Now I have a vole in the house
April 30, 2022 6:20 PM   Subscribe

This past fall I shared the drama of my mouse infestation with you (too exasperated to link, doesn't matter anyway). Now I have a vole. Internet says he doesn't want to be in my house but won't be easy to trap and to try to guide him outside with a corridor of boxes. WTF. He is everywhere all at once and there aren't enough boxes in the world. And indeed he does not care about my mousetraps. HELP. I can't leave the door open for him because it's too cold out.
posted by HotToddy to Home & Garden (28 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I have had general success with this approach: figure out what kind of enclosure he would want to hide in - I'm thinking something with a long tunnel, dark, small, and very insulated from sound. Maybe slightly cool (maybe packed earth in the bottom). Make something like that, but portable, and with an entrance totally flush with the ground - maybe a covered/tunnel entrance. It's probably going to be a moderately (or even large) sized box with a lot of stuff in it to make it feel really safe to a vole, with the top and sides taped closed, with a perfectly sized hole in the middle of the bottom edge of one of the sides.

Basically, the vole should want to go in there because it will look like the safest place in the whole house.

Make sure the box is completely sealed in all other places. No light coming in through the corners, no bottom composed only of folded flaps. Tape it shut.

Also have a folded piece of cardboard ready to cover to fit snugly over the hole later.

Make it so that this will fit snugly along a wall (if there's e.g. baseboard molding, make a flap, on the edge of the side with the hole, that fits the profile of the baseboard and wall). The idea is to sort of herd the vole gently toward the little mini corner formed by your box/safe haven and a wall.

Bonus points if you can also make it easy to quietly open the entire top panel later, to make sure the vole leaves when you want.

Put some vole food in the box (dead insects? Nuts? I don't know what voles eat - look it up :)

Predict a likely route for your vole. Where along that route is a stretch of unencumbered wall, where you will be able to position the box and then, when it's time, go smoothly up to the box and seal it? Set up your vole-appealing box there, make it flush against the wall so that your vole won't just squeeze past it.

Now make the vole just uncomfortable enough that it starts looking for a safer, quieter place to be. Don't panic the vole or he/she/it/they won't even see the box, but sort of make it a little uneasy in the other spaces it's hiding so that it goes out looking for something safer.

I've not trapped a vole since I've been an adult, but this approach has worked with a squirrel, a lizard that I can remember, and probably other animals.

The basic principle is to make the trap itself visible and attractive/comfortable, rather than depending on the animal not noticing it.

Maybe someone else will have a better idea, but it's kind of fun to make a cozy animal home for temporary use. It's also waaaay less stressful for the animal than other methods.

Once you've caught the vole, just cover the hole and take the whole thing outside. Set it down gently, uncover the hole, and leave it alone for a while.
posted by amtho at 7:22 PM on April 30 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Hmm. I like where you're going with this. He loves going under the recliner, under the dog crate, under the sofa, etc. so maybe I make the box look like something safe to go under rather than in. And then set it right next to the recliner, and then get him to run for cover.

He's terribly cute. If he were house trained and not a vector for bad things and not quite so startling with his sudden appearances I would find him charming to live with, truly. He's adorably tiny and round. And my useless dog doesn't even notice him.
posted by HotToddy at 7:30 PM on April 30 [13 favorites]

If you can put snap traps along a path the vole is likely to travel you may be able to catch it even if it isn't interested in the bait. The things it likes to go under are places to try placing traps. The recommended baits for voles seem to be a peanut butter/oats mixture or apples. You could also try a live trap baited with peanut butter, oats and apples. The box idea above sounds good too. Or you can just reassure yourself that this one vole is not likely to be the start of a long-lasting vole infestation and put up with it until it disappears. It will probably be around for a fairly short time and then either die or find its way back outside.
posted by Redstart at 7:35 PM on April 30

Do you have a box that would fit exactly under the couch against the back wall? I bet he'd really love that. The trick would be to make sure you could remove it easily enough not to jar him.

You could also cut down an existing box to fit this space.
posted by amtho at 7:36 PM on April 30

On the subject of voles (though this is no help towards relocating yours so may be removed by mods): "Finding a vole gives archaeologists the ability to date sites that are unable to utilise radiocarbon dating due to their significant age." (from
posted by anadem at 7:46 PM on April 30 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: I request the mods to leave this, it is cool vole trivia and who doesn't like that?

Re: putting traps along a path--I know this is the advice for mice and believe me I have been trying it for two days now but this vole does not travel along walls or in any kind of a predictable path except that when startled he dives for the recliner, dog crate, sofa, or refrigerator. I tried putting a trap under the recliner and then got him to go under there but he was able to pick steel cut oats out of the peanut butter without triggering it. I think he might be too wee to trigger the trap unless he really goes at it.
posted by HotToddy at 8:36 PM on April 30 [3 favorites]

If you really want to go all out to try to get him, you could get enough snap traps to put them in a line just under the whole edge of the recliner so he basically has to run into one if he goes under there. I also like the idea of a box big enough to fill the whole space under one of the things he hides under, so when he runs under there he's going into the box and then once you know he's in there you could stuff a blanket or towels or something into the box entrance to keep him from running out, then pull out the box and carry it outside. If you have the right size box that seems like a pretty promising idea.
posted by Redstart at 8:55 PM on April 30

Response by poster: Also, just for the sake of complete reporting, I got him to go into a live trap but he didn't make the turn to go into the chamber--he just walked into the entrance tunnel and out the other end. Repeatedly. I had peanut butter in there for bait.
posted by HotToddy at 9:01 PM on April 30 [2 favorites]

I know the kind of catch-and-release trap you're talking about, but have you tried one that is just a straight tube with a little plate that triggers the entrance to close once the vole steps on it? I have a type called the 'trip trap', which doesn't seem to be sold outside the UK, but there are many similar things available. You're using the correct bait - rodents love peanut butter, maybe spread it on a little piece of apple.
posted by essexjan at 12:36 AM on May 1

I’ve caught a couple of voles in snap mousetraps, using peanut butter as bait - I was expecting to catch mice, the usual victims, but apparently we had voles too! Anyway, just to say that it is possible for them to trip those traditional traps, if you don’t mind killing them.
posted by fabius at 5:22 AM on May 1

I had some success trapping mice in Mice Cubes. Maybe make a longer cardboard entry. Use one upside down so the swinging door is flat, put food in, teach it to trust the device, then put it in place to engage the door.
posted by theora55 at 6:55 AM on May 1

Those mice cubes look kind of cool. If you cover them with something so the inside is dark, they might work better.
posted by amtho at 8:34 AM on May 1

And don't forget to check them! Every day!
posted by amtho at 8:34 AM on May 1

Response by poster: Good lord. I had to go out first thing this morning before I could mess around with cardboard boxes, but I saw him investigating my dog's food dispensing toy so I crated the dog and set up a trap with peanut butter and oats right near the toy. Come home and the trap is licked clean, still set. Much respect, and I really don't want to kill him anyway.

I'm going to take a nap and then start deploying cardboard boxes.
posted by HotToddy at 1:13 PM on May 1 [1 favorite]

Ugh I'm invested. I hope you don't have to hurt little Davey!
posted by amtho at 1:29 PM on May 1 [2 favorites]

I'm not sure if this will help considering the size difference, but in case it does... Last fall, I was able to catch a very smart red squirrel in a live trap by way of some additional weight. The issue was that the squirrel was too light to set off the weight panel by itself, so after a few days of sprinkling tasty noms in the trap to make it seem safe, I added a block of wood over the trigger panel. It wasn't quite enough weight to trigger the trap itself, just enough that adding the squirrel weight would.
posted by past unusual at 1:54 PM on May 1

Response by poster: HAHAHAHA okay after a very long nap I went out to the garage and got a closed-up cardboard box and cut a narrow opening all along the bottom edge to mimic the opening under the recliner. I put some bread crumbs, steel cut oats, and crumbled up roasted peanuts in there and set it next to the recliner. My plan was to let him get used to going in there for a day, then stuff towels under the recliner edges so when he reflexively ran for the recliner he would go in the box instead and I could then whisk it up and slap it closed.

Then I went to feed my dog. He has this Bob-a-Lot food dispensing toy. Usually I just blearily take the cap off and fill it but this time I happened to glance at the opening where the food comes out and saw something fuzzy. There's a little sliding door that lets you adjust the size of the opening and just before sliding it open further to look, I had an uncharacteristic flash of prudence and took it outside.

With my dog watching intently, I opened the door and. . . nothing. Peered inside, saw nothing but some big chunks of kibble glommed together. Opened the slider in the top opening, peered in there, nothing. Banged it on the deck and SURPRISE!!! like a fuzzy gray Flying Wallenda he came sailing up and out and across the yard, landing in the periwinkle! My dog, vicious predator that he is, went straight for the kibble crumbs that got knocked out.

So yay! I'm really happy that I didn't kill him and really, really happy that he didn't die in there, for his sake and mine. He must be thirsty. Thanks everyone for your help!
posted by HotToddy at 4:51 PM on May 1 [22 favorites]

Well, that's one way to do it :) Congratulations! That was some quick thinking!
posted by amtho at 7:15 PM on May 1

Just looked at the toy more carefully. That's very impressive.

I guess the best vole trap was the one you had with you the whole time.
posted by amtho at 7:19 PM on May 1 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Probably he wasn't even trapped in there--if he got in, he could get out, right? I must have just lucked out by picking it up while he was inside. Whatever! Happy result, other than I had to throw the toy away because there's no way to wash inside it. I had a duplicate at my partner's house though so not a tragedy.
posted by HotToddy at 7:55 PM on May 1 [1 favorite]

This post and follow-ups was an utter delight. I'm glad it worked out for you. And I agree, voles are incredibly cute.
posted by purple_bird at 11:22 AM on May 2

Response by poster: HE'S BACK.
posted by HotToddy at 5:37 PM on May 2 [4 favorites]

I'm still following this thread.

I hope you kept your special box!
posted by amtho at 5:59 PM on May 2

Response by poster: Omg, I actually got him in the live trap this time. We just got back from driving him three miles away to a nice wheat field.

The bad news: I saw another one in the bathroom. How is this even possible. A vole inside a house is supposed to be a rare event! I'm beyond positive it was a vole, too. And of all the luck, I just gave up drinking for perimenopause.
posted by HotToddy at 8:40 PM on May 2 [1 favorite]

You, my friend, might want to audit your house for small holes around e.g. plumbing pipes, water heater overflow valve, etc.

OR get a cat. Most cats will be less sanguine about voles than your dog.

The good news: you are quickly becoming a master volecatcher.

A cat might be a great consolation in your too-sober years.
posted by amtho at 8:57 PM on May 2

Yeah… we had voles in our house about 13-14 years ago. We discovered they were in the yard because of the vole tunnels they made in the grass. We realized they were in the house because our cats suddenly spent A LOT of time in the basement. Any that made it inside didn’t make it out again.
posted by caution live frogs at 5:09 AM on May 4

We dispose of about twenty voles a year in our cabin (this is Sweden, so maybe a totally different variety?), mainly in the kitchen area. So whoever says they don't like being inside needs to meet our local mischief. They were pretty well established on the property before we moved in and while they are cute they do make a mess and destroy things, and the ground around the house is something of a walking hazard due to all the holes and tunnels. We've sealed up numerous routes of ingress but somehow they still manage to get in. Poison has been our most successful route, but that's illegal for regular folks to use now. Sprung rat traps are too big, and mouse traps may not get them at first. We've come across several that have been tripped but from which the vole has escaped. Once I found a vole caught in a trap that already had another trap fixed around its neck. There's a teeter-totter for a bucket that works ok, but we need a big tall bucket (like 500mm high?) to ensure they don't get out again. I've gotten a couple in a sort of tricky steel contraption that allows them in but not out again. I'm kind of at wit's end with these things. I considered getting a bunch of dry ice to throw in their burrows under the house to try to asphyxiate them but that seems costly and I'd rather not have a hundred rotting rodent carcasses under the house.
I'll be trying a new contraption this summer: it's loaded with 9mm blanks that are triggered by movement under the ground and is supposed to work by shockwave. Who knows how effective this will be, it certainly seems a bit over the top. And probably not a great indoor solution.
posted by St. Oops at 7:13 AM on May 4 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Ha, just saw this made the sidebar! All these years and this is my claim to fame.
posted by HotToddy at 10:23 AM on May 4 [9 favorites]

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