Know Thy Vermin

Last week we discovered evidence from new vermin on the farm.

Well, it wasn’t much of a discovery. It would have been hard to miss.

An elevated subterranean trail popped up in the lawn. It was spongey underfoot and resembled a rumpled bedspread. Or a garden hose buried below the surface.

The trail snaked from the side of the house in a graceful S, until it hit the drive. Then it straightened out like a stretch of highway.

Moles, I thought. We’ve got a mole problem.

Until my neighbor mentioned that they were probably voles, not moles.

A vole? What the hell is a vole? I thought. And why do I blame everything on moles?

I googled both species.

A mole is a peculiar little animal with a prominent nose, invisible eyes and ears, and large polydactyly hands (that’s a hand with an extra thumb) designed for digging. They feast largely on earthworms.

A vole is essentially a field mouse. It subsists on plants, dead animals and nuts and fruits.

The descriptions of their behavior and digging habits, however, were indiscriminate. As one site said, “Voles construct well-defined visible tunnels or ‘runways’ at or near the surface,” whereas “moles produce runway tunnels that appear like raised ridges running across your lawn.”

Well thanks, that cleared things up.

It was irrelevant anyway. Within a day Toulouse was on the case.

He staked out his point of attack and spent several hours excavating and prepped to pounce. Frankly, he dug more damage than our underground intruders. But I didn’t want to temper his enthusiasm. Or Olive’s.

A few days later Cayden noticed a dead rodent not far from the elevated tunnel. Our subterraneous pest! I studied the quarry and researched it on the web.

It turned out that it wasn’t a mole.

And it wasn’t a vole.

It was a shrew.

I don’t know if the shrew was a cuprit or an innocent bystander. But now I realize that all those dead moles left by the cats near our shoes…

…were never moles.

They were shrews, too.