What Is The Difference Between Moles & Voles? (4 Key Facts)


When it comes to your garden, moles and voles are pests that can do some serious damage.  However, these two are not quite the same.

So, what is the difference between moles and voles?  Moles are heavier, weighing 4 to 5 ounces, while voles are lighter, weighing 2 to 3 ounces.  Moles have a hairless pointy snout, large claws, and seemingly no eyes or ears, while voles look like mice with orange teeth.  Moles dig tunnels at a depth of 10 inches underground, while voles dig closer to the surface.  Moles eat insects like earthworms, grubs, and slugs, while voles eat roots, fruit, and nuts.

Of course, there are some benefits to having moles or voles in your garden.  For example, they aerate the soil when they dig, and they can keep insect pests under control.

In this article, we’ll talk about the difference between moles and voles.  We’ll also look at some ways to prevent them or get rid of them.

Let’s begin.

What Is The Difference Between Moles & Voles?

Some of the biggest differences between moles & voles are:

  • Size
  • Appearance
  • Digging Depth
  • Food
mole
Moles look like they have no eyes or ears…
vole
… while voles look like mice with distinct eyes and ears.

The following table summarizes the differences between moles and voles at a glance.

TraitMolesVoles
Length &
Weight
4-6 inches
4-5 ounces
4-6 inches
2-3 ounces
Appearancehairless &
pointy snout
large claws
hidden eyes
hidden ears
hairy snout
small feet
visible eyes
visible ears
orange teeth
Digging
Depth
Shallow: a
few inches
Deep: up to
18 inches
a few inches
may also use
mole tunnels
FoodInsects: grubs,
earthworms,
ants, termites,
and so on.
Plants: nuts,
roots, seeds,
fruit, bulbs,
bark, tubers
This table summarizes some of the differences between moles and voles.

How Big Are Moles & Voles?

According to Penn State University, moles and voles are about the same size (4 to 6 inches long).

Moles tend to be a bit heavier than voles.  Moles weigh in at 4 to 5 ounces, while most voles weigh 2 to 3 ounces.

The exception is the southwestern water vole, which can weigh up to 8 ounces.

What Do Moles Look Like?

Moles have a strange appearance, since they appear to have no eyes or ears!

mole
A mole looks like it has no eyes or ears! They have a great sense of smell and can sense small vibrations.

In reality, moles have small eyes (since they spend so much time underground).  They also have no external ear structure, which makes it look like they have no ears.

Moles have cylindrical bodies covered in fur like velvet.  They also have a hairless, pointed snout.

Moles also have feet like paddles, which feature big claws for digging (5 fingers per hand!)  With these powerful hands, moles can dig at 18 feet per hour.

In fact, a single mole can add 150 feet of new tunnel per day.  Just try staying ahead of that problem!

Moles are most active in the early morning and late evening and on cloudy days in spring and fall.

You can learn more about moles and their appearance in this article from Wikipedia.

What Do Voles Look Like?

There are over 100 different species of voles.  However, most are difficult to tell apart.

Two different types of voles you may see are:

  • Meadow Voles – these voles are larger and spend most of their time above ground.  They cause damage to the base of plants and fruit trees (above ground)
  • Pine Voles – these voles are smaller and spend most time underground.  They cause damage to the root systems of plants and trees (below ground).
vole
Voles are rodents and are related to lemmings, hamsters, and muskrats.

A meadow vole looks like a mouse with a short tail, small black eyes, and partially hidden ears.  Pine voles will dig golf-ball sized holes to enter and exit their tunnels.

Voles are rodents and are related to lemmings, hamsters, and muskrats.  Voles also have prominent orange teeth, which they use for chewing on plant roots and other food sources.

You can learn more about voles and their appearance in this article from Wikipedia.

What Do Moles Eat?

According to Penn State University, moles are insectivores, rather than rodents.  This means that they eat insects, including:

  • Ants
  • Beetles
  • Centipedes
  • Crickets
  • Grubs
  • Larvae
  • Millipedes
  • Slugs
  • Snails
  • Termites
  • Worms (including earthworms)
earthworm
Earthworms are one of the primary food sources for moles.

Amazingly, moles can eat 70% to 100% of their weight each day.  This would be like a 200-pound man eating 140 to 200 pounds of food in a day!

Then again, moles need all of those calories to do the heavy and exhausting work of digging through the soil.

What Do Voles Eat?

According to Penn State University, voles are ground-dwelling rodents that eat a variety of foods, including:

  • Bark (mostly in fall and winter, when other food is hard to come by)
  • Bulbs (stored in late summer and fall)
  • Plants (including grasses and grains)
  • Roots (this is very damaging to garden plants)
  • Seeds (stored in late summer and fall)
  • Tubers (stored in late summer and fall)
  • Occasional insects and animal remains
tomato plant roots
Voles eat all parts of the plant, including the roots.

How Deep Do Moles Dig?

According to the Purdue University Extension, moles dig two types of tunnels:

  • Surface Tunnels (raised ridges above the soil)
  • Deep Tunnels (3 to 18 inches deep)
mole hills
You may see one or more “volcanoes” or mole hills in your yard if moles live there.

Moles dig deeper in the soil to find their primary food source: earthworms.  When conditions are dry, the earthworms go deeper into the soil, and the moles follow them.

According to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, moles will dig a hole 5 to 18 inches underground to create space for a nest.  The nest is usually in high ground to prevent flooding.

How Deep Do Voles Dig?

Voles do not dig very deep tunnels.  For the most part, they only dig shallow surface tunnels.

Voles use these shallow tunnels to reach the roots of plants they feed on.  According to the Purdue University Extension, voles will use mole tunnels and dig their own small exits (about the size of a golf ball).

How Do You Know If You Have Moles Or Voles?

Remember that moles can dig both shallow and deep tunnels (up to 18 inches deep), while voles will only dig shallow tunnels.

However, voles will sometimes “trespass” in mole tunnels and use them to get around.

According to Clemson University, if you see “volcano” shaped mounds in your yard, then you likely have moles.

mole hill
Don’t make a mountain out of a mole hill.

If you see golf-ball sized exit holes in mole tunnels, then you may also have voles.

You may also want to pay attention to what may be attracting moles and voles to your yard.

What Attracts Moles In Your Yard?

Moles like to eat insects, such as grubs.  So, an infestation of grubs in your lawn may attract moles in your yard.

Moles also like to eat earthworms, which is one of their primary food sources.  Having lots of earthworms in a garden with healthy soil may also attract moles in your yard.

Moles may also show up to eat other insects, including ants or termites.  The good news is that moles will help to keep the population of these insects under control.

fire ants
Ants, termites, or other insects may attract moles to your yard.

What Attracts Voles To Your Yard?

Voles eat all different parts of plants and trees, including roots, seeds, tubers, bulbs, and bark.  As such, they are more likely to appear in a yard with lots of trees and plants (this is unfortunate for gardeners!)

However, voles are also attracted to yards with plenty of cover.  Voles do not like to feed out in the open, since they have many predators.

vole
Voles like yards with cover. Pull the weeds and cut the grass to keep them away!

A yard with plenty of tall grass and weeds will provide lots of cover.  This cover will encourage voles to come to your garden.

How Do I Get Rid Of Moles In My Yard?

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, trapping is the best way to get rid of moles in your yard.  You can certainly use humane traps and release moles elsewhere.

However, remember that moles may carry diseases.  Don’t touch them with bare hands, whether they are alive or dead.  Wash your hands after touching traps they have been in.

You can also try using a noisemaker or ultrasonic device to repel moles.  They have very sensitive hearing and sensitivity to vibrations (since they are nearly blind!), so noise and vibration may scare them away.

One final possibility is to let your cat roam free to scare moles away.  This may also work for scaring away voles.

How Do I Get Rid Of Voles In My Yard?

One of the best ways to discourage voles is to remove their cover.  That means pulling up any weeds and keeping your grass cut nice and low.

You can also remove any leaf piles and mulch that you don’t need.  This will deny them a safe haven from predators.

compost bin
Get rid of leaf piles to deny voles the cover they need to hide from predators.

To protect specific plant roots from voles, install a thin wire mesh fence (1/4 inch or less).  There will need to be 6 to 10 inches of the fence underground to protect against moles and voles.

Another option is to use snap traps (mousetraps) baited with apple, peanut butter, or oatmeal.  To encourage voles to approach the trap, put it in a cardboard box on its side.

The box provides cover so that the voles feel safe from predators.

Do Moles Climb?

Moles are built for digging, not climbing.  According to Fine Gardening, moles sometimes drown in a heavy rain due to their inability to climb to escape water.

Do Voles Climb?

According to the West Virginia University Extension, voles will climb trees or plants to feed on bark, seeds, fruits, and vegetables.

Do Moles Eat Voles?

Moles are insectivores, meaning that they eat insects.  It is unlikely that a mole would eat a vole.  However, the following predators do eat voles:

  • Bobcats
  • Coyotes
  • Falcons
  • Foxes
  • Hawks
  • Martens
  • Owls
  • Raccoons
  • Snakes
  • Weasels
fox
Foxes and many other predators eat voles.

That’s quite a long list of predators – watch out, voles!

Conclusion

Now you know the difference between moles and voles.  You also know what attracts them and how to get rid of them.

I hope you found this article helpful.  If so, please share it with someone who can use the information.

If you want to read some of my most popular posts, check out the “Best of GreenUpSide” page here.  Enjoy!

~Jonathon

jonathon.david.madore

Hi, I'm Jon. Let's solve your gardening problems, spend more time growing, and get the best harvest every year!

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