What Makes Raised Tunnels Throughout My Landscape?

— Written By and last updated by Cindy Nance

Two possibilities come to mind when someone asks this question. They are small furry pests often referred to as moles and voles. These animals can tunnel all around your plants and even in your lawn. They are not completely bad for our landscapes; in fact they do have several positive benefits.

A vole is a small like rodent that lives around shrubbery and field type habitats. In North Carolina we have two types of voles that cause the most damage:  the pine and meadow voles, with the meadow vole being the largest in size. Both have similar characteristics including the eyes and ears. You can also observe their tail length to determine which one you have because the pine vole has a tail the same length as it’s hind foot, while the meadow vole has a tail twice the length of it’s hind foot. Voles are gray to brown in color, and measure anywhere from three to five inches in length. Voles may cause damage throughout your landscape by feeding on flower bulbs, girdling the stems of woody plants, and gnawing on roots. Voles are classified as pests once they enter horticultural areas. Voles may be trapped, however you must first determine whether the animal is a vole or mole.

We have three different types of moles in North Carolina, which are the eastern mole, the hairy-tailed mole, and the star-nosed mole. All three species are similar in appearance. Moles have a long tapered snout, no visible ears, and very small eyes. Moles have large front claw like feet used for digging there way underground. Moles are dark gray to black in color and five to eight inches in length. They feed on subterranean insects such as earthworms, white grubs, ants, and beetles. Moles can tunnel up to fifteen feet per hour. They dig tunnels while searching for food and at the same time can harm the root systems of young plants.

The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) classifies moles as wild, non-game animals. In other words, you cannot trap or kill a mole without receiving a permit from the NCWRC because there are several species that are near extinction and are now protected by the NCWRC.

Reminder:  If you would like to learn more about Horticultural related topics, then join the “Sampson County Friends of Horticulture.” This program offers monthly “How To” Horticultural Seminars. Please call (910) 592-7161 for more information. Please call the Sampson County Cooperative Extension Center at (910) 592-7161 with your horticultural questions and to register for any upcoming events. Be sure to check out the Ask An Expert Widget at sampson.ces.ncsu.edu for any questions you may have.