Vole vs Mouse: Key Differences

Vole vs Mouse
© CezaryKorkosz/Shutterstock.com

Written by August Croft

Updated: October 17, 2023

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Voles and mice may appear strikingly similar at first, especially if you are trying to determine which pest is occupying your home or backyard. However, there are key differences that you can identify in order to help you tell the difference between a vole vs mouse. For example, the families for both of these creatures are different: voles are members of the Cricetidae family, while mice are members of the murids family. But this isn’t where their differences end.

In this article, we will endeavor to describe the differences between voles and mice, including helpful tips that can assist you in telling these pesky rodents apart. Whether you are worried you have mice in your home or simply want to learn how to identify a vole upon first glance, we’ve got you covered. Let’s compare vole vs mouse now.

Comparing the Vole vs Mouse

Voles are members of the Cricetidae family, while mice are members of the murids family.
Appearance Small ears and stocky body Lean body, large eyes and ears
Habitat Prefers open outdoor areasPrefers indoor surfaces/areas
Lifespan 1-2 years1-3 years
Reproduction 5-12 litters per year; 3-6 babies5-10 litters per year; 4-10 babies
Diet Herbivores; plant matter and seedsOmnivores; plant matter and insects
Tail Shorter than their bodyAbout the same size as their body

The Main Differences Between Vole vs Mouse

vole vs mouse

Mice have a leaner body when compared to voles, while voles are stockier in appearance.

©Rudmer Zwerver/Shutterstock.com

There are key differences between vole vs mouse. Mice have a leaner body when compared to voles, while voles are stockier in appearance. Voles also have smaller ears and a shorter tail than mice, as a mouse’s tail is usually as long as their body. The habitat preferences between voles vs mice can also be considered a key difference between these two species; voles prefer open outdoor areas which is why you will often find them outside, while mice prefer enclosed and indoor spaces. 

But this isn’t where these differences end. Let’s dive in and discuss the key similarities and differences between these two commonly confused rodents.

Vole vs Mouse: Face and Body Appearance

One of the key differences in a vole vs mouse situation is their overall appearance, including their face and body shape. Voles have a thicker and stockier body when compared to mice, a notoriously skinny and lean rodent. Mice also have larger ears and eyes when compared to voles- the ears and eyes of a vole are significantly smaller in appearance, though it may take some time to tell these two rodents apart.

Both rodents have brown or black fur, but the overall body shape should give you some insight into which rodent is which. A mouse’s body is designed to be narrow and skinny, adept at shimmying through tight areas and locations, while voles prefer to be in open areas. Therefore, their bodies are not as thin.

vole vs mouse

Voles are found in gardens, lawns, and backyard landscaping, while mice are found mostly inside homes.

©Peter Trimming / Flickr – Original

Vole vs Mouse: Habitat

Another key difference between voles and mice is their preferred habitat. Voles are regularly found outside the home, in gardens, lawns, and backyard landscaping, while mice are more often found inside homes. This is because mice are accustomed to enclosed spaces and prefer their bodies to be touching walls and objects in order to feel safe.

Mice also tend to be more opportunistic foragers than voles are, which may bring mice inside of your home while a shyer vole is more likely to stay outside. Mice are more likely to seek shelter indoors for their nests, while voles are comfortable digging underground burrows or outdoor nests.

vole vs mouse

Mice have larger ears and eyes when compared to voles.

©Raul Baena/Shutterstock.com

Vole vs Mouse: Diet

The difference in a vole vs mouse diet is another example of the differences between these two rodents. The two animals are similar in size and overall diet preferences. However, there are some key differences between the average vole and the average mouse. For example, mice are considered more omnivorous than voles, eating more insects and even food taken from human pantries. Voles are far more content with plant matter to eat.

However, this isn’t to say that a vole won’t take advantage of a bug or a human snack from time to time. Given their shy nature, voles are less likely to seek out food beyond the comforts of the great outdoors, while mice are extremely opportunistic. This is why it is important to check your pantry if you think a mouse has invaded your home!

Vole vs Mouse: Tail Length

Another key difference between a vole vs mouse is the length of their tail. Taking a glance at a mouse when it is beside a vole will show these differences clearly, as mice have much longer tails than voles do. While a vole still has a significant tail, mice have a tail that is at least as long as their bodies, if not longer.

Vole tails average around half of their body in length, which makes their tail much shorter than mice. When combined with a vole’s smaller ears and eyes, it should be a bit more obvious which type of rodent you are dealing with!

vole vs mouse

A mouse typically has a longer tail than a vole.

©colin robert varndell/Shutterstock.com

Vole vs Mouse: Reproductive Habits

Another difference between voles and mice is their reproductive habits. While voles and mice both have similar lifespans of roughly a year in the wild, their reproductive habits differ somewhat. Voles breed throughout the year, though spring is their preferred time of year, while mice breed anytime of the year without preference.

Mice also have a shorter gestation period when compared to voles, averaging 10-20 days when compared to a vole’s 20-30 day period. Both rodents have litters of at least 3-7 babies, but mice typically birth more young than voles do. Mice average anywhere from 5-15 babies, while voles have an average of 3-10 babies.

Vole vs Mouse: Problems to Humans

These two rodents pose problems for humans, but those problems differ based on the differences we’ve already discussed in these two animals as far as habitats, behavior, and diet are concerned. Voles can be destructive to one’s yard, as they burrow and create runways on lawns–pathways of dead grass. They also eat garden plants as well as tree bark.

Mice, on the other hand, like to get into pantries in homes in search of food, or eat other materials in attics and wherever else they are brave enough to venture. They can also contaminate surfaces in a home with feces and other germs.

Controlling voles in one’s garden would require mowing it regularly and removing protective foliage. Riding one’s house of mice is done by bait and trap methods, traps that kill them, or poisons.

Do Voles Come in the House?

Voles are often mistaken for the common house mouse due to their similar size and general appearance. They are primarily outdoor-dwelling rodents and seldom venture indoors.

The likelihood of a vole pest issue increases in yards abundant with vegetation and debris, providing hiding spots and nest-building opportunities for these rodents.

To reduce the risk of vole problems, maintain a well-weeded garden, refrain from planting dense ground covers like creeping junipers, and regularly mow your lawn.

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About the Author

August Croft is a writer at A-Z Animals where their primary focus is on astrology, symbolism, and gardening. August has been writing a variety of content for over 4 years and holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Theater from Southern Oregon University, which they earned in 2014. They are currently working toward a professional certification in astrology and chart reading. A resident of Oregon, August enjoys playwriting, craft beer, and cooking seasonal recipes for their friends and high school sweetheart.

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