Despite their relatively small size, moles can be one of the biggest causes of damage on your property, whether it’s a farm or your backyard. They’ve earned a pest classification for a reason. They’re especially problematic around a home since they’ll dig up mounds of dirt in your backyard, messing up your lawn in the process. On a farm, they can ruin your intended harvest by damaging the roots as they burrow through. That said, their diet consists mainly consists of insects, and they won’t be eating your plants or grass.
Learning to get rid of moles starts with learning to identify them because dug-up mounds of dirt aren’t unique to the creatures. It’s something they share with gophers with the countermeasures for dealing with the two types of burrowing animals being different. As such, if you’re going to learn to identify and deal with moles on your property, the information below should prove useful.
The good thing with moles is if you see them, they’re easily identifiable. However, the bad news is that they spend almost all their time underground and rarely come up to the surface. This is even evident in their physical characteristics since they rarely ever have to use their eyes and ears. Consequently, these features are small and even covered by fur, so you might not see them. Also notable is that according to National Geographic, scientists believe they’re color blind and nearsighted.
Mature moles can be as big as ten inches, including their tails, although some are smaller. As for the body, it’s mostly cylindrical with fur ranging from dark grey to black. Despite most burrowing animals being rodents, moles are different, which is evident in their teeth. They still have large front teeth, but their’s don’t protrude out of their mouths. However, you’re unlikely to see their teeth unless you catch one.
Ultimately, one of the mole’s most defining features is the snout. They’re hairless and pink, although they may differ in shape and size depending on the species. Moles also have webbed feet and long claws. The front feet are much larger than the back feet since they do most of the digging.
Also, according to the National Wildlife Federation, some species like eastern moles have fur that sticks straight up. This keeps soil from being trapped on their fur coats as they back up through tunnels.
Despite the similarities in naming, moles and voles are quite different. Voles are small rodents with sturdy rounded bodies that many people mistake for mice. Also, typical of rodents, they have sharp incisors. Their fur color ranges from gray to brown, and their tails aren’t hairy. The fact that you can see their tiny ears and eyes quite easily is one of the biggest signs that you’re not dealing with a mole. Additionally, voles have much smaller feet than their mole counterparts.
Voles can also be a huge problem on a farm or backyard. They burrow underground, and given that they’re mainly herbivores, they can decimate a potential harvest if left to their own devices. Vole burrows are fairly shallow, and you’re more likely to see voles above ground than you are to see moles.
Another difference is their lifestyle, with voles living in groups while moles are typically solitary creatures.
If you see mounds of dirt on your property, two of the most likely culprits are moles and gophers. So, it’s good to learn how to eliminate both moles and gophers. Nevertheless, he countermeasures differ; therefore, you’ll still need to learn to identify each one before you can take action.
The Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management describes gophers or pocket gophers as medium-sized rodents ranging from five to 14 inches. Like voles, they have small external eyes and ears, a byproduct of spending a lot of time underground. They also have sensitive whiskers, which help them navigate dark tunnels.
Something else gophers share with voles is their diet. They’re herbivorous and one of the more common gopher species in the U.S., the plains pocket gopher, prefers the roots of growing plants. Gopher mounds and mole mounds may look similar from afar, but there are actually ways to tell them apart.
Gopher mounds are fan or crescent-shaped, while mole mounds are much more cylindrical. Soil texture is also a clue as to which pest has invaded your yard. Moles have no problems carrying large chunks of soil as they burrow underground. Therefore, mole mounds are much more likely to have chunky pieces of soil.
Gophers, on the other hand, prefer to break up the soil before bringing it above ground. Consequently, you’ll notice that it’s fine textured. Lastly, gophers leave their mounds close together while mounds left by moles are much farther apart. Of course, you should inspect a couple of holes around your yard to ensure you’re only dealing with one type of pest before taking action.
There are up to 42 species of mole worldwide, although you’re unlikely to encounter all of them. They’re spread out across Europe, Asia, and North America. The ones you need to worry about the most if you’re American include the eastern moles, hairy-tailed moles, and the star-nosed mole.
In the U.S., the eastern mole can be found in South Dakota, eastern Massachusetts, Florida, Louisiana, Kansas, Nebraska, and a few other areas. It’s also one of the more common mole species around. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency describes this species as small and stout with grayish-brown fur at the top that’s also silvery-gray underneath.
They can be between 5.5 and 8 inches in length, with the tail growing between 0.8 and 1.5 inches. As for the weight, it’s from 1 to 5 oz depending on the size of the animal, with the relatively short tail having minimal fur.
Eastern moles only give to one litter of pups annually, something they share with other mole species, with an average of four pups added to the population. Nevertheless, the pups could be as many as five or as few as two.
Depending on the condition of the soil, adult eastern moles can tunnel up t 18 feet an hour. Speaking of the soil, they prefer moist sandy soil that will make it easier to tunnel through. Furthermore, they prefer open areas for their habitats. Consequently, they’re more likely to come to your yard if you have a large, open space.
Eastern moles do most of their digging and burrowing during the day with reduced activity from early evening to just before sunrise. They also dig shallower tunnels in the summer compared to the winter, which may be more problematic for your yard or farm.
According to the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, the hairy-tailed mole lives up to its species name with an approximately 1.2-inch tail that’s thick, tapered, and covered with fur. Their body fur also seems to have whitish spots.
The average size is about 6.2 inches. As for the mole’s weight, it can go up to 2.2 oz. You can find hairy-tailed moles in the northeastern U.S., North Carolina, and Ohio, among other places.
Star-nosed are the easiest to differentiate from the rest of the pack. Their pink snouts have 22 fleshy tentacles extending from the main part of the snout. The National Wildlife Federation notes that these tentacles have roughly 100,000 nerve endings making the mole the most touch-sensitive animal known to man. This is made more apparent by the comparison to the human hand, which has 17,000 nerve endings.
This species of mole uses its snout as a touch tool to help navigate quickly through tunnels. It also grows slightly larger than most others and can be as long as 8 inches. The fur varies and can be a dark brown color or black. Additionally, the fur on the underside is a lighter shade.
Star-nosed moles prefer moist or damp soil and are more likely to live in areas with poor drainage or mashes nearby.
Among the smaller species is the American Shrew mole, which typically doesn’t grow past 5.5 inches. It’s more common in western U.S. states like Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and California, with black fur covering its body. These moles prefer moist soil that’s easy to dig through and can sometimes travel in a pack which is uncharacteristic of other moles, which are mostly solitary creatures.
Like gophers, moles typically mate during the late winter, and early spring months of February, March, and April, with their gestation period lasting between four and six weeks. Pups that could leave the burrow as early as five to six weeks after birth. Before that, they start growing fur at 14 days old and are weaned at four to five weeks.
Moles reach full maturity at about ten months and can mate and introduce other pups into your property if you haven’t gotten rid of them by then.
Some people think that since moles aren’t herbivorous and don’t eat plants, they’re harmless. What do moles eat instead? They’re insectivorous, meaning they mostly eat bugs. Even so, they can cause quite a bit of damage to a plot of land despite living solitary lives. As mentioned above, some can add up to 18 feet of tunnels an hour, depending on the condition of the soil.
Most of the damage comes from this simple act of burrowing, whether they’re looking for food or just extending their habitat. Since they typically don’t go too deep into the soil, especially in the summer, they end up destroying plant roots. Without roots to absorb moisture and nutrients, the plants end up dead. This is also why one of the recommended methods of checking for mole activity in your backyard is to look for dead patches of grass.
They can even wreck the roots of crops and trees, leaving them to fall over, which can be disastrous around your home. Additionally, since they’re constantly moving soil, they may ruin your attempts to get a better crop yield by adding fertilizers.
On the surface, they seem to help aerate the soil as they’re burrowing through. However, they also eat worms and other insects inside the ground that do the same job. Over time, the damage becomes more than what the creature compensates for by tunneling, and eventually, the soil quality becomes too poor to grow anything.
Next, they cause a lot of cosmetic damage, and you may notice soil mounds cropping up on your otherwise pristine lawn. If it’s a farm, the holes and mounds could also prove disastrous to equipment.
Moles don’t just pop up in your yard for no reason. They have to be looking for something, and often it’s the ideal living conditions. The first thing most animals look for before settling down is the presence of food, and it’s no different for moles, whether they’re the eastern moles, American Shrew moles, or the star-nosed mole.
As mentioned above, they’re insectivorous, and they may help you deal with a mosquito problem or eat the grasshoppers and crickets around your home. However, this is not their main diet.
Moles mostly eat underground insects like earthworms, white grub, and some species of beetle. This makes wet soil so inviting since they’re likely to find earthworms just under the surface.
In addition to providing food, wet soil offers additional benefits to worms. One example is that it helps the creatures regulate their body temperature. Furthermore, the soil in your yard may be easy for the mole to burrow through.
The landscaping elements may also help enhance a mole’s habitat. For instance, moles like areas under trees and shrubs since they’re cool and retain moisture much better than open areas. They’re also some of the most likely areas to find grub and earthworms. Consequently, moles may pop up along a fence or under a line of hedges.
You can get rid of moles using traps, vinegar, dawn soap, and mole repellent, among other solutions. However, you first need to ensure you’re dealing with moles and not other burrowing animals like voles or gophers. To that end, we’ve explained the steps you should follow.
It should be easy to locate some of the holes and tunnels left by the moles, thanks to the mounds above ground. You will, however, need some protective gear, including gloves and a pair of boots. You may not encounter them, but if you do, it’s important to note they can be aggressive if they feel cornered.
As noted above, mole mounds are often symmetrical with chunky soil as opposed to gopher mounds which are crescent-shaped. The size of the mound will vary depending on the depth of the tunnel. Deeper tunnels mean bigger mounds since more soil is displaced from the earth. Additionally, you’ll want to carry a probe to examine the areas around the mounds for underground tunnels.
You can also check the greenery in the area around the mounds. If the plants are dying with no signs of physical damage on the shoot, it might be a case of damage to the roots. The moles won’t eat the roots, but they can damage them as they pass through.
You can dig out one or two plants to see if the roots are damaged. You, however, have to be careful not to damage the roots yourself during the process, as that can be misleading.
While they aren’t a common occurrence above ground, they still need to bring the soil up as they’re burrowing through, so you may be able to spot one. They will, however, choose the quietest times to do this, so if you’re walking around your yard, they’re unlikely to make an appearance. That said, you can set up cameras and other monitoring devices to check for critters from a distance.
Another way to use cameras is as an elimination method. If you see something scurrying by during the day, it’s unlikely to be a mole, and you may be dealing with another pest altogether. The exception is in early spring, where moles are a little more adventurous above ground as they’re looking for mates.
The question of whether you can kill moles legally is a common one since they’re part of the natural wildlife. Fortunately, there are no laws against it, although you might be restricted in how you go about it. The best mole killers are effective without putting you in trouble with the law, and we’ve outlined some options that fit within these parameters.
Nevertheless, ways to kill moles vary widely with the various options, including traps, mole baits, etc. As for those wondering how to get rid of moles without killing them, there are ways to do that as well. You can use various chemicals like dawn soap, or you can opt to get rid of moles naturally. It all depends on your preferences.
If you choose to get rid of the critters without killing them, here are some pointers on how to do it.
There are both mole eliminator traps and live traps, with the latter being the more humane way of dealing with moles on your property. As implied by the name, live traps capture moles alive, and you’ll have to decide what to do with the critter afterward. Live traps are long cylindrical contraptions with a one-way door on each side. Several of the best mole traps are available to help you with your mole problem, although they sometimes differ in design and material construction.
Of course, you have to encourage the moles to get in with a piece of bait, preferably earthworms or grubs. To set a live trap up, you dig into the tunnel after you’ve located it. As mentioned above, you can easily locate mole tunnels by probing near a recent mound. To find out if it’s still active, flatten it, mark it, and check back later to see if it’s raised. If it is, the mole is probably still around.
Place the entirety of the trap into the tunnel and cover it with plywood before covering it with soil. If the mole smells the bait, it will come to investigate. As described above, moles make it a habit to re-excavate parts of their tunnel network that have been knocked in. You should also follow any extra instructions that come with the device.
The good thing with live traps is they keep the critter alive until you can release it into the wild. However, cons include the fact that you may have to travel to release it. Furthermore, they are labor intensive and require you to keep checking for a captured mole. If you leave it for too long, one of these creatures may die in the trap, which beats the point of using a live trap in the first place.
A pro tip for those looking to use live traps is to use latex gloves while handling the trap. That way, the mole won’t be spooked by your scent as it approaches the device.
Wear protective gear when releasing the mole. Lastly, if the trap spends more than 48 hours without catching anything, you should remove it, add fresh bait, and place it in a different tunnel.
If using traps isn’t something that appeals to you, there’s the option of repellents. They use the moles’ senses against them. Tar, for instance, aggravates their sense of smell and taste, something it shares with castor oil. However, unlike castor oil, applying tar is difficult since you can’t spray it, and pouring it into the ground is tricky.
The best way to apply tar is to dip a small object that you then dip into the mole’s tunnel system. If the mole encounters enough of these tar-filled small objects, it’s bound to leave your yard for somewhere less bothersome. However, tar isn’t recommended as some components of coal tar can be toxic.
Granulated and store-bought liquid repellents work the same way, although they’re mostly a combination of organic ingredients.
Components of granulated repellents include castor oil, garlic, and citronella oil, none of which agree with the moles’ senses.
As for the components of other store-bought liquid repellents, they typically include eggs, cloves, onions, garlic, wintergreen, and fish.
Lastly, there are sonic repellents that may be designed like probes. They’re affordable, and you can find them relatively easily online. These electronic devices may come with motion sensors and work by emitting sonic vibrations that scare off the critters. It’s worth noting the vibrations produced are undetectable to humans, so while they might be a nuisance to moles, you’ll likely forget they are even there.
Just like tar, if the moles encounter sonic repellents on your yard often enough, they’ll move elsewhere. Some are also solar-powered, so you never have to worry about recharging them.
It’s also possible to supplement the mole repellents mentioned above with DIY solutions.
For those wondering how to get rid of moles with vinegar, for instance, all you have to do is mix it with three times as much water. You can then put it in a spray bottle and spray it around your yard. Focusing more on affected areas and the areas you want to protect is recommended.
In addition to being something affordable that you likely already have at home, it’s mostly safe for pets and children and can be used for various other purposes, including cleaning and disinfecting surfaces. You may have to reapply the vinegar water solution every few days until you completely get rid of your mole problem. It’s environmentally friendly and a humane way of dealing with the pests since it aggravates their sense of smell, prompting them to burrow elsewhere.
Another DIY solution is dawn soap. To get rid of moles with dawn soap or some other dishwashing liquid with similar ingredients, mix it with castor oil to make castor oil spray. It’s worth noting that you can use castor oil with water. However, since the two don’t mix well, adding dawn soap to the equation is necessary. You can then put the mixture in a spray bottle and get to work on your yard.
Other Home Remedies
Other available home ingredients that you can use instead of castor oil and dawn soap include red pepper, coffee grounds, tobacco, and cat litter. You sprinkle bits and pieces of these solutions into the mole tunnels and around your yard. This is how you get rid of the moles naturally. Nevertheless, you will have to do this fairly often until you’re sure the mole is no longer there. Also, it works better if you use multiple homemade repellents simultaneously.
Lastly, you can even include homemade DIY traps in your arsenal for getting rid of moles. To create a bucket trap, for instance, you need to dig into an active mole tunnel. You want to be able to fit the bucket under the bottom of the mole tunnel. Additionally, you should pack dirt around the edge of the bucket.
Cover the top of the tunnel with plywood and finish by covering it up with dirt. The idea is that once the mole goes to investigate, it’ll fall into the bucket, and given the smooth surface, it shouldn’t be able to climb back up. This is a form of a live trap, and you’ll need to check on it occasionally to see if you’ve caught anything.
Using insecticides eliminates some of their source of food. With that, the moles will either have to move or die from starvation. There’s a chance the moles will eat the insects that died and be poisoned. However, it’s more likely that they’ll burrow deeper into your yard in search of earthworms and grub, which are much harder to kill with insecticides. This can cause more damage, although the critters will eventually have to move on.
If you’re looking to kill the moles rather than repel them from your property, you have a few solutions to choose from, as listed below.
Mole kill traps are designed differently from live traps. They are spring-loaded and look fairly similar to spring-loaded mice traps. However, they’re also slightly bigger since moles are generally larger than mice. The wire tek mole eliminator trap is an excellent example, with the spring in the device creating tension. The trap can easily be triggered by mole movement and will either stab the mole or crush it using blunt force. There are also traps that use a combination of the two.
While you may not need to check on a kill trap as often as a live trap, you’ll need to get rid of the carcass, especially if you want to reuse the device. This will also necessitate cleaning it before you set it up in a different burrow or tunnel system.
Also, despite the design being different from live traps, the setup is almost identical. This includes finding active tunnels, digging into them, placing traps, and covering the ground. Traps should come with instructions on how to set the spring-loaded mechanism. Make sure to follow them to the letter, so you don’t hurt your hands. You can also include bait to encourage the moles to go through them.
Alternatively, you can use poison baits. These are designed to look like worms but contain chemicals like bromethalin, warfarin, or zinc phosphide. Bromethalin has active ingredients like fluoride and bromine. These combine and affect the moles both physically and neurologically. Talpirid mole bait is one example that looks like worms and contains bromethalin.
Conversely, warfarin is an anticoagulant that creates blood clots in the moles’ blood vessels. These clots travel to the mole’s organs and kill it. Ultimately, each poison has its own unique way of working. However, you have to be careful with the handling so you don’t accidentally ingest some of the chemicals. Additionally, you’d need to be doubly careful if you have pets or kids running around your yard.
Poison can also be administered to moles as gas, with gas bombs being available in stores. Typically, you activate a gas bomb and drop it into a mole tunnel. This will fill the network of tunnels with poisonous gas. Notably, you may need to buy more than one depending on the size of the tunnel network, and instructions on how to distribute the gas bombs will be indicated on the package.
Ideally, you should plug the holes you’re not going to use so the critter has no escape route. The mole will likely die in the burrow, and with this method, there’s no cleanup required. Special instructions may include wearing a mask and other protective gear, so you don’t accidentally breathe in the fumes. Also, keep pets and young kids away from the gassed area until you’re done with the mole problem.
After you’re done, monitor your yard for a few days for fresh signs of mole activity, so you can tell if re-application is necessary.
While moles love moisture in their soil, they can drown if it’s too much. Consequently, getting a garden hose, putting it into one of the holes, and opening the tap for a while could kill them. For this method to be successful, you’ll have to plug most other holes to prevent escape. Additionally, you should be on standby wearing boots and with a tool like a shovel in case, the critters decide to make a break for it above ground.
Boric acid is a naturally occurring mole poison with its toxicity to pests dependent on the amount of boron it contains. Nevertheless, it’s effective against moles, and you have a variety of ways to use it. For one, it can be used as fertilizer while at the same time decimating the insects in the soil. Given that the moles have to eat, it shouldn’t be long before the creature moves out.
Another way to get rid of moles with boric acid is to apply it to bait. Once you apply it, drop it into a mole tunnel, and the creature will eat it and die. Try distributing bait to different parts of the tunnel network for faster resolution of your pest problem. Also, handle with gloves.
Alternatively, you can simply pour a boric acid solution into the tunnels and holes. This may even turn out more effective than flooding the tunnel network.
You may have heard of people using chewing gum to get rid of moles, but how do you get rid of moles in your yard with juicy fruit gum? It’s as simple as unwrapping the gum and dropping it into a mole tunnel. While it’s unclear how this works, there’s enough evidence to suggest that the critters eat the gum and die. However, to ensure they come near it, it might be a good idea to handle it with latex gloves. That way, the scent of your hands won’t scare the mole away.
This method has also been known to work on gophers.
Even if you get rid of moles, it’s a problem that could always re-occur. Therefore, you should learn how to prevent it in the first place so you don’t always have to come up with countermeasures. The best preventive measures for a mole problem are highlighted below.
Depending on the area you want to protect from moles putting up small physical barriers may suffice. For instance, if you have a small vegetable garden, you can add a fence around it. However, as these are burrowing creatures, the fence needs to extend both above and below ground and should reach at least 30 inches below the surface.
You don’t have to worry about the fence being high as the moles are unlikely to jump, with five or six inches being enough. To erect a physical barrier, you need to dig a trench and add wire mesh or wire cages. Adding gravel should also make the moles less likely to go through as they can’t burrow through rocks.
As mentioned above, moisture in the soil allows worms to thrive, which encourages moles to move in. It also makes the soil much easier to burrow through. You can eliminate these perks for moles by enhancing the drainage and reducing the moisture around your yard.
One way is to reduce mulch which keeps the moisture in the soil from evaporating. Rake up leaves that fall from trees daily, and pick up debris as often as possible. Additionally, you can trim the sources of the mulch, i.e., the trees, bushes, and shrubs in your yard.
Next, use a dry roller on your lawn. Not only does this help compact the soil making it harder to dig through, but it also makes it harder to retain moisture. You should also inspect your land for puddles of water after rain. If so, you can correct the situation yourself or call in a landscaper to ensure water drains easily.
If you’re not putting up small physical barriers, you may want to dig a big trench around the whole area and line it. You can use the same materials, i.e., gravel and wire mesh or wire cages, to fill it up. Nevertheless, you should be more careful if you’re digging a trench around a big area like your house. You might end up damaging something like a utility pipe. Consequently, most people elect to call in a professional.
However, for a DIY project, a six inches wide two feet deep tunnel should work just fine.
If you call in an exterminator, one of the tools at their disposal is high-quality nitrogen gas. The pros of using this method include the gas being virtually harmless to the environment. Consequently, instead of waiting to have a mole problem and calling in a specialist, you could just plant some high-nitrogen plants in your yard. The moles will smell it and avoid your property like the plague. Some of these high nitrogen plants include marigolds, daffodils, and tulips.
Despite it not being a high-nitrogen plant, houndstongue has proven effective as a deterrent mostly because the spiny seeds can cause moles severe discomfort. Worse still, they stick to the animal’s fur, so they’re not that easy to escape from. Nevertheless, the moles might decide that venturing into your yard is not worth the extra pain.
As with other pests, there comes a time when you’ve tried everything with little to no success. Of course, as this happens, the damage to your property will only increase. If so, the time may be right to call in an expert. They might have access to tools and mole elimination methods that you don’t. One example is nitrogen gas. Furthermore, their experience and training guarantee they know how to smoke out the critters.
Another cue to call in a professional is when you don’t have the time to deal with it yourself. If you can’t set apart a few hours a day to deal with the problem, you have no choice but to call in help. Lastly, you can also call in a professional early if you’d rather not risk extra damage.
Most do-it-yourself pest control methods are unlikely to work overnight. In the case of poisons or juicy fruit gum, for instance, it might take some time for the mole to take the bait. The same is true for traps. One example of a quicker method is gassing, although it could also end in failure. Nevertheless, if you want the fastest resolution to your mole problem, the best way is to call in an exterminator. It shouldn’t take long to assess the property and determine the best countermeasure.
The fastest way to get rid of moles naturally is to use a combination of natural countermeasures to repel the creatures. Consider some available household repellents like coffee, vinegar, castor oil, etc. These should be used in conjunction with planting high-nitrogen plants and even the naturally-occurring boric acid. Ultimately, you want to use as many natural countermeasures as possible to encourage the critters to move out.
It is very rare to see moles above ground, although they might be a little more visible in early spring as they’re trying to find mates. Even if they appear above ground, they immediately try to burrow back down. Nevertheless, they’re active throughout most of the day, with activity peaking at around noon and midnight. You might see one pop up on a mound as it’s burrowing through the soil, but they rarely come out if they can sense any movement above the soil surface.