As the snow melted over the last few weeks, several narrow meandering pathways appeared in my lawn. What produced them? Will the grass recover?
The runways in the lawn were likely caused by the meadow vole. The meadow vole is a small, brown, mouse-like animal. Though common in Iowa, the meadow vole is secretive and seldom seen by most individuals.
Voles are herbivores. They feed on grasses and other herbaceous plants. They also eat seeds, berries, tubers, and bulbs. In winter, meadow voles may eat the bark of small trees and shrubs.
Meadow voles usually don’t cause serious harm to lawns. Damaged areas usually recover on their own within a few weeks. Reseeding may be necessary when damage is severe.
In lawns, vole populations can be kept to a minimum with regular mowing. Mow Kentucky bluegrass lawns at a height of 2½ to 3½ inches. Continue to mow the lawn until the grass stops growing in fall (typically early November in Iowa). Cut or destroy tall weeds adjacent to lawns and gardens to reduce food resources and cover.
Damage to young trees and shrubs can be prevented by placing one-quarter-inch hardware cloth cylinders around plants. Bury the bottom 2 to 3 inches of the hardware cloth in the soil to prevent voles from burrowing under the cylinders. When mulching, keep wood mulches at least 6 inches from the trunks of small trees.