Mole-with-Worm-003.jpg

A rarely seen Eastern Mole is pictured with its favorite food.

I have recently received questions about moles three times, so it seems like a good time to talk about them. Spring and fall are usually when mole issues surface.

Moles and voles are often confused. I remember it this way… moles, with an “M" are meat-eaters, and voles with a “V” are vegetarians. Voles are little short-tailed gray rodents – sometimes called meadow mice – that will eat grass, seeds and maybe your plant bulbs. They usually don’t leave a lot of evidence that they are around.  

If you see raised tunnels wandering through your yard, you have moles searching for earthworms and grubs. Moles are not rodents; they are called insectivores. They usually live in wooded areas where the ground is rich and soft and perfect for earthworms. But they occasionally move into your yard looking for food. That might not be a problem except for the raised tunnels that are unsightly for a nice lawn. And, if you have a dog as I did, that likes to dig in the tunnels looking for the mole, you have a bigger problem.

Several years ago, I had that big problem. My yard was a combination of raised mole tunnels and dog diggings with a little grass between the excavations. So, I went to the local hardware store and was checking out with Wrigley chewing gum, castor oil, dish soap, solar operated vibrating device, plastic poison worms, milky spore, and a couple of dangerous-looking spring-loaded traps.

The little old lady at the cash register, looked at my shopping cart and said, “So, you have a mole problem, sonny?” I said, “How can you tell?” She replied, “There is only one way to get rid of moles, and that is not it."

She told me to go out into my yard and stomp down all of the raised mole tunnels. Then, later that day or the next morning, she said to look out in the yard and some of the flattened tunnels will be popped back up. She said to very quietly, walk out into the yard and watch which end of the popped-up tunnel is steadily pop-pop-popping back up. She noted that is the end of the tunnel where the mole is trying to reopen its clogged pathways. Then she said to quietly raise the sledgehammer that you brought along, and smash the moving end of the tunnel. And, voilà, dig out the smashed mole.

It works. You need patience and stealth. If the mole hears your footsteps, it will stop digging. But, in my lifetime, I have raised the sledgehammer four times over a mole and at three out of four, I am batting at 75%. Just be aware, that when you are quietly standing in your yard, with a sledgehammer in your hand, not moving for 20 minutes and staring at the ground, the neighbors may begin to worry about you. But don’t fret, they are probably worried about you for more valid reasons already. At least in this case you have a reason for your behavior.

Now, normally, I prefer to learn to live with wildlife. Usually, you can control wildlife problems by eliminating a food or shelter source, with no need to kill. But, ants in the house, scorpions in the kitchen and moles in the yard are a couple of exceptions.

And, by the way, experts say that all of that other stuff I was planning to buy for mole control, does not work. They say that if you tried castor oil, chewing gum, or any other home or commercial remedies, the studies show they don’t work. Moles sometimes move on naturally to greener pastures and not because of a piece of chewing gum in their tunnel. Supposedly, mole traps are the only sure cure; except of course for my sledgehammer plan. You can find mole traps, such as the highly-rated, Victor Out-O-Sight on Amazon for about $20.

Even if you eliminate your current mole problem, don’t get too smug. Others may repopulate your yard. The moles were in your yard in the first place because of food, mostly earthworms. New moles may eventually find your yard for the same reason as the original moles – for food.

When it comes to wildlife, “It’s always something," as Roseann Rosannadanna used to say.

Comments, questions or suggestions for future nature articles are welcome at don.hazel@gmail.com.