When you walk through your yard, do you feel mushy sections that collapse under your feet? Do you see long sections of raised soil in your gardens? Have you seen circular piles of dirt popping up throughout your landscape? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then there’s a pretty good chance that moles have taken up residence on your property. Those mounds you’re seeing or feeling underfoot are molehills, and they’re a real drag.
Moles are a common pest, and of the many different types of pests that gardeners, landscapers, and homeowners contend with, most consider moles the biggest nuisance. It’s easy to see why, too; these pests might be tiny, but the amount of damage they can do to lawns and gardens can be quite mighty.
As they burrow under the ground, they can damage grass, tear up entire flower beds, and they can even destroy established tree roots. This can result in extensive cosmetic damage to your landscape and the loss of exorbitant amounts of money.
Needless to say, if you’ve discovered moles in your yard, there’s no doubt you’re going to want to kick them out. Don’t ignore the problem, as the pests will continue to burrow and cause extensive damage to your yard, which can be further complicated if the pests reproduce. With that said, as soon as you suspect moles have moved onto your property, you’re going to want to act fast to evict them. How do you do that? Keep on reading for some simple and effective tips.
What are Moles?
Before we jump in and share tips that you can use to eliminate moles from your property, it’s first important to have some background information about these critters. As they say, you can defend yourself if you don’t know who your enemy is.
So, what are moles? They’re small, burrowing mammals that can be found pretty much everywhere in the world. They live underground, and as such, they have very poor eyesight, but their sense of touch is incredible. Standard moles are pretty small; adults measure about 4.4 to 6.25 inches or 11.3 to 15.9 centimeters long, from snout to rump.
Their snout is pointed and hairless and their ears are not visible. While it appears as if they do not have eyes, they actually do, but they’re just very small. Their tails measure about 1 to 1.6 inches, on average, and they usually weigh between 2.5 and 4.5 ounces, or 72 to 128 grams.
There’s also an American mole, and this species is a little larger than the standard species. Adult North American moles can grow to as large as 7 inches or 17.6 cm long, they’re about 1.25 inches or 3.3 cm tall, and their average weight is 4 ounces or 115 grams. Usually, male moles are larger than female moles.
All species of moles are equipped with pointed, hairless, sensitive snouts, which they use to find food and guide them through the ground. They also have long, clawed digits, which they use to dig the tunnels that they burrow through on the ground. Their snouts are covered with 22 protrusions, which are similar to tentacles, and are six times more sensitive to touch than the human hand.
Unlike most mammals, which are covered with fur or hair that lays flat and points backward, toward their tails, moles are covered with dense fur that stands straight up. This prevents soil from getting embedded in their coats when they move backward through the tunnels they build.
Where to Moles Live?
With the exception of South America and Antarctica, moles can be found on every continent in the world. They reside in a variety of habitats, including grasslands, gardens, sand dunes, woodlands, and even urban locations. In other words, moles can live in pretty much any location where there is soil that they can burrow through; however, they tend to dislike acidic soils and mountainous regions.
These small mammals build underground tunnels, which they travel through; kind of like an intricate underground highway system. At the end of each chamber, these critters build special chambers, which they use for sleeping, birthing, and raising their young. Amazingly, generations of moles can live in series of tunnels before they move. In addition to traveling, sleeping, and birthing young in their tunnel systems, moles also collect food as they move throughout the tunnels.
Earthworms are their primary source of sustenance. They bite the earthworms, releasing a toxin in their saliva that renders them immobile, but they remain alive, and they store their prey in underground “larders” or chambers so they can eat them in the future. Up to 470 immobilized, living earthworms have been found in one mole chamber!
What are Mole Habits?
Moles spend most of their lives underground, and they tend to be loners, meaning they spend most of their lives alone. As a matter of fact, they like being on their own so much that if there are about five moles per acre or 7 to 12 hectares, that is considered a lot. Moles spend the majority of their lives digging underground tunnels and hunting for food.
Permanent tunnels measure about 2 inches or 5 cm in diameter and are about 8 to 12 inches or 20 to 30 cm underground. They also build temporary tunnels, which are usually located right under the surface of the ground. As such, the molehills that you see or feel underfoot are temporary tunnels.
What do Moles Eat?
It’s a general misconception that moles take up residence in produce and flower gardens so that they can eat the roots of the plants; in reality, however, what they’re after is the earthworms that are found in the soil.
These critters love earthworms so much that they can eat almost their body weight worth of worms per day; for instance, if a mole weighs 2.8 ounces or 80 grams, they can eat approximately 1.7 ounces of 50 grams of earthworms each day! That’s an impressive amount of eating!
Though earthworms are undeniably their favorite food, moles do eat other prey, including:
And an assortment of other insects. Some larger species of moles have been known to eat small mice that make the mistake of traveling into their tunnel systems, too; however, mice aren’t a preferred part of a mole’s diet.
What About Babies?
During the breeding season, male moles will make their tunnels bigger so that they expand to additional territories, allowing them to locate females that they can mate with. After breeding, the female will create a sphere-shaped nest chamber, which she lines with dry plant matter.
Like all mammals, female moles give birth to live babies, which are birthed in the nest chambers, and typically, three to four hairless babies (known as “pups”) are born per litter. Within about 2 weeks, the pups will begin growing hair, and at about 4 to 5 weeks, they will leave their mothers and move away from their home tunnel permanently. The average life expectancy of a mole is three years.
Why do I Have Moles in My Yard?
Now that you have some background knowledge about moles, including what they look like, where they live, what their habits are, and what they eat, let’s take a look at some of the reasons why moles may be living in your yard.
Recall from above that moles dig underground holes because they’re searching for food; therefore, they have made their way onto your property because they either know that food the food they love is already there, or because they are searching for it.
Earthworms are their very favorite food, so if you have moles on your property, it’s likely that there’s a large presence of earthworms in your soil. These critters also eat a variety of other insects (see above).
Moles use their powerful hands to overturn the soil as they’re searching for food, and typically, a lot of soil is turned over during the process. Once it has built a durable and reliable tunnel system, usually, a mole will remain in the tunnel for several hours at one time. While in their tunnels, moles are usually looking for food.
As mentioned, it’s a general misconception that moles take up residence in gardens and yards because they want to eat the root systems of plants; however, that is not the case at all. Rather, they are there because the flowers, veggies, and fruits that you are growing attract earthworms and various other insects that moles eat.
Moles will view your yard as a grocery store, so to speak; they’ll build tunnel systems under the ground, and as they do, they’ll turn up large quantities of soil, resulting in molehills that you’ve seen popping up in your lawn or garden, or that you have felt under foot.
How to Get Rid of Moles
OK, so now that you know why moles are in your yard, you want to find out how to get rid of them! These critters are territorial and they can live in the same tunnel system for several years before moving, so evicting them from your property can be tricky; however, there are some tips and tricks that could be effective. You may need to try a variety of techniques, but with diligence, you can make your yard mole-free.
Here’s a look at five humane ways that you can eliminate moles from your yard.
Keep them at-bay
One of the best ways to get rid of moles is to prevent them from making their way into your yard in the first place. The following are some tried and tested methods that have proven to yield effective results:
- Blood meal. Blood meal is deters moles and it’s great for your plants and lawn, so it serves two purposes. To use it, sprinkle dried blood meal all around the molehills. Mix it into the soil and make sure to reapply it after each rain.
- Cat litter. Perhaps it’s the scent, maybe it’s the flavor, or it could even be the texture; whatever the reason, moles cannot stand kitty litter. Take advantage of their detest for it by sprinkling it on the mole holes you find in your yard.
- Cayenne pepper. It’s no secret that cayenne pepper is spicy, and many pests, including moles, do not like the spicy taste and scent. Mix cayenne pepper with water in a spray bottle and apply a liberal amount around the molehills in your lawn. You can use it in your garden, too; however, use caution and only apply a small amount, as concentrated amounts can damage flowers and produce.
Stop them from digging
Another way to get rid of moles is to deter them from digging. Remember that dig underground tunnels in search of food (earthworms, grubs, and various other insects), and as they dig, they turn up the soil that appears as molehills. One of the best ways to stop them from digging in your yard is by using a barrier.
For instance, you could dig a deep trench around your garden and fill the trench with gravel. You can top the gravel with soil or you can leave it uncovered, kind of like a boarder. The moles won’t be able to dig through the gravel barrier, so they’ll turn around, and hopefully, they will move off of your property. Alternatively, you can insert chicken wire or fine mesh into the trench, which will have the same effect as gravel.
If the moles that have taken up residence on your property are really pesky and the above-mentioned tips haven’t yielded any results, you may need to try your hand at capturing them. If you actually get a hold of the mole, you can relocate them to another location, far from your property. There are ways that you can do this humanely.
Capture and release mole traps are one option, which you can purchase from garden suppliers. You could try inserting a garden hose into a molehill, turn it on, and as the water floods the tunnels and connected chambers, the mole will evacuate.