Moles

There are several types of moles in the United States, but two, the Eastern mole and the star nosed mole, are the ones that cause the most damage for homeowners. Moles are about the size of a chipmunk and weight between 3 — 6 ounces. Although their damage seems to come and go, they usually stay in one location year round. As the weather cools, they go deeper in the ground and sometimes hibernate during extreme cold, so their damage is less apparent. In some aspects they are very similar to gophers.

Visible mole damage

The destruction most people associate with moles is the volcano-like mounds of dirt that gets pushed to the surface. Moles use their powerful front paws to claw at the dirt and pack it on all sides to create a tunnel. They then turn around in their tunnel and push the dirt to the surface. The excavated dirt creates a pile that can get larger than 2' in diameter (although most are 1/2' – 3/4' in diameter). As these unsightly piles settle they create bare spots in the lawn.

Another common trait of lawn moles is the surface tunneling that appears as a long series of vein-like cracks in soft soil such as newly-laid sod or gardens.

Many people with mole problems complain of walking across their lawn only to notice their feet sinking on what feels like spongy grass. Many times this sinking feeling is caused by the weight of the person collapsing a shallow mole tunnel.

Moles can undermine concrete slabs, driveways, pools, and even shallow foundations. These situations can be either irreparable or extremely expensive to fix.

Mole damage is unsightly. Long burrowing tunnels crisscrossing your lawn certainly aren't attractive and when their tunnels approach the surface of the soil, they usually chew through the roots of the lawn causing it to yellow and die.

The reason the little miners are digging their way through your lawn is that they are looking for food and finding it. Moles typically enjoy feasting on insects, with grubs being on the top of the list. You can almost count on finding grubs in your lawn if you have moles. Scientists have determined moles eat about 25% — 100% of their body weight each day.

The easiest way to get rid of them is to get rid of the grubs. However, this is no guarantee. Moles also enjoy earthworms and a soil favorable to earthworms, is also easy for the moles to dig through. This is particularly true in garden areas where the soil is normally very loamy— ideal for worms and ideal to dig in.

Trapping

Trapping is the most effective and practical method of mole control. In general, trapping success is greatest in the spring and fall, especially after rain. In the summer and winter, moles are active in deep soil and more difficult to locate. Three types of mole traps are especially effective: harpoon, scissor-jaw, and choker loop. To ensure safe and humane deployment, be sure to follow printed instructions.

Note: The instructions included with harpoon style traps will not provide for consistent results! The run must be collapsed and the trigger pan securely pressed into the run creating a blockage allowing the mole to trigger the trap when attempting to reopen the tunnel. Traps should be set in active surface burrows.

Active runs can be located by stepping down the run, marking the location, and checking to see if the tunnel is reopened within 24 to 48 hours. Permanent or deeper tunnels will be the most productive trap locations since these tunnels may be used several times daily. To identify main runways in a yard or area, look for constantly reopened tunnels that follow a generally straight line or that appear to connect two mounds or two feeding areas (branching tunnels).

Main runways often will follow fence rows, walkways, foundations, or other manmade borders. Occasionally, main runways will occur along woody perimeters of a field or lawn. Meandering tunnels in the lawn are "probes" that are quickly constructed by moles and may not be reused. Locating traps in these probes may not be productive.

Consult with a nursery for availability of and instructions on using traps.

Additional info:

  • Moles can tunnel at 15' — 18' per hour in unexcavated ground

  • They can travel up to 80' per minute through existing runs

  • Moles are carnivorous predators, killing and eating other animals, insects and their larvae. Earthworms are their favorite meal.

  • Moles have very poor eye site, but very sensitive touch. They can detect the motion of an earthworm.

  • They do not eat roots, tubers, or bulbs

  • When the soil dries out in the summer months, they burrow deeper and push out the diggings as loose soil piles producing the classic molehill.