Outdoor Services Crew

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Yummy Turfgrass

With the snow recently starting to recede over the majority of campus, areas that have been under snow cover for extended periods are opening up and giving us a look at how things are going.  You recently may have seen a post on Gray Snow Mold which was one thing we found as the snow retreated.  But another very common site to find is vole damage.  Over my years managing Turfgrass I have seen a fair amount of vole damage but recently I found an amazing representation of classic vole damage.
Voles are very small rodents generally only 3" in length.  They are active year round and do not hibernate in the winter.  They are herbivores and their main diet consists of grasses, and other plant material.  You tend to find voles in areas of dense cover like thick planting beds, prairie fields and native turfgrass locations.  When the snow cover sits for a period of time and voles are present, they will venture out of the the dense cover and into the lower height of cut plants.  The snow cover provides the sense of protection so they get to come out and enjoy some tasty bluegrass.  :-)

In this picture you can clearly see that voles were already living in the native area where they had good cover, but while the snow was in place they were able to venture out into the bluegrass.  In the path they choose to eat they decimate the available plant but they stay at the soil level and do not go underground.  They will continue to graze further as long as they feel safe under snow cover.
The initial look during the dormant winter is somewhat surprising and can be alarming to some.  But since bluegrass has a very strong lateral growth habit, these injuries will heel quickly was the turf comes out of dormancy.