Controlling Moles in The Garden

Controlling Moles in The Garden

Moles are frequent visitors to many bay area homes, much to the chagrin of
the avid gardener or anyone who has a dry laid stone patio.
The most common mole damage is seen as new piles of soil in the landscape
that seemed to pop up overnight. These piles often show up in the lawn or
between the segments of a flagstone patio. These soil piles are similar to a
gopher’s piles, but lack the fan shape and soil plug that is indicative of
that dreaded garden animal.   With moles we also often see raised ridges in
the lawn and along walkways that run on for many feet. These  soil piles and
ridges are created as the mole is tunneling to create passage through your
garden or to seek out food.

Moles are carnivorous mammals that feed primarily on worms, grubs and other
soil insects and arthropods that occur in the healthy garden setting. Moles
do not eat plants, though they can cause a lot of plant damage. Their “bull
in a china shop” style of foraging can dislodge annuals, undermine roses,
cave in walkways and retaining walls, and make a big mess of the lawn. It is
for these reasons that people often choose to control their local mole
population. Mole damage can be costly to repair.

Moles can be controlled by a variety of methods. Most common are poison and
trapping. Mole bait is typically a poison impregnated “gummy-worm” that is
slipped into a mole’s tunnel. If all works well the mole will find it as it
passes through, and eat it thinking its a real worm.  Because of the soil
environment and a mole’s behavior, there are problems with this method.
First off, many people crush mole runs when the find them, effectively
putting a piece of bait out of reach of a mole (he’ll dig a new tunnel and
pass the poison) and second, the poison is placed very shallow typically and
can be unearthed by pets and wildlife. Though accidental poisoning by mole
bait is not likely, many homeowners still feel uneasy about it.

Trapping Moles is an effective method of control, though often labor
intensive. As with the worm-bait, the trapper must locate a tunnel, and set
up traps so that the mole is killed when he passes through. Mole traps come
in many forms, and some are more elaborate and bulky than others. Two
popular mole traps are the Victor Out-o-Sight trap and the Trapline Products
Gophinator mole trap  (made in Menlo Park by the way).   Traps are better
than poisons for a couple reasons. One, if a mole misses the trap, we can
reuse it, unlike the poison witch is likely lost for good. Second, the traps
are safe for people and pets, and their use can ease the common concern
about using poisons where we live and play.

Though moles can be a costly nuisance to some folks, they may be no bother
at all to others. A single mole may utilize the land under several
properties, passing quietly under fences and through yards, sometimes
causing no damage at all. But when they do go into heavy digging mode, many
folks get frustrated that they “keep coming back!”  As if the moles are
raising from the dead, many gardeners pay to remove mole after mole
year-round, never stemming the flow of new animals. These new moles are
coming from breeding populations living in neighboring yards and parks, and
their young are utilizing old tunnels to find their way back into the
gardens that their fore-bearers haunted.

The best fix for this recurring issue is to have a neighborhood-wide mole
control program in place. Keeping pressure on these animals by trapping at
several homes at once can reduce the occurrence of moles dramatically.
Though there may be no obvious benefit for some people to have a mole
trapped in their yard, it is definitely beneficial to the neighborhood as a
whole. With diligent and wide reaching efforts, it is possible to reduce
mole damage significantly, if not eliminate it all together.

Written by Zach Smith

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