Something small is eating my plants. How can I tell if it is voles, gophers, or moles?
If the animal is eating your plants you can eliminate moles. Moles are carnivores; earthworms being one of their favorite foods. Most of their damage comes when they tunnel close to the surface of the ground, pushing young plants out of the soil.
Gophers and voles both eat plants, but in different ways. Gophers spend most of their time tunneling underground, eating plant roots and often pulling entire plants down into their tunnels. Gophers have large front teeth and short, skinny tails. They push the soil excavated from their tunnels into low mounds. Gophers are dificult to trap, and everyone seems to have a different method of success or failure.
Voles look like mice (they are often called meadow mice), but cuter, with furry ears and medium sized tail. They like to clip runways through grass and other vegetation to provide cover from predators. They may or may not eat the clippings. Often the plants clipped are mowed very short, but don't die( in contrast to gophers) They like to eat fresh vegetation, fruit, and seeds. They feed day and night, and can climb a bit, but usually stay on the ground. One of their worst behaviors is to tunnel on the ground under snow packs, girdling and eventuallly killing young trees and shrubs. They build plant filled nests in old gopher tunnels or tunnels of their own making and under boards or wood piles. The best controls for voles and gophers are natural predators. Snakes ( we have gopher snakes, racers), owls, hawks, weasels are great if you are lucky enough to have them. Cats work as vole predators, but in our opinion do too much damage to song birds and other predators like snakes. If you must trap voles, a bait of apple bits,oatmeal, and peanut butter works well. We used it in mouse sized Hav-a-Hart type traps. Good Luck.