Help the development of the site, sharing the article with friends!

Mounds of dirt everywhere in your garden? Then you should first clarify who is responsible for this. Because in contrast to the vole, the mole is under protection and must not be fought.


The mole (Talpa europaea) is a carnivore that feeds mainly on earthworms and beetles and their larvae. Despite its annoying molehills, it is very useful because it protects the plants in the garden from grubs, snails and many other pests, since these are on its menu. Voles (Arvicolinae), on the other hand, are pure vegetarians who prefer to feast on the underground parts of plants. You can cause serious damage to perennials, flower bulbs, root vegetables or fruit trees in the home garden.

Distinctive features in the buildings

mole hill

It's not that difficult to tell the two earthlings apart. On closer inspection, only the mounds of the two animals look different.

size and shape of the hill

A mole produces mounds of dirt that rise out of the ground at regular intervals in the shape of a round-based volcano. Molehills can reach dimensions of up to 25 centimeters high and 30 centimeters wide. In contrast to the mole, the mounds of the vole are not only smaller and flatter, but are also usually raised asymmetrically. Vole mounds have an elongated base and are found at irregular intervals. Only in autumn can the mounds of voles be a little higher and thus approach the size of molehills.

Tip: While molehills are mostly made up of clean, loose soil, volehills often contain roots or other plant matter.

shape and position of the hole

Remove some of the mound's soil and you'll see the entrance hole to the burrow. Due to the different digging behavior, size and lifestyle of the animals, these holes not only have a different shape, they are also located in different positions in the mound.

Vole Cave, Source: Bernd Sauerwein, Den of unknown animal, Edited by Plantopedia, CC BY-SA 3.0


  • Hole: middle
  • Shape: oblong
  • Corridor runs straight down from the opening


  • Hole: side
  • Shape: highly oval to rounded
  • Aisle runs diagonally down

gear system

The mole uses its shovel-shaped front legs to dig its extensive subterranean tunnel system. However, the corridors, which reach deep into the ground and often lie on several levels one above the other, do not seem to follow any orderly system. Usually it just digs in the direction from which it can perceive insects or earthworms with its fine hearing or sensitive nose. It can happen that the almost blind earth dweller suddenly changes the digging direction. Voles, also known as water voles, live in tunnel systems that are preferably very close to the surface of the earth.

vole exits

Source: Rosser1954, Kirkbride, Enterkinfoot, Nithsdale - Field Vole burrows & runs, Edited by Plantopedia, CC BY-SA 4.0
  • Location: just below the turf (5-30 cm depth)
  • high oval cross section
  • Height: 8cm
  • Width: 5cm
  • gnawed walls (tooth marks recognizable)
  • straight
  • no roots in the aisles
  • relatively straight passage system
  • Smooth walls, rough floor

mole tunnels

  • Location: a little deeper in the ground, usually in several levels one above the other
  • cross-oval shape (wider than high)
  • smaller than in the vole
  • about two fingers wide
  • Dike system tortuous, disordered course
  • interspersed with roots
  • Cover often loose or brittle


If you happen to find some droppings from the uninvited garden dweller, there are clear distinguishing features here as well. On closer inspection, the droppings of herbivores, to which voles belong, are streaked with long, indigestible plant fibers. Their legacy consists of many small, oval-shaped balls of feces. Mole droppings, on the other hand, are usually formed as a single, longer strand and are relatively homogeneous.

rooting test

left: molehill
right: vole holes

If you are still not sure whether you are dealing with a mole or a vole, the so-called rooting test will help. To do this, dig up the corridor system in a few places. When a passage is opened, the two animals react very differently. Voles check the tunnels at short intervals. If one is exposed, they usually close the openings again within a short time and dig up the site from the side. In the case of moles, on the other hand, this can take several days. Unlike voles, they seal the opening by undermining it.


  • after minutes to hours
  • plug-like closure


  • mostly after several days
  • Closure by undermining
  • Cover loose and brittle

Notice: Moles use some of their tunnels only once, leaving the opening unlocked in this case.

Help the development of the site, sharing the article with friends!