Mole Management

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Do you have unsightly ridges in your lawn? Do you live in a wooded area or neighborhood with many trees? If so you may be living in prime mole habitat.

Let me share a little information about moles. Moles have a long tapering snout, they lack external ears, and have small barely noticeable eyes. Moles have a short neck, muscular front forelegs, and heavily clawed feet. The fur is short, velvety, dark gray to black and covers most of the animal. Moles are only 5 to 8 inches in length. Mole ridges are created by tunneling activities as they search for food. Contrary to what some people think, moles do not eat roots, bulbs, or tubers of plants. However, extensive tunneling may lead to drying out of shallow-rooted lawn plants and shrubs. By the way, just one mole can produce an incredible number of tunnels in search of food. Just because you have many tunnels does not mean you have many moles. Mole tunneling may expose plants to attacks by small rodents like mice or voles that use mole tunnels to feed on plants.

Moles have an interesting diet. They feed on earthworms, white grubs, ants, beetles, and other insects that live in the soil. Earthworms are their favorite according to my reading. Generally, they are solitary creatures and only the females share their burrows while raising young. There is not a particular time of day or year that moles are more active. However, they do go to greater depths when the soil is cool. This makes sense, because that’s where their food goes when it’s cool.

Depending on your preference, several levels of management are available. One option is to do nothing. Since moles do like to eat like white grubs, they are actually doing you a favor. I guess you might call this natural management of grubs. Another option and probably the most common one you have heard is to apply an insecticide according to label rates in order to control their food source, white grubs. But as I have mentioned earlier, their favorite food source is earthworms. Earthworms are beneficial and thus a sign of healthy soil. There are no approved treatments for controlling earthworms and they often exist in large numbers in our yards.

Another option is spear or harpoon type traps. Since moles are a wild, non-game animal, they are protected by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC). In order to control moles with spear traps by the book, you are required to apply for a permit from this

agency. In addition any moles taken must be disposed of in a sanitary manner and reported back to the NCWRC within 5 working days. At least two traps work best on an average size lawn and they should be placed on active runways. Moles are very suspicious of any foreign objects in their runways. If any portion of a trap is exposed in the tunnel opening, moles will certainly detect it and will desert that part of the runway or will tunnel around or under the trap. However, moles are not disturbed by soil blocking the runway, since they encounter this situation often when people or animals step on the burrow. Success in mole trapping depends largely on the placement and setting of the trap. First, find a place to set the trap on active runways by stepping on all tunnels. Repeat this process for a few days to discover places where the mole goes every day. When you select a place to set the trap, step on the tunnel where you plan to set it to hide it from the moles point of view. Success is not often achieved on the first try. You must be persistent when dealing with these critters. If traps remain un-sprung after a week or so, start the process over again.

The family pet may be an option for mole control. Cats and dogs may take care of moles for you, if you can put up with the holes they create while diligently searching for their prey.

As part of the protection by the NCWRC, it is illegal to use gas-producing cartridges, car exhaust, or any other poisoning technique in North Carolina to control moles. However, there are some products on the market labeled to deter moles. These contain castor oil concentrate that is diluted with water and sprayed over the area moles are located. One such product locally available is MoleMed. These products claim to make moles leave the area. Keep in mind that they do not remove the food source or kill moles. After treatment stops moles could return.

Whether you decide to tolerate or trap moles I am sure that your experience will be an interesting one.

Information in this article was provided with the assistance of Danny Lauderdale, Horticulture Agent, North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service.