Thursday, April 3, 2014

Pesky Little Rodents

As the snow melted and your home lawn became exposed, you likely witnessed some winter activity from voles.  Damage from vole 'runways' and nesting is an un-welcome sight as snow melts.  Golf course damage is typically found along bunker slopes.  But, occasionally can be found on a tee or fairway. This year, #16 forward tee suffered the greatest vole damage I’ve ever seen.

    Vole Damage #2 Fairway 

 Turf damage is primarily caused by feeding, in which the voles chew the plants down to the crown (growing point) at ground level. Additional damage is caused by wear from vole ‘traffic’, and also from the accumulation of vole excrement along the runways. When the snow recedes and the turf first becomes visible in the spring, vole damage can appear dramatic, especially when coupled with other issues such as low temperature injury or snow mold. As noted above, however, voles feed only on turfgrass shoots and the vital crown tissue and root system are typically not disturbed. Very often, grass plants will re-grow in the damaged areas as the weather warms. However, when the damage occurs on a bentgrass fairway or tee, it’s likely that the main growing point was removed, eaten and possibly killed the plants.

Vole damage to #16 Forward Tee

Grass plants completely eaten
Most areas will typically regenerate growth and heal by mid spring.  For areas like #16 tee, if new growth doesn’t generate, the tee surface may need to be aerated and reseeded or maybe even re-sodded.

The significance of this years damage is likely a direct result of the lengthy snow cover we experienced this winter.  The extent of this damage will force me to manage against in future winters.  It'll be too difficult to protect 100% of the golf course.  But, I can utilize bait traps and strategically locate them based upon this activity.