Moles vs. Voles: Knowing the Difference

As gardeners and lawn caretakers, we all hope for a lush and healthy landscape. However, when mysterious critters start leaving trails and holes in our lawns, it can be frustrating and confusing. While many people use the terms ‘moles’ and ‘voles’ interchangeably, these two animals are actually quite different and require different approaches for prevention and control. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at moles and voles, including how to identify them, the damage they can do to lawns and gardens, and the best ways to keep them from wreaking havoc in our outdoor spaces. So, let’s dive in and learn how to distinguish between these pesky creatures!


Moles are fascinating creatures that are often misunderstood by homeowners. While they may seem harmless, moles can cause significant damage to lawns and gardens if left unchecked. Identifying the presence of moles in your yard is crucial to preventing and controlling the damage they can cause. In this section, we will explore the physical characteristics of moles, the damage they do to lawns and gardens, and effective prevention and control methods. To learn more about moles and their behavior, check out our article on the ways moles dig tunnels and cause damage.


One of the first steps in dealing with lawn and garden damage is identifying the type of pest causing the damage. In the case of moles and voles, there are some key differences in their physical features and behavior that can help with identification.

Moles are small mammals that are adapted to living underground. They have cylindrical bodies, small eyes, and hairless noses that are used for sensing prey. Their front feet are large and scoop-shaped, which allows them to tunnel through soil quickly. Moles have a dense, velvety fur that is typically gray, brown, or black in color.

Voles, on the other hand, are small rodents that have a more mouse-like appearance. They have rounder bodies and ears that are more visible than those of moles. Their fur is also denser than that of moles, but it is typically brown or reddish-brown in color. Voles have relatively short tails and small feet that are not specialized for digging.

Feature Moles Voles
Physical Appearance Cylindrical bodies, small eyes, hairless noses, large scoop-shaped front feet, dense velvety fur Rounder bodies, visible ears, dense fur (brown or reddish-brown), short tails, small feet
Habitat Underground tunnels, often near soil surface Grasslands, fields, meadows, and agricultural areas
Diet Insects, earthworms, grubs, and other soil-dwelling organisms Plants, seeds, and bark

By carefully examining the physical features and behavior of the pest in question, homeowners can gain a better understanding of whether they are dealing with moles or voles. With this information, they can take appropriate steps to prevent and control damage to their lawns and gardens.

Damage to Lawns and Gardens

Moles and voles are small animals that can cause significant damage to lawns and gardens. When it comes to damage to lawns and gardens, moles can be quite destructive. Moles burrow through the soil, and their tunnels can cause the ground to become soft and uneven.

  • Molehills: One common sign of a mole infestation is the presence of molehills. These small mounds of soil are created as moles dig their tunnels.
  • Exposed roots: Moles can also uproot plants and expose their roots to the air, causing them to wither and die.
  • Burrow holes: Moles’ burrow holes can also create a tripping hazard for people and pets walking across the lawn or garden.

It can be challenging to repair the damage caused by moles to lawns and gardens. One must take early action to minimize the damage done by moles. Repairing a heavily damaged area is problematic and sometimes calls for expert help. Preventative measures, such as planting mole-resistant plants, can also be helpful. For some natural remedies, click here. For tips and tricks on preventing mole damage, click here. If you need to repair the damage done by moles, it’s essential to follow the dos and don’ts. These can be found at this page.

Prevention and Control

To prevent and control moles in your lawn or garden, there are several steps you can take:

  • Remove their food source – grubs and insects – by applying insecticide to your lawn in the spring or fall.
  • Install a physical barrier like wire mesh or hardware cloth around flower beds and other vulnerable areas.
  • Set up barriers around the perimeter of your lawn by burying wire mesh or plastic barriers at least 1-2 feet deep.
  • Plant bulbs in containers above ground or in baskets covered with wire mesh.
  • Place castor oil-based mole repellent granules around the perimeter of your lawn as a natural deterrent.
  • Set up traps or use sonic repellers, if necessary. For early action, visit /early-action-moles-damage/.

On the other hand, to prevent and control voles, follow these steps:

  • Remove their food source, which is plant roots and bark, by keeping your lawn or garden tidy and free of debris.
  • Use protective barriers around the base of trees and shrubs.
  • Install hardware cloth around your garden to prevent voles from burrowing underneath.
  • Set up snap traps or use repellent sprays, if necessary.

For moles, you can also use the best mole repellent tailored for your garden. To learn more about the available options, check out /best-mole-repellent-garden/. However, for both moles and voles, prevention and early action is key in avoiding costly damages to your lawn and garden.


As we move on to the next rodent in our comparison, it can be easy to mistake voles for moles due to their similar-sounding names. However, voles are quite different from their underground-dwelling counterparts, and can cause just as much damage to lawns and gardens. Let’s take a closer look at the identification, damage, prevention, and control of voles in your yard. (To read more about moles and their damage, check out our previous article on moles and their impact on lawns and gardens.)


To properly identify moles and voles, it’s important to know their distinct physical characteristics:


  • Moles have cylindrical bodies, short legs, and pointed muzzles.
  • They have velvety fur that is usually grey or brown in color.
  • Their eyes and ears are small and hidden in their fur, making them nearly impossible to see.
  • They have large, paddle-like front feet with sharp claws that they use for digging.
  • Their hind feet are small and narrow.


  • Voles have rounded bodies, short legs, and blunt muzzles.
  • They have dense, coarse fur that can be gray, brown, or reddish-brown in color.
  • Their eyes and ears are larger and more prominent than a mole’s.
  • They have short claws and rounded feet that are not well-suited for digging.
  • Their tails are short and furry.

By understanding these key differences in physical appearance, homeowners can better determine which type of animal is invading their lawn or garden and take the appropriate measures to prevent and control damage.

Damage to Lawns and Gardens

Moles and voles are both destructive in their own way, causing damage to lawns and gardens that can be frustrating for homeowners. Moles primarily feed on insects like earthworms, grubs, and other soil-dwelling creatures, while voles typically feed on plant roots and tubers. This difference in diet leads to different types of damage to lawns and gardens.

Damage caused by moles includes:

  • Mounds of raised soil: Moles create tunnels and push up soil, resulting in unsightly dirt mounds on lawns and gardens.
  • Damaged roots: As moles tunnel through the soil, they can damage the roots of plants, causing them to die or wilt.
  • Uneven ground: Moles create a network of tunnels underground, which can cause the ground to become uneven and difficult to walk or mow on.

On the other hand, damage caused by voles includes:

  • Chewed plants: Voles gnaw on the roots, stems, and bark of plants, leading to wilting, stunted growth, and eventually death.
  • Burrow holes: Voles dig shallow burrows in lawns and gardens, which can create trip hazards and damage lawn mowers.
  • Unsightly trails: As voles move around, they create visible trails through the grass or garden beds, which can be unsightly and difficult to remove.

It is important to be able to distinguish between the damage caused by moles and voles because the methods for prevention and control differ.

Prevention and Control

Preventing and controlling both moles and voles from damaging your lawn and garden requires different approaches. Here are some effective methods for preventing and controling them:


  • Eliminate their food source: Since moles feed mainly on insects and grubs, reducing their food source can discourage them from staying in your lawn. Use insecticides or biological control methods to get rid of underground insects.
  • Modify your lawn: Moles prefer soft soil, so keeping your lawn well-compacted will make it less favorable for them. You can also plant taller grasses or install a gravel barrier around the perimeter of your lawn to deter them.
  • Use traps: There are many types of mole traps available, including scissor traps, harpoon traps, and choker loop traps. Be sure to follow the instructions carefully when setting them up.
  • Employ sonic devices: Some sonic devices emit sound waves that are unpleasant to moles and may drive them away from your property.


  • Remove cover: Voles prefer to remain hidden, so removing excess plant cover can make your lawn less attractive to them. Rake up leaf litter and trim low-lying branches to reduce their hiding spots.
  • Eliminate food sources: Voles feed mainly on plant roots and bulbs, so removing any excess vegetation in your lawn can reduce their food sources.
  • Use repellents: There are many commercial repellents available that use odors, tastes, or ultrasonic sound waves to drive voles away.
  • Consider using traps: Live traps can be an effective way of capturing voles, but they must be checked and emptied regularly to avoid harm to the animals.

Remember, it can be difficult to completely eliminate moles and voles from your lawn and garden, but by using a combination of preventative methods and control techniques, you can reduce their impact and maintain the health and beauty of your outdoor space.


After examining the differences between moles and voles, it’s clear that both can cause significant damage to lawns and gardens. While moles are primarily diggers that create unsightly mounds, voles are herbivores that can devour entire plants and cause major damage to root systems. The good news is that there are preventative measures and control methods for both pests.

To protect your lawn from moles, it’s important to regularly inspect and treat for grubs and other insects that they feed on. Additionally, installing barriers or underground fencing can prevent them from accessing specific areas of your yard. Trapping and removal is also effective, but may require the help of a professional.

When it comes to voles, keeping vegetation trimmed and clearing out any debris or brush piles can discourage their presence. Fencing and trapping can also be effective in controlling their population. It’s important to note that poisons should not be used to control these rodents as they can pose a threat to other animals and even children.

In conclusion, while moles and voles can be a nuisance to homeowners and gardeners, there are ways to prevent and control their damage. By properly identifying the pest and implementing the appropriate prevention and control methods, you can keep your lawn and garden looking healthy and beautiful.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know if I have moles or voles damaging my lawn?

One way to tell is by inspecting the damage. Moles will create raised ridges or tunnels in the ground, whereas voles will create runways on the surface.

How do moles and voles differ in habits and behavior?

Moles spend most of their time underground, digging tunnels and searching for food. Voles, on the other hand, are active above ground and like to eat plants.

Can moles and voles damage plants in addition to lawns?

Yes, voles are known to gnaw on the roots and bark of trees and shrubs, while moles may accidentally harm plant roots while tunneling.

What kind of damage can moles do to my lawn?

Moles can create unsightly raised ridges or tunnels in the grass, which can make it difficult to mow and may damage the roots of the grass.

What kind of damage can voles do to my garden?

Voles can eat the roots, bulbs, and bark of plants, and may even girdle fruit trees.

Are moles and voles harmful to humans?

No, moles and voles are not harmful to humans. However, if you are bitten by a vole, you should seek medical attention immediately.

What are some natural ways to control moles and voles?

Some natural remedies include using castor oil, planting daffodils or garlic, and using predator urine to deter moles and voles.

What are some humane ways to trap moles and voles?

Live traps can be used to capture moles and voles, and then release them in a nearby field or woods.

Can I use poison to control moles and voles?

While poisons are available to control moles and voles, they may also harm beneficial wildlife and pets, and should be used with caution.

Should I consult a professional for mole or vole control?

If you are unsure about how to control moles or voles, or if the infestation is severe, it is recommended to consult a pest control professional for assistance.