Idaho growers try to curb emerging vole onslaught

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





  1. Jon Way Avatar

    “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 Avatar
    matt bullard

    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 Avatar

    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. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    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 Avatar
    Tom Page

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

  6. Bryanto Avatar

    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.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar

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


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.

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Ken Cole