Vole outbreak in Beulah
By Kate Johnson
What is a vole? A vole is a rodent that is a combination of a mouse and a mole. They are small, round, ground-dwelling creatures. According to Mercer County North Dakota State Univeristy Extension Agent Craig Askim, voles had perfect living conditions this winter which could lead to an outbreak.
Voles have other common names such as meadow mice, ground moles, field mice, and meadow moles. They eat a wide variety of plants, mostly grasses, forbs, and tree bark in the winter. They will also eat snails, insects, and other animal remains.
Askim said he knew they would be active in the area, but wasn’t sure how large that activity would be. He was called out to a patron’s home to identify them and, indeed, saw heavy vole activity. Voles can be found year-round, and are less active in the winter months.
Askim explained that the winter habitat was perfect, being that it was warm up until our first snow. Being that the snow and cold wasn’t gradual, the ground never had the chance to freeze. As the area continued to get snow, the snow banks and snow drifts continued to get taller. In those snow banks is where voles made their winter homes.
The tall snow banks gave the voles installation. They were able to tunnel under the snow and into the ground to eat the grass and other roots, which kept them well-fed throughout the winter. Female voles can have one to five litters per year, with an average litter size of three to six offspring. With a 16-month life-span, a female can produce 40-50 voles in her life cycle.