Friday, March 12, 2010

Vole Runs

Here’s something I might have done to the lawn back in my Tonka Truck days. This is actually a run created by a vole searching for food. Normally voles don’t forage in grass this short, but a foot of snow cover provided the security needed for them to venture into the short grass areas.

Voles are plant eaters and during the winter, will spend a lot of time looking for roots, tubers, bulbs and seeds. As they creep along, exposing the root layer, they produce a track resembling a series of open topped tunnels. In the tall grass areas, winter killed vegetation provides a protective roof. The covering may give the voles a sense of security, but it’s only a minor inconvenience to hunting owls, hawks and four legged predators.

Once constructed, the runs are used as travel lanes by the voles. Several temporary nests may be constructed along the system of runs. Frequently used runs may become worn and smooth by the vole travel.

Grass and soil is pushed up to form walls along the run. A lot of grass leaves and roots were pushed aside. I don’t know if the vole was actually eating any of the grass. It may have been looking for some other plants growing in the lawn. My lawn shows a lot of plant diversity, contrary to expectations of the conventional lawn. I just finished reading “The Lawn – A History of an American Obsession” by Virginia Scott Jenkins and it gives a great account of the forces that worked for decades to convince typical urban homeowners that this type of activity in their lawns was a cause of shame and ridicule. The conditioning didn’t take on me. I don’t mind this activity at all.

Voles typically construct their nests in the taller vegetation and will venture into a lawn from that home base. I posted some photos of voles and their nests a couple of months ago if you’d like to go back and take a look.


  1. ...very cool post!! These remind me of little Hot Wheel roads I used to create as a kid too! We have voles in our yard and I always love to watch them skittering around. Unfortunately, they often end up as dinner for the local hawks (but that's good for the hawks!

  2. Hi Steve, this is a great post about voles and why they behave the way they do. I see these trails in the grass after our winters with lots of snow cover. Personally, I would rather see the vole runs rather than the mounds of dirt pushed up in the gardens where they have eaten the roots underneath. Kathy

  3. Hi, Kelly - Hawks eating voles is probably a good thing for everybody, so we don't get knee deep in voles.

    Kathy - I agree. Last year voles ate all of the Blazing Star bulbs out of one of my beds.