Population explosion of voles in the Magic Valley

The area around Shoshone has been experiencing a population explosion of voles. I saw plenty of them at Silver Creek Preserve last weekend. It also seemed that there were plenty of harriers, red tailed hawks, and short eared owls around too.

Idaho growers try to curb emerging vole onslaught.
Idaho Statesman

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Ken Cole

Ken Cole is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is the interim Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project. We do not accept unsolicited “guest” authors or advertising.

7 Responses to Idaho growers try to curb emerging vole onslaught

  1. Jon Way says:

    “What can we really do about it?” he asked. “If anyone has suggestions, we’d like to hear them.”

    Why bother to allow natural predators (in addition to raptors mentioned) to live on their land when they could really do something. Instead, there is an archaic year-round season on them and I bet WS kills them even without documented losses – just to kill them and unscientifically “prevent future losses”. Maybe with natural densities of coyotes, this wouldn’t happen?

  2. matt bullard says:

    Interesting. We’ve noticed lots of voles here in the foothills of Boise. I’d never actually seen them before, just their burrows. I’ve probably seen 10 actually on the trails while biking and running. I’m sure the owls, hawks, and snakes are loving it. And I’m sure the company that goes around pumping propane in their burrows and exploding them “humanely” is having a fine summer…

  3. Jeff says:

    Maybe they need a few more dogs, wild or domestic, my dogs kill and eat voles in the field behind my house by the dozen. In the spring and winter when they huddle in groups for warmth and the grass is matted down from winter snow is when they are most exposed. They are much less successful vole hunting in the summer when the grass is tall and thick. They look remarkably similar to a domestic hamster. Right after our snow melt in the spring raptors arrive and hunt our field with great success.

  4. About ten years ago there was a similar vole population explosion in the same area (Shoshone). The following spring I saw voles sitting at the mouth of their burrows sneezing and shivering and they soon all disappeared. Some sort of plague- like illness wiped them out and will do so again.

  5. Tom Page says:

    Hmmm….sounds like a good year to go mouse (vole) fishing. I’ve seen some interesting “fly” patterns.

  6. Bryanto says:

    Voles,which are related to lemmings,have a natural population cycle that peaks about every 4 or 5 years. Some peaks are higher than other because of local conditions,such as moisture etc. There is nothing strange or unusual about this,it has been going on for millennia. In a year or two,predators and disease will cause a population crash,and voles will be scarce for a few years before rebuilding and then peaking again. Sounds like that part of Idaho will be a good place to look for raptors this winter since migrating and wintering raptors will key in on the areas with highest populations. This is how natural systems work,an ebb and flow. The same thing happens with hares and lynx and elk and wolves. Its not a catastrophe, its what happens in a complex dynamic system. But it’s not compatible with a stagnant monoculture that the agricultural industry wants. Its called Life,get over it.

    • Good point, Bryanto. . . I especially like your point “it’s not compatible with a stagnant monoculture that the agricultural industry wants.”


August 2010


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey