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With springtime's warm weather, you're not the only thing wanting to dig in your yard, flower beds and vegetable gardens. The eastern mole becomes active in the warmer, wet weather, burrowing through yards and gardens in search of grubs, beetles, insect larvae and earthworms. It's a common misconception that moles feed on roots and bulbs, however they are mostly carnivorous. Moles are often blamed for plant damage, but it is usually rodent species, like voles, house mice, and white-footed mice, that share the mole's tunnel system and forage on plants. As a member of the shrew family, not rodent, these voracious eaters weigh 3 to 4 ounces and consume 70 to 100% of their body weight a day. This can be beneficial to yards and gardens by controlling nuisance insects, however moles become problematic when their burrows damage the grass in lawns or wash out during heavy rains.
Moles have have sharp claws and webbed feet that assist them in digging tunnels through the soil in search for food. Typically more active at night when the soils are moist and cool, moles will dig comprehensive feeding tunnels in search for food. Along with feeding tunnels, moles with construct their nesting burrows in dry warmer soil under trees or solid structures. Moles remain solitary for a majority of the time, however will breed in March and April. The gestation period is around 5 weeks and litter size ranges from 2 to 5. The young will remain with the mother about a month before they're weened, however still may use her tunnels system until they can establish their own. On average, there are usually 5-6 moles per acre.
When it comes to controling moles in your yard, there are several avenues, some more effective than others. There are commercialy available repellents and toxicants, however they are typically not the most effective due to the dificulty of getting the moles to accept the baits as a food source. Another option homeowners have is to target the moles' food source, however food items like earthworms provide valuable services and may not be the most viable option to eliminate. Additionally, eliminating the moles' food source can be time comsuming and may not rid a yard of moles for some time.
The most effective means of mole contol is typically trapping. There are three types of lethal traps available: harpoon, scissor-jawed and choker. From my experience, harpoon traps are more effective in sandy soils, while scissor-jawed and choker traps are more effective in loamy soils. Before setting your trap, you must first determine which mole tunnel, or runs, are being used the most frequently. This can be done by stepping on the raised portion of the tunnel and then returning the next day to see which ones have been raised. These tunnels are the most active and best place to set the trap. When setting a harpoon trap, flatten the tunnel again and then set the trap and trigger on the flattened part. Before setting the harpoon, allow the harpoons to penetrate the soil several times to make sure there are no obstacles in the way when it is triggered by the mole. When setting the scissor-jawed or choker traps, dig out a portion around the tunnel and place the trap in the hole. Then fill the hole back with the removed soil, being sure to make sure no light penetrates into the tunnel. When using scissor-jawed or choker traps, I recommend wearing rubber or latex gloves to prevent your scent getting on the trap. Traps can sometimes be triggered without catching the mole, so be sure to check traps daily and reset if needed. If the mole doesn't use the tunnel with the trap after a few days, relocate the trap to another tunnel.
For more information on controlling moles in the lawn and garden, please contact the Coffee County Extension Office at 334-894-5596.
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