Thursday, May 26, 2016

Voles by Jo Smith

When the snow melts in the spring, you may notice tunneling throughout your lawn and damage to the bark of your trees and shrubs. This damage is likely caused by voles. 

Voles are rodents similar to deer mice but stockier with short tails. They are 4-8 inches long and vary in color from brown to gray. There are three common types of voles in the Yampa Valley:  the montane vole, the long-tailed vole and the western heather vole.  Voles eat a variety of grasses, herbs, and crops. They eat bark on trees and shrubs, especially during the winter months. Voles do not hibernate. They are active day and night, constructing surface runways and underground tunnels with many burrow entrances. During the winter, the burrows are protected by snow.

Voles have an amazing ability to reproduce. They have 3-6 young per litter and 3-12 litters per year breeding year round. Female voles become pregnant at 3 weeks of age. Vole population numbers generally peak every 3-5 years and it seems 2016 is a peak year.  Although voles are prey for foxes, coyotes, bobcats, weasels, snakes, owls and hawks, they reproduce so successfully, predators have little impact on vole populations.

Vole control and eradication is challenging. Voles are classified as non-game wildlife in Colorado and can be captured or killed if they create a nuisance or cause property damage.  Methods to prevent and control vole damage include habitat modification, exclusion, repellents, trapping and poisons. You may need to use multiple strategies to control the voles on your property.

Reducing the amount of available habitat for voles will reduce their numbers. Eliminate weed ground cover and tall grasses by frequent and close mowing. Plant short grasses that do not mat, such as buffalo grass, blue grama or dwarf fescue. Remove summer vegetation around tree trunks (2 foot radius) as voles avoid exposed areas. Damage to lawns can be reduced by close mowing in the fall and removing tall grassy cover near lawns. Crown vetch, a legume unpalatable by voles, may be used as a ground cover or border to discourage voles.

To protect trees and shrubs, wire or plastic-mesh cylinders deter voles. The barriers should project 18 inches above ground and 3-6 inches below the surface. Likewise, raised beds can be lined with ¼ inch mesh hardware cloth to eliminate tunneling into the area.

There are few effective repellents available to protect trees, shrubs and vegetable crops from voles. Little data is available on the effectiveness of these repellents. ThiramTM is manufactured and sold under various trade names. It is labeled for protecting tree seedling, shrubs, ornamental plantings, and fruit trees from voles. Capsaicin (the chemical in spicy pepper) can also be used.  Be sure to follow manufacturers’ precautions before applying these products. Hot pepper sprays are used by some gardeners to ward off voles in vegetable gardens before edible portions and/or heads begin to form.  Homemade repellent recipes are available online.

Voles can be trapped using mouse snap traps. Traps baited with peanut butter and rolled oats or Granny Smith apples work well. Place the traps perpendicular to the runways at nighttime to capture voles heading into and out of their burrows. 

Poison grain baits containing zinc phosphate are used as a short-term solution for vole control. Zinc phosphide (restricted use, most people can not acquire it) is very toxic and extreme care must be taken to avoid risks to children, pets, and non- target wildlife.

For more information about voles in Colorado, visit the Colorado State University Managing Voles in Colorado Fact Sheet (No. 6.507). Good luck vacating your voles.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Colorado Native Plant Society summer events

The Colorado Native Plant Society (CoNPS) is a non-profit organization dedicated to furthering the knowledge, appreciation and conservation of native plants and habitats of Colorado through education, stewardship and advocacy. CoNPS is a society made up of one thousand professional and amateur botanists, naturalists, and horticulturists spread throughout the state and currently divided into six chapters: Boulder, Gore Range, Plateau, Metro-Denver, Northern, Southeast, and Southwest. As part of the mission of CoNPS, the society organizes field trips, summer field seminars and other educational events. The list of CoNPS events can be found on the calendar and all of the CoNPS events that are available to anyone for free are listed below.

CoNPS Field Trip (Southeast) Withers Canyon, Comanche National Grassland
Saturday, May 21, 2016, Comanche National Grassland south of La Junta, CO

CoNPS Field Trip (Northern) Bobcat Ridge Natural Area
Tuesday, May 24, 2016, 5:30-7:30pm in Loveland, CO

CoNPS Field Trip (Southwest) Miramonte State Natural Area
Saturday, June 4, 2016, 10am-4pm, by Peggy Lyon

CoNPS Field Trip (Metro-Denver) North Table Mountain
Sunday, June 5, 2016, 8:30am-1pm, by Samantha Clark and Tom Schweich

CoNPS Field Trip (Metro-Denver) Reynolds Park, JeffCo Open Space
Monday, June 6, 2016, 9am-4pm near Conifer, CO

CoNPS Backyard Phenology: How to be a Citizen Scientist in Your Own Backyard
Thursday, June 9, 2016, 6-8pm at the Denver Botanic Gardens

CoNPS 40th Anniversary Celebration
Friday, June 10, 2016, 5pm at the Denver Audubon Nature Center

CoNPS Field Trip (Metro-Denver) Golden Gate Canyon State Park
Saturday, June 11, 2016, 8am-12pm near Golden, CO

CoNPS Field Trip (Northern) Eastern Prairie Ranchlands Flora
Saturday, June 11 and Sunday, June 12, 2016, near Wray, CO

CoNPS Field Trip (Southeast) Elk Park on Pikes Peak
Saturday, June 18, 2016, meet at 8am, Elk Park Trailhead near Cascade, CO

CoNPS Field Trip (Metro-Denver) Hayden/Green Mountain Park
Tuesday, June 21, 2016, 8am-12noon in Lakewood, CO

CoNPS Field Trip (Northern) Well Gulch Trail in Lory State Park
Wednesday, June 22, 2016, 2-6:30pm near Fort Collins, CO

CoNPS Field Trip (Southeast) Cottonwood Pass, Sawatch Range
Saturday, June 25, 2016, 9:30am top of Cottonwood Pass

CoNPS Field Trip (Metro-Denver) Staunton State Park
Wednesday, June 29, 2016, 9am-12noon, at Staunton State Park

CoNPS Rare Plant Seed Scouts Field Workshop
Saturday, July 9, 2016 in Canon City, CO

CoNPS Field Trip (Northern) Elkhorn Creek Noxious Weed Project
Saturday, July 9, 2016, 8am-4pm at Red Feather Lakes

CoNPS Field Trip (Southwest) Cunningham Gulch & lower Highland Mary Trail
Saturday, July 9, 2016, 8am-4pm, meet at Animas City Park in Durango, CO

CoNPS Field Trip (Southeast) The Crags: Birds and Botany in Pike National Forest
Saturday, July 9, 2016, 9am-1pm, near Woodland Park, CO

CoNPS Field Trip (Northern) Elkhorn Creek Weed Mitigation #1
Saturday, July 9, 2016, 8am-4pm, at the Red Feather Lakes Area

CoNPS Field Trip (Metro-Denver) High Creek Fen
Sunday, July 10, 2016, 7am-5pm, High Creek Fen, South Park, CO

CoNPS Field Trip (Gore) Peak 7 Field Trip
Saturday, July 16, 2016, 9am-5pm in Breckenridge, CO

CoNPS Field Trip (Southeast) Buffalo Creek
Saturday, July 17, 2016, meet at 8:30am-3pm Starsmore Discovery Center Colorado Springs, CO

CoNPS Field Trip (Northern) Peak 7 Treasures in Ten-Mile Range
Saturday, July 17, 2016, 9am-5pm Breckenridge, CO

CoNPS Field Trip (Metro-Denver) Hoosier Pass - West Side
Thursday, July 21, 2016, 9am-5pm in Breckenridge, CO

CoNPS Field Trip (Metro-Denver) Silver Dollar Lake
Saturday, July 23, 2016, 6:30am-3pm Silver Dollar Lake off Guanella Pass Road above Georgetown

CoNPS Field Trip (Metro-Denver): Shelf Lake
Saturday, July, 30, 2016, 6:30am-6pm, Shelf Lake Trail

CoNPS Field Trip (Northern) Intriguing Vegetation of Middle Bald Mountain
Wednesday, August 3, 2016, 8am-5pm, southwest of Red Feather Lakes

CoNPS Field Trip (Southeast) Turquoise Lake on Saturday; Independence Pass on Sunday
Saturday, August 6 and Sunday, August 7,
Turquoise Lake, Leadville, CO

CoNPS Field Trip (Southwest) Top of Lizard Head Pass (10,225 ft)
Saturday, August, 6, 2016, 8am-4pm near Telluride, CO

CoNPS Field Trip (Metro-Denver) Shrine Ridge Trail #2016
Wednesday, August 11, 2016, 8:30am-2:30pm, Vail Pass

CoNPS Field Trip (Northern) Elkhorn Creek Weed Mitigation #2
Saturday, August 13, 2016, 8am-3pm, near Red Feather Lakes

CoNPS Field Trip (Southwest) Common Lichens in Western San Juan Mountains
Sunday, August 21, 2016, 9am-3pm, meet at Animas City Park in Durango, CO

CoNPS Field Trip (Metro-Denver) Green Mountain Grasses
Saturday, August 27, 2016 9am-12noon by Jessica Smith

CoNPS Field Trip (Northern) Shambhala Mountain Center
Saturday, August 27, 2016, 9am-4pm, Red Feather Lakes, CO

CoNPS Field Trip (Northern) Elkhorn Creek Weed Mitigation #3
Saturday, September 11, 2016, 8am-3pm, near Red Feather Lakes, CO