Orchard Floor Management: Rodent Management
Rodents, primarily voles, can significantly damage orchard trees. In the winter when other food is scarce, voles will gnaw the bark from trees up to the snow line. In severe cases hundreds of trees can be completely girdled in just one winter. Managing the orchard floor to reduce habitat is a critical part of keeping vole populations below action thresholds.
Utah is host to both meadow voles (northwestern Utah) and pine voles (throughout the state). Both species are also widespread in western Colorado orchard areas. Voles rarely live for more than 1 year. Litters contain up to 12 pups and females can reproduce in any season. Females reach reproductive maturity in 3 weeks and a fecund female can have about four litters per year. Under favorable conditions, vole populations can increase rapidly.
An effective vole management plan in orchards consists of five components:
- Habitat destruction
- Scarce food supply
- Facilitating predators
- Baiting with rodenticide