Voles are among the less talked about rodents out there but if you have a garden or a farm, they are definitely something you should familiarize yourself with. An omnivore rodent with a preference for roots and vegetables, voles are closely related to mice and moles. Do voles carry disease like mice do, however? The short answer – is pretty much, yes.
Voles may not spend as much time in the sewage and the trash as mice or rats do – in fact, they don’t have much business there at all. However, that doesn’t stop them from carrying almost all of the more dangerous diseases other rodents carry as well. They won’t always transmit them the same way a mice or a rat would, and they very rarely get inside our homes, but they can still be dangerous to our health with their presence in our gardens.
What are the diseases you should look out for?
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention have a rather nice and extensive list of the most dangerous diseases that are directly transmitted by rodents. Let’s take a quick look at the ones frequently transmitted by voles ourselves:
- Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome. This dangerous virus can be caught most commonly while picking up vole droppings or flowers and vegetables that have been contaminated with their urine. Bites can transmit this virus as well but voles rarely bite.
- Salmonellosis. This common bacteria can be easily caught by eating food or drinking water that’s contaminated with a vole’s urine or droppings.
- Lassa fever. Contracted through a virus, Lassa fever can easily be transmitted through direct contact, bites, as well as droppings and urine. Fortunately, it’s not common in the U.S.
- Lymphocytic Chorio-meningitis (LCM). The virus that transmits LCM can be caught in a myriad of ways – bites, physical contact, urine, and droppings, etc.
- Leptospirosis. This bacteria can easily be caught by drinking water or eating foods that have been contaminated with voles’ urine and droppings.
- Rabies. Do voles carry rabies? Yes, they do. Just like any other rodent and most mammals, voles can get rabies. If you see a vole that isn’t running away from you, it’s best not to get in physical contact with it.
Most other diseases and health risks that are transmitted by other rodents are also a risk with voles. Fortunately, since voles don’t tend to get indoors, it’s less likely for you to catch any of these diseases. Where with mice and rats even the dust in the indoor air can get contaminated with many of these diseases, with voles that’s less of a problem. Another good thing is that there is no specific voles disease you should worry about.
Nevertheless, eating unwashed fruits and vegetables from your garden is still a major risk as they can be contaminated by voles as is drinking water from a garden source. Additionally, whether while trying to deal with the voles or simply while tending to your garden, direct physical contact can be a risk as well.
Are voles aggressive?
Voles aren’t typically aggressive – given the choice a vole will always prefer to run away and hide rather than confront a human being. They are unlikely to be aggressive against cats and dogs as well. Given that they are good diggers and that they won’t stray away too much from your yard or garden, they almost always have the option to try and get underground. Still, if a vole gets cornered, it will likely try to bite in self-defense, so keep that in mind. A lot of the diseases that voles can carry are easily transmittable through a bite, so, be as careful with them as you would be with a mouse or a rat.
Are voles dangerous in any other capacity?
Just like other rodents and mammals, voles carry a lot of insect pests with them. Bugs such as ticks, fleas, mites, and others common to rodents, often accompany voles. This means that if you have voles in your yard you’ll not only be at risk of diseases transmitted by them, but you’ll also have to worry about a lot of crawling and jumping insects as well. Not to mention that said insects can easily transmit the diseases that the rodents themselves are carrying.
Fortunately, unlike a lot of other rodents, voles don’t really cause any significant property damage. Their sole goal seems to be the roots and tubers of flowers and vegetables, as well as some subterranean grubs and insects.
Just like any other rodent, voles can be a pest to more than just your garden. They can transmit a lot of dangerous and often even deadly diseases even though they are not “trash-diggers” like most rats and mice. The fact that they rarely set foot in our homes is a good thing, at least, since it lowers the risk of direct contact with them, as well as the risk of them contaminating our living quarters.
Nevertheless, as they love spending time around our homes and in our gardens, direct contact is still a serious possibility. Getting contaminated by their urine and feces is also a serious risk since once a voles infestations get serious, you can rest assured that your whole yard will be soaked in them.
Last but not least – vole bites may not be common thanks to the fact that they are not too aggressive, but if you’re trying to capture them with live traps or with your bare hands, you should still be very careful. In fact, the latter is a big no-no since a vole will bite if it feels cornered.