Damage caused by these little diggers is one of the most frustrating problems gardeners face. Use these tips for dealing with them so you can enjoy a pest-free yard.
By Viveka Neveln
Updated January 04, 2021
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When you see a series of 3- to 5-inch, rounded, raised ridges running across the surface of your lawn that are accompanied by little volcanoes of soil here and there, you know you have a mole around. These small mammals can cause quite a bit of damage in a short amount of time because their tunneling ruins any plants in their path. As they dig through the earth, they destroy roots, so the tell-tale ridges of their tunnels turn brown quickly. On the positive side, moles help aerate the soil and eat up destructive insects while they’re at it. But if you need to get rid of moles in your yard before they do extensive damage, here’s what you need to know.
mole on lawn
What Are Moles?
Moles are burrowing insectivores. They are about 6-8 inches long and have gray to black velvety fur, slender hairless snouts, and small eyes and ears. Moles’ large front feet have long claws that dig much like a hoe. Except for breeding season in early spring, moles tend to live alone, so the multi-tunneled pattern in your yard is likely home to only one mole.
Before you learn how to get rid of moles, you need to learn how they live. Moles build new feeding tunnels constantly and may not use the same one twice. You may find entry and exit mounds, which are usually round and symmetrical, pushed up volcano-fashion by the mole. The hole usually has soil in it but remains visible. The mounds are connected to main runways, which moles use repeatedly. The runways are 12-18 inches underground and not usually visible.
Moles feed on insects and insect larvae, but they are especially fond of white grubs, which are a common lawn pest. Given a choice, moles pick moist, sandy loam soils over dry, heavy clay soils. They are most active during warm, wet months, although they live underground year-round.
Confusion with Pocket Gophers
Homeowners sometimes mistake mole tunnels for those made by pocket gophers, small rodents that also tunnel underground. Gophers, however, do not create raised ridges as they go. They eat the roots of grass and other plants, pulling them down into underground burrows, which tends to push soil out to the side. Their tunnels look more flattened, with fan-shape or semicircular mounds. Each mound may contain a visible hole, although earth clumps can camouflage the hole.
Mesh barriers, traps, and poison baits can be used to eliminate pocket gophers. Avoid baits that contain strychnine because predators that eat the poisoned gopher may also die.
How to Get Rid of Moles
A mole can be a tricky creature to evict because it lives underground. Repellants, poisons, and fumigants are all options, but should be avoided if you have pets or children that may get exposed. You also may have heard of home remedies like putting moth balls in the tunnels or spraying castor oil over the area, but none of these are effective. The only sure way to get rid of a mole is to use a mole-specific trap that will kill the animal. You can find above- and below-ground traps to do the job (Easy Mole Trap Step-To-Set Metal Mole Trap, $24, The Home Depot). Follow the package directions for correct placement, and move the tunnel traps daily while you’re still noticing activity to increase your chances of eliminating the mole.
Spring and fall, when the ground is not frozen, are the best times of the year for getting rid of moles because that’s when they’re most active. Usually, you’ll only have one or maybe two moles to trap to solve the problem because they don’t live in groups.
How to Keep Moles Away
Some places are more likely to have moles visit, usually in a rural or suburban yard with large open areas or lawn. If you frequently have moles around, and don’t mind a few tunnels around your lawn, you may want to try the barrier method to protect smaller spaces, like a veggie garden or a colorful flower bed in your front yard. You can create an underground fence by burying a 24-inch metal or hardware cloth barrier, like this Galvanized Hardware Cloth ($13, Wayfair), at least a foot below the surface. If a mole tunnels into this barrier, it will usually decide to dig elsewhere.
Because moles prefer to live in areas where the soil stays moist, you can try improving drainage on your property to discourage them. If the problem isn’t severe, you can simply wait it out to see if the mole moves to another location on their own. However, if the damage to your lawn or garden just seems to be getting worse, it’s best to take action to get rid of the mole.
Luckily, you’ll probably never notice more than one mole at a time tearing up your yard, but that doesn’t make them any less of a nuisance. Using our tips to get rid of moles, you can deal with those that try to tunnel their way under your lawn, and hopefully discourage any more from arriving by adding barriers or improving soil drainage. [external_footer]