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How to Tell the Difference Between Moles, Voles and Gophers

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Moles, voles and gophers can all be sources of major lawn destruction, but they're all their own entirely distinct critters. If you're unsure as to which type of animal is putting a damper on your formerly meticulous yard, a few handy hints might help you figure out who specifically is responsible. Knowing what they look like also helps.

Identifying Moles

Moles (family Talpidae) are typically gray, black, gold or deep brown in coloration. Their smooth coats sometimes feature white markings, as well. They generally grow to lengths of 6 to 8 inches. Standout physical features of moles include miniscule eyes and ears, wide front feet and angular snouts. They make their homes underground, searching for food by digging around in soil. Their favorite foods include earthworms, snails, beetles, ants and centipedes. They leave evidence of their hungry digging in the form of prominent and unsightly dirt hills on landscapes. They also are extremely destructive to plants, specifically their roots.

Identifying Voles

Voles (family Cricetidae) look nothing like moles, as they're actually rodents. Voles are furry animals that usually have grayish-brown coats. Their stocky physiques are usually between 4 and 10 inches in length, which also takes their tails into consideration. They have notably short limbs. Like moles, voles are also equipped with extremely small eyes and ears that are hard to make out amidst their coats. Vole damage in yards is often characterized by the lengthy pathways they establish. These pathways are usually made of plants, often bits of grass. Voles also frequently make shallow holes in the ground. Unlike moles, voles don't create soil masses on the surfaces of landscapes. Vole menu plans typically consist of seeds, bugs, tree bark and plants. They can be highly bothersome to trees, often tearing through the bark all the way around them.

Identifying Pocket Gophers

Pocket gophers (family Geomyidae) also have reputations as nuisances to yards. Like voles, pocket gophers are rodents. Pocket gophers are generally between 7 and 12 inches long, including their tails. Their short coats typically are a lackluster brown shade, although exceptions do exist. Some of them have fur that's close to white or black. Pocket gophers have squat bodies and are reminiscent of rats visually, with beady eyes. They have yellow teeth that are constantly on display, as their mouths shut behind them. If a pocket gopher is present in your yard, you might notice soil heaps that have diameters between 18 inches and 2 feet. The heaps are often 6 feet tall. Pocket gophers frequently munch on agricultural crops, a big contributing factor to their pesky public images.

Don't Worry About Shrews

While moles, voles and gophers undeniably are major garden pests, don't panic if you ever see a shrew (family Soricidae) on your property. These brown or gray creatures are actually often positive additions to landscapes, rather than pests. They spend most of their time doing away with frustrating insects, their dietary staple. Shrews also feed on lots of mice.