Moles appear to be utterly innocuous, harmless creatures, with the only possible species being worms begging to differ, since they consist the bulk of those tunnel diggers’ diet. Humans, however, have recognized the damage which moles pose to our lawns for many centuries.
If you want to deal with the burrowing pest by trapping the mole with your own efforts, familiarizing yourself with basic mole behavior physiology and any potential risks, as well as clearing aside any impediments with the law will make your life much easier.
As a species, moles have proven to be particularly successful and hardy, as they’re found on every continent except Antarctica and South America. They don’t hibernate and hardly ever cease their digging, so the chances of your neighborhood dealing with mole mischief is a very real possibility.
How to Trap a Mole in the Yard
Trapping moles is made relatively easier than snatching other carnivorous critters because most of these traps don’t require a bait to work.
The first thing when it comes to trapping a mole is learning how to locate its frequented tunnels, known as runways. These are usually dug around the perimeter of your yard, or appear in straight-lined ridges. You can also distinguish the newest mole-hills from the old ones by accessing the quality of the dirt— fresh, damp soil indicating the recent handiwork of a mole.
In the rare instance you’re able to see the grass on your lawn physically shift as a result of a mole burrowing through underground, approach the mound or tunnel with a spade, as slowly and quietly as possible so as not to alert the mole. At the opportune moment, strike the spade deep into the ground behind the mole so as to trap it in its own tunnel. Take great care not to hit the mole, as this will make a visceral mess on your spade and gloves. Unearth the mole with the spade or your thick gloves, and put it in a bucket for later disposal.
One old-school method of trapping moles is to flood it out of its tunnels. This technique involves tricking the mole into thinking that ordinary rainwater is making its quarters unsuitable for living, since it will clog with dirt and mud.
- Locate molehill.
- Take a hose or other source of water and pour water into the opening slowly.
- Have gloves on and buckets nearby the other molehills to capture moles escaping the artificially-induced flood by hand.
- The vehicle for flooding can be substituted with dry ice (for fumigation) or even smoke, although the latter is not recommended for safety concerns.
The method demanding the least effort from the trapper is purchasing a traditional/modern trap and waiting overnight for the results. The trapper is presented with a wide assortment of possible traps to use from the market, although be advised that most of these traps kill moles upon capturing, either from implementing poisoned bait to powerful traps (some of which do not draw blood, making clean-up easier).
One method is to place the trap near active molehills or runways, which can be identified by poking holes on the top of the runway with a stick or probe, or even your finger. Mark the spot with flags or sticks. When this hole gets repaired in one or two days, its a sign that a mole has repaired the hole you’ve made, and that it’s time to set a trap/bait.
Another method is to locate a mole tunnel using the same finger/stick method above, then place the appropriate trap within the tunnel (such as a scissor or harpoon trap), and follow the instructions of that particular type of trap. You can then cover the trap to not only indicate where you’ve set it but to also prevent children and pets from disturbing it.
After you’ve set a trap you must check it every day. Once you’ve successfully captured a mole and it has died during the ensnarement you can throw away the mole into a plastic bag and dispose of it in the garbage. Depending on a trap’s durability (and cleanliness), you may reuse it or throw it away as well.
If your trapped/captured mole is still alive, you can contact animal services for instructions and advice on where to release your captive moles.
What Bait Can You Use to Catch a Mole?
It is quite difficult to bait a mole in order to have it come directly to a spot you want it to appear, as their food source is already quite ubiquitous underground. There’s little need to rain a patch of grass when every rainy day means a worm buffet for moles.
However, Tomcat and Talprid products offer fake worm or grub baits that have been poisoned to kill moles 12-24 hours after ingesting them, which you can place near runways and inside molehills.
Additionally, there are reports where tossing chewed bubble-gum into a mole tunnel can kill the moles which ingest them.
Is it Legal to Kill Moles?
Yes, it is legal to kill moles in almost every jurisdiction in Euro-America. You may be interested to learn that in Britain, hunting Moles for their fur (and even drying them for their meat) is currently being revived again!
However, some methods are prohibited in some locations, and it is your responsibility to look up the lawful usages of the method of dispatchment with your local area and state/nation. For example, while in the state of Washington it is legal to kill moles, using traditional body-gripping designed traps are no longer legal.
Firearms are probably the least effective method of control, as the homeowner has to wait at the exact right spot for hours for the mole to pop its head out unto the surface. Firing the weapon itself would attract the attention of the neighbors, if not the police, so if you absolutely must use firearms, make sure you have the proper licensing as permissionfrom local law authorities.
Perhaps you may want to use insecticides to kill the mole’s supply of food, which, as advised earlier, is not a recommended course of action to take. Some insecticides are even illegal to use in certain areas. Vermifuges, which kill worms, are not recommended simply due to the beneficial nature of worms for the soil.
The easiest method to kill moles, as stated earlier, is the implementation of lethal traps and waiting overnight for the results.
How Big are Moles?
Most moles do not ever grow bigger than guinea pigs, with the largest mole species in North America growing to a total length of 8-9 inches. In contrast, the smallest mole known as the Shrew-mole grows only up to 4-5 inches, which does not create mole hills and spends most of its life above ground. Typically, moles in the Old World weigh 2.5 to 4.5 ounces (72 to 126 grams), with American species weighing only slightly heavier.
What Time of Day are Moles Most Active?
It was originally assumed that moles were simply nocturnal creatures, meaning they do most of their activity and mischief at night. However, current research suggests that moles are not so much more active at night than day. It’s been suggested that moles work and sleep in 4-hour shifts.
Moles can be considerably active in their digging during the exact moments when humans are asleep/sleepy: early dawn, or late night evenings, making detecting one doing its business in the moment rather difficult.
In fact, the few seconds they do reach the surface are either due to it being mating season or a complete accident. They are able to spend such long hours underground due to possessing a form of hemoglobin in their bloodstream that allows them to recycle oxygen.
How Deep in the Ground do Moles Live?
The front claws of moles have tremendous burrowing power, boasting the ability to clear soil at 12 inches per minute. How deep moles choose to reside, however, depends on whether it’s mating season or taking care of its litter of young.
The deeper tunnels, which serve as permanent residence for the mole after birth can extend as far as 40 inches below the surface and are dug much slower. Typically, after maturity moles make their nests 5-18 inches underground.
How Wide is a Mole Hole?
It takes time and practice to differentiate a mole hill from that of a gopher’s. The shape of a mole hill is conical and circular with no dips in the center (compared to a gopher hill which is almost concave by its dips). The diameter of a mole hill is slightly bigger than the mole itself, which can be up to a foot wide. The height of a mole hill can reach up to two inches.
How Far Down Can/Do Moles Dig?
Moles can dig as much as 100 feet per day. The deepest a mole can dig as of this writing is 40 inches beneath the surface.
Are Moles Blind?
Most species of moles are not blind, as their eyes are tiny and barely visible behind all that fur. Their eyesight is incredibly weak however, which is used mostly for detecting light sources and at most are used to distinguish between night and day. And, like dogs, they are colorblind.
It makes sense to infer that moles are blind, if not from photos, but from their lifestyle of frequently digging underground. There’s little need for them to distinguish between dirt and a tasty worm— visually, at least. Having powerful olfactory senses enable the mole to smell their way in the dark and into a meal.
However, some species of moles such as blind, marsupial moles can be found in Australia.
What Do Moles Even Eat?
Moles are insectivores, and not rodents, meaning that their diet subsists almost entirely on bugs. Due to their body build, with large front teeth and snout, and “paddled arms,” they were not designed for catching prey in the traditional sense. The damage they unwittingly inflict upon your lawn and yards comes as a byproduct of their quest for digging for their food.
Moles’ favorite foods are earthworms, centipedes/millipedes, grubs, snails, slugs, spiders, crickets and any other insects including their larvae. Some species can even eat smaller animals, such as lizards.
When Moles forage for food, they have the means to store the bugs they’ve caught for later consumption in underground storages. These burrows have been found to be filled to the brim with earthworms, which also serve as the primary form of hydration for them due to how much water is packed per worm.
Make no mistake, moles have a huge appetite. They can eat almost their entire body weight everyday. Since they’re constantly digging they need as much energy to fuel their digging endeavors.
Moles are also excellent swimmers, with some species swimming underneath ice during the winter in order to eat small fish.
What are the Mole’s Natural Enemies?
Since Moles spend the majority of their lives underground, they rarely get preyed on the surface; out in the open.
The one lucky bird of prey such as an owl or hawk can swoop a mole moving above ground. However, it is mammals such as the fox, or coyote, whose paws and keen sense of smell enable them to dig moles out of their holes which may be the mole’s main threat. Domestic dogs also have this capability to root moles out and kill them from their lairs.
Animals such as the weasel and badger, whose lives are spent underground just like moles regularly prey on moles should they stumble upon them in their mutual activity of digging. Skunks also eat moles, though if you had a skunk on your hands, that’s a whole other problem!
Occasionally snakes can find their way into these burrows and make a meal of the mole as well.
Do Moles Play Dead?
It would be rare to ever catch a mole above ground, but during those special moments you can observe one taking a gulp of fresh oxygen on the surface or if your pet cat or dog has dug one out of its hole, the mole may play dead if frightened or cornered.
Moles in captivity do not survive, and will quickly succumb to lethargy or even death once kept indoors overnight. Don’t forget, with a metabolism demanding so much food, just a few hours can render them sluggish!
Why is the Mole Considered a Pest?
Moles are considered an agricultural and aesthetic pest, since they cover pastures meant for livestock with unappetizing dirt, as well as blotting the landscape with their infamous mole hills.
Moles become a considerable nuisance to gardeners, farmers and homeowners when their habit of digging tunnels end up spoiling their yard work, ruining our precious flower beds or gardens by uprooting or damaging the stems and roots of plants. The aftermath of a mole’s handiwork can result in upturned stones that can damage your lawn equipment or bring about the deaths of some costly flowers.
Moles dig two types of hills, both which offend the human aesthetic above-ground. The shallow tunnel occurs just below the surface, which express themselves in a raised ridge on a lawn or flower bed. They also prove a nightmare for golf course owners.
The deep tunnels are 4-16 inches underground. While these deep tunnels cannot be seen, their beginnings and ends are, the latter of which gives birth to the infamous mole hills which are the bane of many landowners for centuries.
Mole hills are caused by moles reaching the surface, and clearing the soil beside them as they pop their heads out of the dirt. These are sometimes even created deliberately when the mole is attempting to create a nest with the tunnel associated with the mole hill.
Are Moles Dangerous to Humans?
If you are wondering if a mole can somehow come above ground, actively seek out and pursue a human in order to bite him/her, or in general pose any physical threat to the family, the answer is: no.
Nor would they ever wander into your house through an open door by accident (unless a flooding flushes them into your living room). Moles are already asocial animals that barely see members of their own kind; they rarely come into contact with humans, and are intelligent enough to try to stay away from them.
As any toothed mammal has the ability to, however, moles have the potential to bite, particularly when it becomes an issue of self-defense. Their sharp little teeth can pierce the skin on our fingers and hands. Therefore always wear thick gloves when handling live moles.
Mole-borne diseases usually only come from the bugs hitching a ride on their fur, such as ticks responsible for lyme diseases or fleas. Moles can become infected with rabies, as well, but since their contact with humans is already low as possible, it’s highly unlikely that a mole can transmit rabies or parasites to your pet or its owner.
How to Prevent Moles from Choosing MY Yard?
One probably wouldn’t want to cover all that soil with a renovated back porch. The truth is, there’s little that can actually be done to prevent moles from wandering and digging into your property beforehand, since worms and other underground sustenance are present wherever there’s soil to be found.
One choice available to the property owner is the possibility to control the moles’ food supply by killing off the insects and worms which populate the soil. These can be products labelled for insect control or even poison. However, this may not be an option for those with a weak stomach or environmental conscientiousness, as removing worms will result in acidic, dry soil unfit for crops or flowers and such.
There also exist mole-specific “repellents,” which make the area sprayed with the products really unattractive to the mole’s sense of smell. These repellents should be applied monthly to yards where moles are active.
It has also been reported that planting bermuda grass is effective in impeding the burrowing activities of moles, who find the roots more difficult to clip or dig through than regular plants or grass roots.
Don’t bother with ultrasonic or other electronic devices, as moles are highly intelligent and quickly adapt to noise and activity occurring above the soil in days. Be sure to look for a “Money-back guarantee” before purchasing a relevant product making such claims as to chase off moles.
The most you can do may be to mitigate the situation once it occurs. Traps or baits can be used to great effect in killing moles.
Mole Trapping Tips
- The prime seasons to be trapping moles are the Fall and the Spring. The earlier you start from these seasons, the better, as warm rain draws out the worms which moles so fervently cherish.
- Before storing away a trap, it should be cleaned so that dried mud does not interfere with further usage and effectiveness.
- Do not make an overly big mess during the process of locating a mole’s runways as too much tunnel disturbance can cause a mole to relocate, causing your trap to fail.
- Don’t be discouraged if your trap fails to capture a mole after two or even three days. Simply move the trap elsewhere.
- It is very rare for more than one mole to frequent a tunnel due to how territorial they are, the only exception being mating season.
- Yes, you can use your pet to assist you with the trapping process as their noses and digging abilities are indispensable when it comes to excavating moles!
Do Moles Give Any Benefit for Your Garden?
Yes! You know those pesky beetle/white grubs which kill young shrubs or grass? A single mole can eat up to 200 grubs within its lifespan. Much of the benefit a mole can provide for a yard or ecosystem is through its voracity being put to good use in controlling the bug population.
It may be impractical to thoroughly attempt to exterminate moles, when continuous maintenance of your traps and preventative measures need to be regularly taken in order to keep them off your property in the long term. You may even want to live a life of passive acceptance for your subterranean neighbors in light of this notion.
Mike Zhang. Founder of FamilyLifeShare