i've heard putting freshly chewed bubble gum in the vole runs is effective in killing them-i've heard they can't digest it and it kills them. if that's as effective as chemicals i'm ready to chew! any truth there,or do i need a animal biologist?
There are a lot of "old wives tales" circulating which involve common pests and "home" remedies. In most cases, there is no scientific research backing the claims and most all have been passed down from generation to generation like any other story. One of our favorites is the one including the use of gum as you describe. Why someone would think it can kill anything is a mystery. My own theory is that someone was waging a war against some voles and happened to like chewing gum. Remember, gum was around long before any kind of vole bait. With voles, one can get quite close to where they live and move. I'm willing to bet this person either mistakenly dropped a piece of gum in a tunnel or intentionally placed some out but regardless of how it got there, I believe what happened next is what spawned this story.
I know from personal experience that it's entirely possible to "feed" moles, voles and shrews. I have successfully snuck up on them upon sighting activity in my own and customers yards and on many occasions made offerings of food and bait. Many times they've accepted my offering. When done right, one can present a wide range of "bait" by making it seem alive like a grub or worm. I've had voles, moles and shrews actively take bait out of my hand through small holes I've made in tunnels where I've seen them active. The only reason I ever tried this is because I like to fish and many of the lures I use make a lot of noise, sound and motion. This will actually attract target fish. Using this pattern I've been able to call in all kinds of animals including rats, fox, coyote, bob cats, deer, crow, turkey, squirrels and others. And one day I decided to try "calling" in moles.
I actually was doing pest control and found it particularly frustrating that when I showed up at a customers house to do a mole job I was never able to find anything alive and moving. Instinctively I know these guys can be active most all day so at one point I started to concentrate my searches with only a little bit of motion and lots of time staring at where they were reportedly active. I tried this technique thinking it would reduce vibrations that could be making them scatter. Eventually I was able to spy activity where I tried to find them and with some practice, I was able to get really close to this activity without spooking them away. It wasn't long before I was making a "presentation" through the top of some tunnels like one might make a presentation with jig or spoon for a bass under a boat or dock. And crazy as it sounds, one day I got a "bite"! After that it wasn't tough to figure out I could feed them a treated bait and this turned out to work well at solving problems. I was able to cut my mole control visits down to just 1-2 stops and solve the problem with little issues. I don't know when but eventually it proved effective for voles and shrews too because some of them were being found following a job I'd do.
Now if sometime long ago someone was able to sneak up on an active vole and happened to have some gum that he or she offered to this same vole and then the vole disappeared, it would explain why someone might think the gum killed the little guy. In reality it's more likely the vole up and relocated like they commonly do.
You see, voles are highly active little guys. Constantly searching for food, they'll up and move as needed to insure they know where to their next meal will be coming from. In probably 40% of the problems I've dealt with over the years I've seen bad problems just cease and go away for no apparent reason. This tends to happen in yards where it's the first time a mole or vole problem has been noticed. In yards with a long running history of problems it's more likely the problem will persist till it's actively controlled. But unlike most pests, voles are highly mobile and transient by nature. And I bet it's this ability to up and leave that may have sent the wrong message regarding the impact of gum that was made available to a resident vole.
So to answer your question more directly I'm sorry to say no, gum won't kill a vole. I guess there could be a flavor or two that could cause an allergic reaction and obviously if one was to choke on the piece it could lead to their demise but neither would occur with any significant frequency to declare it a viable control method. And this is why we now have a wide range of Vole products being marketed as listed in our VOLE CONTROL ARTICLE. These are all proven methods so if you have an active problem needing some attention, stick to what's tried and true to save on wasted time and frustration.