Oftentimes our customers call us to report seeing a small, mouse-like creature scurrying around their landscape. Typically, customers notice burrows in their mulch, or runways that part the grass or in the snow. The culprits are little creatures commonly referred to as moles, but in reality, they may actually be a mole, vole or a shrew. Why is it important to distinguish which one you are dealing with? Well, like most of the pests that we deal with, proper identification is critical because each have different characteristics that will help dictate the best management strategy.
Moles, voles and shrews can easily be distinguished from one another by looking at some of the key physical characteristics of each. A mole has a pointed snout, enlarged front feet, and eyes and ears so tiny that they are not visible. A vole, also called a meadow mouse, has rounded ears and body and is reddish or brown and black in color with a gray underside. And finally, a shrew has a pointed snout, but unlike the mole, a shrew’s front feet are not enlarged. Also, a shrew’s eyes are tiny, but they are visible in most species.
In addition to different physical characteristics, moles, voles and shrews each live in different habitats and have distinct food preferences. Moles live underground in tunnels, and are predatory in nature. Moles primarily feed on earthworms, grubs, beetles and other animals or arthropods found in the soil. Voles prefer to live in low-lying or creeping vegetation, and make trails through the grass or snow. Unlike the predacious moles, voles are primarily herbivores and will feed on the roots, bulbs, bark and seeds of many ornamental plants and grasses. Shrews have many habitats, depending on the species. Typically, near a structure, shrews will reuse the tunnels made by moles and voles, and will also occasionally invade buildings. Shrews feed on insects, earthworms, slugs, small animals, seeds and roots.
Managing moles, voles and shrews can be challenging, so using an integrated pest management approach with tools such as trapping, baiting and habitat modification will give the best chance for success. If you’re experiencing a problem in your yard or lawn with moles, voles or shrews, be sure to contact a professional pest control company for assistance.
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