Q & A: Critters

deerGot a gardening question? Ask Susan! What follows are reader questions. Each time a new one comes in, I’ll add it to the top. To ask a question, drop me a note at Susan@susansinthegarden.com.

Q: What to do about voles? I cannot use poison because of my dog. I have tried the water from the hose, but I am on a well. I do use hardware cloth on the bottom of all my raised beds. The voles are in my grass and perennial strips along the fence in the plain dirt. In fact, I was walking on a pathway next to some of my raised beds last week on top of the bark which is on top of the black weed blocking cloth.  I felt a raised area so I moved the bark away and removed about 8 staples from the cloth and found that a vole had come up into the bottom of the cloth with her/her dirt pile.  I cannot have voles coming up into stapled walkways with weed block and constantly be in a repair mode! Help! SS, Spokane

A: As I read your description, I think you have gophers although maybe some voles thrown in, too (lucky you). Voles do not make mounds of soil, gophers do. Gophers mostly live underground, tunneling through the soil and pushing the soil up to the surface to make their burrows. Voles do dig into the ground but you’ll only see a neat, round hole… no soil mound. I’m with you: don’t use poison bait! For one thing, if a dog or a hawk ate the dead or dying gopher or mole, those poisons will kill them as well. The best way to get rid of gophers is to use a trap. Unfortunately, using body-gripping traps in the state of Washington is illegal. But there is one thing you can try that I’ve had good luck with. There are repellents on the market that are made from ground up corn cobs that have been impregnated with castor-oil. Gophers and voles do not like the smell or taste of it at all! You can find these products at NW Seed & Pet. One of the brands I’m familiar with is MoleMax (no, we don’t have moles over here but it works on them, too). I think Mole Chaser is another brand. You sprinkle it on the ground and it permeates the soil. It should go under the weed-blocking fabric, esp. with a bit of watering or when it rains. Read the label instructions. It lasts for about 3 months.