Summer 2010: The season of the vole
Small rodents appearing, dying in large numbers south of BellevueBy KATHERINE WUTZ
Idaho Mountain Express
Driving south of Timmerman Hill? Look out for crossing voles.
Motorists driving along state Highway 75 and U.S. Highway 20 in southern Blaine County have reported an unusually large number of vole casualties on and along the roads.
Lauren Hunter, an extension educator with the University of Idaho, said that the number of voles has been especially high this year, even compared with last year's substantial numbers.
Voles—small burrowing rodents—have been reported overrunning fields and gardens, she said. Gary Wright, who works for the Shoshone Field Office of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, said there have been numerous reports of a major vole problem in the area.
Hunter said that voles tend to follow a three- to five-year population cycle, sometimes increasing 100-fold in a single year. The cycle is most likely due to resource limitation and other factors, according to Gary Witmer of the National Wildlife Research Center in Fort Collins, Colo.
Populations are normally held in check by natural predators such as foxes, owls and hawks. However, Hunter said she has had reports that foxes have not been as active or as visible as they normally are.
Hunter said that no official control actions have been waged on the voles. Private landowners might be using zinc phosphide, a pesticide, to control the vole population.
Hunter advised caution to those who may find the use of this chemical an appealing method for dealing with the pests, as the chemical can also harm cats, dogs and horses.