The yard to a house is like the cover of a book. People tell a lot about you from your yard. This is why you take care of it and make sure the yard looks its best. So when moles show up uninvited, dig tunnels, build mounds, and turn your beautiful lawn into a post-apocalyptic wasteland, panic ensues.
If moles invade your yard and turn it upside down, it’s time to spring into action. Track down and demolish their tunnels. Plant crown imperial, castor bean, and narcissus plants in your garden to repel them. Make the yard noisy for them and set your pets at them to chase them away. If your mole infestation is beyond control, you might consider using mole traps.
It’s not just that moles ruin the curb appeal of your property, they also bring bugs and diseases to your household. So what are moles? How do you defend your property against the tunnel diggers? And how to keep them away for good? Read on to find the answers to all your mole questions.
It’s a Mole, not a Vole
Not every critter that lurks beneath the surface of your beautifully manicured yard is a mole intent on destroying it. There are also voles and shrews. But those two are not as lethal to your property at the dreaded mole. So how do you tell a mole from a vole?
Even though they both have the same size on average, there are certain distinct features that set them apart. A vole has brown fur, looks more like a mouse, and has eyes and ears that are easy to identify. They also have small noses, not snouts. Voles live in groups and eat plants, flowers, and fruits.
Moles, on the other hand, are distinguished with their pink snouts, potato-shaped body, and fur that tends to be dark gray or black. Their eyes and ears are too small to spot and are usually covered with fur. A mole is a solitary animal and subsists on insects and grubs that live in the soil.
The Life of a Mole
For you to fight the hordes of moles living under your yard, you need to know more about their life cycle, and how they spend their time down there. This knowledge will help you find the best way to get rid of them and reclaim your land from the invaders.
The average mole lives between four to six years. Most of this time they spend in tunnels they dig in loose soil that is rich in organic life. They only come up above ground in February and March when they’re ready to mate. Giving birth in late spring, a female mole usually has a litter of seven pubs scurrying around the tunnels with her.
Baby moles stay with their mom for about 5 weeks before starting a life of their own. At around ten months, they become mature and ready to mate with a female. Within a year, what started as a couple of moles living in your yard, turn into a huge problem that is not easy to manage.
Why are Moles Living on my Yard?
Most often wild animals choose a certain property or make their nest in a particular yard for no reason at all. It’s just there and the raccoon or vole or owl happen to need a place to crash real quick. But that’s not the case with moles.
These mound builders select a yard or lawn because it satisfies certain mole standards. These standards include loose soil that is easy to dig, plenty of insects and grubs that crawl under the surface, and an abundance of space.
The last feature is of particular interest to moles. The larger your yard with no obstacles in the ground, the more attractive it becomes to these choosy wild animals. The open space allows them to dig and burrow to their heart’s content as they chase their next meal.
How to Keep Moles Away from Your Yard
With moles finally off your land, you can now think of ways to make sure that horror show doesn’t repeat itself on the yard. Since there’s no guarantee that the pink snouts won’t come back again, you need to make your yard as inhospitable as possible for the tunnel diggers.
Fence Them Out
One of the biggest attractions to moles in an area, apart from the abundance of grubs and earthworms, is the open space. Moles love to have unhindered real estate where they can chase their favorite food anywhere underground.
So one way to make your yard less appealing to moles is to install underground fences. Use galvanized fences for durability. They will keep moles off your yard for years on end. The fence should encompass the length of the yard, go up six inches, and extend to 24 inches below the surface.
One drawback of this method is the high cost of installing fences. Fences are expensive and erecting them incurs extra costs as well. But as a long-term solution, fences are very effective.
Go with Gravel
If a galvanized fence proves to be too costly, you can always use gravel to keep moles away. The idea here is to fill a hole with gravel alongside the yard. Despite their dexterity at digging, gravel is a natural barrier for moles.
For best results, make sure the gravel hole is one foot deep. This will keep them from digging under it and finding a way into your yard. Gravel is another long-term solution that doesn’t cost much but does a good job as a mole deterrent.
Use Chemical Repellents
One of the best chemical repellents you can use against moles is castor oil. It’s a natural product that won’t harm the environment, and it has a double effect on moles. Castor oil targets the mole’s food source and their pink snouts at the same time.
The oil is notorious for its odor which irritates the little rascals and makes their snouts twitch. It also covers the earthworms with a veneer of slime that puts the moles off their preferred meal. And unlike other chemical repellents and poisons, castor oil will not disturb the ecosystem or affect other animals or humans in the area.
Bring Out the Pets
Dogs and cats are notoriously territorial animals. They see moles as invaders trying to steal their food. Moles, on the other hand, fear most animals and try to stay away from them. Dogs will often chase moles down their holes and keep the intruders off the property.
What Harm Do Moles Do?
There’s a common misconception held by some people that moles pose no threat to us humans or our pets. Those same people would argue that moles live off insects in the ground which helps clean up the soil. And that’s not a valid point. Earthworms are an important part of the ecosystem and their presence in the soil keeps it healthy and fertile.
Moles bring more harm to the property than the good they do the soil. Just take a look at a yard infested with a family of moles. You’ll see molehills everywhere. Under those mounds, tunnels take up the whole length and width of the yard. These tunnels make it difficult for any plants or seedlings to grow since they disturb their roots.
Not to mention that these same tunnels make it difficult to irrigate your rose garden or the batch of vegetables you grow there. Add to that the fact that the tunnels invite other rodents such as mice and voles. These rodents feed on plants and will destroy your garden before you even realize you have a rodent problem.
Are Moles Active in Winter?
Another misconception held by those who advocate for keeping moles on the property undisturbed, is that moles hibernate during the winter, so why bother them at all? Well, for one thing, moles don’t hibernate.
Even when thick snow covers the ground, those wily animals are digging deeper tunnels away from the frozen surface. Earthworms, the mole’s favorite food, tend to burrow deeper below the frost line. And that’s where you’ll find moles in the middle of the freezing winter, happily eating grubs and staying warm.
As the weather improves and the soil becomes easier to dig, moles will move toward the surface again. They finally breach the surface in late February and early March. This short period above ground is dedicated to meeting other moles and starting their mating season.
Are Moles Bad?
Besides the dangers to the yard we listed above, moles are no friend to humans or pets. Like other wild animals that have adapted very well to urban life, moles can transmit diseases such as rabies. Even though they’re considered a low-risk by health authorities, there’s still a possibility moles will carry the disease.
A much higher threat that is associated with moles, is that of parasites like ticks and fleas. If you have pets, then you need to keep them off the yard as long as you have moles on the prowl. Even humans are not immune to either parasites or diseases. So make sure to stay clear from a mole that looks unusually aggressive.
Should Moles be Removed?
The answer to that question is quite simple. Would you rather have a yard with high ridges and molehills where other animals can trip and injure themselves or one that is even, clean, and well-manicured?
As we have seen, moles dig tunnels which give other rodents access to your plants. So even though the moles don’t eat plants, your lawn will turn into a barren wasteland thanks to their tunneling and burrowing. Even sprinklers won’t work and they will collapse in one of the mole tunnels.
Nobody likes to have a wild animal that might carry diseases and parasites in their yard. They’re a health risk for humans and any domestic animals that live in the household. So the answer to that question is, yes, they should be removed without delay.
What do Moles Eat?
For a mammal that doesn’t eat either plants or meat, moles are a category of their own. Their food is just as bizarre as their twitchy pink snout and webbed paws. Their favorite food is grub found in the soil. In fact, that’s the main reason moles spend so much time underground.
Moles have a preference for earthworms. Since earthworms live in the soil, moles spend their days and nights chasing them. Because the worms don’t make sound and it’s perpetually dark there, moles have no use for sight or hearing. This explains why their eyes and ears are so small and practically useless.
Besides earthworms, moles also feed on centipedes, millipedes and insect larvae. This makes them insectivores. And while you might appreciate getting rid of centipedes and millipedes, the soil actually benefits from earthworms.
Is it Illegal to Kill Moles?
Unless you live in Washington D.C., then the answer to that is no. It’s within your legal rights to kill moles. However, the capital of the United States considers moles harmless enough animals that it’s illegal to kill them. You can only try to chase them away without harming them.
In other states and jurisdictions, using hazardous chemicals or butane gas, might be illegal. The reason for that might have to do weather conditions such as severe drought and dry weather which pose a high risk of wildfires.
Drought can also make it illegal to flood the mole tunnels as you try to drown them. The authorities would consider it a waste of water and you might find yourself on the wrong side of the law. Other than that, most methods used, which we will detail later, are perfectly legal.
What is Mole’s Natural Enemy?
Almost any predator that loves a defenseless and juicy meal will have moles on the menu. This includes hawks who circle over areas where molehills abound. The hawks wait for any mole to poke its snout out of the hole, swoop down and pick them up.
Since moles shy away from the ground and prefer underbelly of the earth, their predator needs to be both agile and small in size. Foxes, coyotes, and snakes fit the bill. They’re slim enough to squeeze themselves in the tunnels and snag a fattened mole or two.
Even if they can’t slither into the tunnels, coyotes and foxes use their keen sense of hearing to pinpoint the spot where the mole is hiding in the underground tunnel, dig a hole, and catch the helpless prey.
Where do Moles Sleep?
Moles have a unique type of hemoglobin that lets them recycle oxygen in the tunnels without the need to go up to the surface to breathe. This ability makes the underground the perfect habitat for moles. Away from predators, they feel safe in the tunnels and happily pursue their favorite vocation of chasing earthworms and other grubs.
This means that moles sleep in their tunnels as well. Since the tunnels are shaped like a network, any place the mole feels tired, they just curl up and have a snooze. Their sleep patterns are usually four-hour shifts followed by a frantic activity to fill up their bellies.
Contrary to popular belief, moles are not nocturnal. You only see them at night because it’s quieter then. Moles come to the surface when no animals or people are moving. The times when they are most active are the early morning and around sundown.
Best Ways to Get Rid of Moles
Knowing the amount of damage moles inflict on the yard landscape and the health risks that come from having these animals around your household, it becomes necessary to take action against them. As soon as you see the signs of moles living below the surface of your yard, you need to work on evicting them from your property. Try any of the following methods.
Demolish their Tunnels
The first method to convince moles that your yard is not the hot real estate moles thought it to be is to destroy their tunnels. This task is easier than it appears. All you need is a shovel or pitchfork and a good amount of determination.
It’s easy to find the tunnels since their molehills stand clear above ground betraying where the little animals are hiding. If you’re using a pitchfork, then a few hearty stabs will start the demolition process. A shovel will require forceful blows to the top of the molehills.
Keep trampling, stabbing, and delivering blows as you go. Once a tunnel crumbles, it becomes easier to fill it up with dirt from the molehills. Both the noise and destruction of their homes will force the moles to leave your yard.
Use the Power of Plants
So far we have learned a few important things about moles. They don’t see or hear so well but have a keen sense of smell, and they don’t eat plants. Using this information we can devise a sure-fire way to get them off your property.
Certain plants repel moles. They just don’t like the smells these plants spread in the tunnels. These plants are Euphorbia lathyris, crown imperial, narcissus, and castor bean. Euphorbia lathyris is called mole plant and is sure to keep those pesky animals off your lawn or garden.
Not only will you drive away moles and voles off your yard, you’ll also get a beautiful garden in the bargain. This method though takes time and requires patience. Plants don’t grow overnight and rodents might eat their roots. So you’ll need to keep trying if at first it doesn’t look like you’re making progress.
Launch the Poison Warfare
If neither destroying the tunnels nor using the power of repellent plants work for you, maybe it’s time to resort to more drastic measures. Poison is one way to deal with moles. It’s quite effective although you need to be cautious when introducing chemicals into your yard.
Poison can be employed to starve moles by killing their food sources. When you eliminate the insects and earthworms in the ground, moles will have to move out. Another way is to use poison to kill moles themselves.
If you have children or pets, you might consider using something else besides poison. Furthermore, if you poison moles you put their predators such as foxes and coyotes at risk as well. So it may not be the safest way to get rid of moles.
Sprinkle some Coffee
A better way that doesn’t put any lives in danger is to use coffee to chase away moles. Again we’re relying here on the mole’s sharp sense of smell and their tendency to get irritated with smells they don’t like quickly.
Throw some ground coffee in the hole and cover it with soil. The coffee aroma will travel far and wide down the underground tunnels and make the moles’ almost-nonexistent eyes water. Since there’s no escape from the smell, they will have to leave your yard and find other more suitable yards to live.
Another method related to this one is to use dead fish instead of coffee. Drop the fish in the hole and cover it with a dense layer of dirt. The dead fish smell is potent and has good results. The only problem with this method is the lingering fish smell left behind long after the moles have left.
Make it Noisy
The noise of people and animals moving around keeps moles hiding in their tunnels. They only venture out of their holes when it gets quiet up there. So you can use noise to scare them off your yard.
It’s not a very effective way. For one thing, you might annoy your neighbors with the noise you make there more than you annoy the pesky moles. In addition, the moles might just decide to stay underground all the time where the food is plenty and earthworms are juicy.
Still, you can use the noise option in combination with other methods such as repellent plants and ground coffee to make the moles know you mean business.
What are the Best Mole Traps?
Trapping moles can be another way to get rid of them. Here are some of the best mole traps you can order online.
- Wire Tek Mole Eliminator: An easy to set up trap made of steel. It works the same way as a regular animal trap. Just make sure you place it inside the tunnel and come and check on it every few days.
- Victor Plunger Style Mole Trap: This trap is a variation on the harpoon trap. Place it on the hole and cover the opening with dirt making sure the plunger rests on the hole. When the mole tries to reopen the tunnel, the mechanism will make a quick job of it.
- Aspectek Humane Tunnel Mole Trap: As the name suggests, this trap doesn’t kill moles. It catches them and lets you release them in the wild unharmed.
Mike Zhang. Founder of FamilyLifeShare