DRIGGS — One thing became clear even as the snow was melting this spring: This is going to be a banner year for voles.
For those new to THE Teton Valley, voles are not your friend if you want to grow almost anything in your lawn or garden. Sure, they look furry, fat, and cute. They don’t have those long bald tails like rats and mice, but little stubby cute ones like their cousin, your pet hamster. How could there be anything evil in such a cute little critter?
You’ll find out when your newly planted trees pull up out of the ground like snow sticks, separated from their roots by the hungry little cuties.
Some years, like this year, we have way too many voles; others aren’t so bad. Can we blame voles on the weatherman? Does weather play a part in whether or not we have a vole population explosion, or is it natural population cycles that have nothing to do with the weather?
Different people have different theories on that.
Some studies show the same cycles of population growth and decline regardless of weather. But they may just be trying to protect the weatherman from blame. It’s hard not to believe that our deep, long-lasting snow cover this year didn’t play at least some part in the population increase.
Voles overwinter down under the snow which protects them from much colder temperatures above and from hungry vole-eating predators like raptors and cats.
The snow cover would have given the voles plenty of time to reproduce in relative safety this year. Furthermore, the hard, crusty snow that we had so often (remember the sun and moon reflecting off that glossy surface?) would have provided an even stronger roof over their cute little heads as they plotted and planned the destruction of your crops.
And, as the snow melted from the ground up, they would have had plenty of space down under that crust to deploy and dig in underground to start their dirty work.
Some have suggested that a warming climate helps voles out by making it easier for them to survive the winter.
So whether it’s the weather or something else, brace for a big vole year and be nice to your cat. If your cat actually catches voles for you, be sure to get the right medicine from your vet to protect it from the parasites these cute little voles bring into your yard with them.