Don’t use mothballs and try to avoid using chemical repellents intended for moles. Mothballs are controlled by the EPA and using them outdoors is illegal. Chemical mole repellants are a risk to wildlife, pets, and children. If you choose a chemical repellent, read the instructions and follow them very carefully.


  • Vole Control And Prevention

If you have bird feeders in your garden, clean any seeds that fall on the ground around them regularly. Voles are happy to eat the fallen seed, so you’ll be cutting off one of their food sources.

Use ¼-inch wire mesh screen or smaller to create fences around your plants, shrubs, and trees. The fences should be 12 inches high above ground, and 6 to 10 inches below ground. You can also wrap the mesh around the lower trunk of trees. The mole barrier described above may also help prevent voles from eating your plants’ bulbs and roots. When planting bulbs, treat them with fungicide and add gravel to the planting hole.

Remove dense vegetation, weeds, heavy mulch, and snow from your garden, trim shrubs regularly, remove mulch from around tree bases, and mow grassy areas regularly to get rid of voles’ favorite habitats. 

Humane and snap traps work with voles. If you decide to use traps, bait them with peanut butter or apples. As with moles, consider getting a pet cat as a deterrent.

Moles and voles don’t need to cause you headaches. Knowing how to identify them and how to stop them from invading your garden is easy. With a little bit of effort you can make sure they move along and leave your lawn and flower beds in peace!

Ready to get started?