The giant mounds of soil in my lawn that appeared after the snow melted tell me that I have a new and unwelcome visitor to my yard: a mole. In addition to the dirt piles, he has announced his presence by creating an extensive network of tunnels and even loosened the bricks of my patio.
Moles are small, brownish-gray creatures that live underground in much of the United States. They are classified as insectivores, feeding on insects as well as snail larvae, spiders, earthworms, white grubs, small vertebrates, and an occasional bit of plant material.
An average full-grown mole is 6 to 7 inches long with a short tail, paddle-like forefeet, and webbed toes. They lack ears and their eyes are small and almost hidden in fur.
Mole damage is sometimes confused with voles and pocket gophers. Molehills are usually volcano-shaped and may be two to 24 inches tall. Hills usually coincide with visible tunnels just below the soil surface, although tunnels may not be evident during dry weather.
My angst is more than concern for cosmetics. I am worried about the soil eroding where plants and turf have been unearthed, about the cost of replacing plants and fixing my patio, and about walking (and soon, mowing) across that section of lawn without twisting an ankle.
To get rid of the mole(s) before more damage is done, I am going to try trapping. According to research trials, traps are still the most effective means of control. The key is proper placement of the trap and proper setting of the trap. Traps need to be placed in an active tunnel rather than one the mole used once for exploration. K-State Research and Extension has information and a video about how to identify an active mole tunnel on its website at www.ksre.ksu.edu. Active runs are usually straight rather than meandering, and may be on the perimeter of the signs of mole activity.
The Extension Wildlife website also has a video that shows how to set a trap, but you can also follow the label instructions and ensure the trap goes off easily.
Scissor-jawed traps, harpoon or spear traps, and choker loop traps are all effective, and there are many brands of each available. They are most often found at garden centers, hardware stores, and farm supply stores.
There are probably a few hundred other “remedies.” Bubble gum, human hair, broken glass, mothballs, ultrasonic devices, poisons and fumigants are just a few of the things I have heard people mention to get rid of moles in their yard and/or garden. You might even know someone who says they work, or you might have had luck with one of them yourself. In research trials, however, these products are inconsistent in their effectiveness.
Another remedy I get a lot of questions about is grub-control products. Since grubs are part of moles’ diets, the idea is that moles will leave if their food source is gone. This used to work better with some of the older grub-control products because they killed more insects than just the grubs, and sometimes also killed earthworms. Newer grub control products are typically more selective. Also, sometimes the moles end up digging more in their increased search for food.
There are a lot of products, including a number of toxicants that are labeled for use on moles, but they are seldom effective because moles are not interested in eating them. Fumigants can also be used but are restricted-use pesticides that are only available to certified pesticide applicators.
Some universities also recommend the assistance of a good mole-sniffing dog. This could work, but if the dog is anything like mine, he or she might dig more holes than the mole.