If your yard is getting ruined with piles of soil and unsightly ridges and tunnels, it can be frustrating.
Here’s how to find out of moles are the culprit and the best ways to keep moles out of your yard.
How to Get Rid of Moles in Your Yard
There are several methods for getting rid of moles in your yard, but they can be difficult to eradicate completely and most people find success by combining different strategies.
Eliminate Mole Food Sources
Moles eat insects, particularly grubs and earthworms. In some cases, these food sources are harmful to your plants, so moles may be helping you out.
In other cases, moles may be eating beneficial insects that help your garden.
Some people recommend using a broad-spectrum insecticide to reduce the amount of food available for moles and encourage them to go elsewhere.
Not very. Hungry moles may simply create more tunnels and mounds as they look for more food
We now know that it’s not a good idea for the environment to use a broad approach to killing insects.
While trying to reduce moles, you may be harming beneficial insects and having unknown knock-on effects on other species.
In fact, some states have environmental protection laws restricting the kinds of pesticides you can use on moles.
Create Mole Barriers
Mole tunnels average about 10 inches deep. You can create barriers by digging a hole or trench 2-3 feet deep, lining it with wire mesh, and then backfilling the hole.
It’s worth noting that barriers are effective against moles, who will not usually chew on wire mesh, but not as effective against gophers, who might.
Barriers are more effective at protecting specific plants or parts of the garden than at excluding moles from your entire yard, but barriers are effective in targeted areas.
Barriers are a great way to protect specific parts of the yard from mole tunnels and mounds, without disturbing plants or affecting the ecosystem.
Trap and Remove Moles
Humane mole traps are easily available at hardware and home stores, but there are often laws and regulations governing the use of mole traps, so it’s worth checking with your local government.
Humane mole traps require you to trace the path of an active mole tunnel, bury the trap in the mole’s path and then check the buried trap every day to see if you have caught the mole.
Take the live mole to a safe location at least 5 miles away and let it go (not into someone else’s yard, though).
Taking a captured mole somewhere else is a safe and effective way to get rid of it, but using the traps effectively takes time, effort, and patience.
In many cases, it’s most effective to hire a professional to trap and release a mole.
Trap and release is a very safe way to get rid of moles.
Use a Mole Repellent
Castor oil-based repellents work on moles and voles, by giving the animals an upset stomach without permanently hurting them.
These repellents are typically sprayed on and around mole mounds and encourage the moles to move elsewhere.
Castor oil is effective at deterring and repelling moles for a month or two, so it needs re-application if your moles return.
Castor oil is safe and non-toxic, and won’t harm plants, the soil, or children or pets that get into it, although it may upset stomachs when eaten.
Use Mole Bait
Mole bait is usually a poison that is shaped like a worm or grub to encourage moles to eat it.
These poisons kill the moles in their tunnels.
Most commercial mole baits are highly effective at killing moles when used as instructed.
Mole bait may be harmful to other animals if eaten, although it is not formulated with a scent or flavor that would appeal to most pets and beneficial animals.
However, some pets may still get into a mole bait, and some dogs may smell or dig up a dead mole in the yard.
Mole bait should be stored and used with caution if you have kids or pets.
Use Ultrasonic Spikes
There are a variety of spikes that emit sounds, lights, vibrations, and other means to deter moles.
There is no independent evidence or science that shows that these devices actually work, despite advertiser claims and anecdotal experience.
Since moles have extremely large foraging ranges, it may seem as though the spikes drove them away when in fact they were moving to a different area anyway.
These devices are not harmful since they do nothing.
How to Identify What is Causing Holes in Your Yard
If you see holes and piles of soil in your yard, it’s helpful to first find out what’s causing them before making an extermination plan.
The most common causes of lawn damage are moles, voles, and gophers. In some cases, you may need to call a pest control professional to determine what kind of pest you have, but here are some ways you can identify them on your own:
Moles have two distinct effects on the surface of your yard: mounds, and runways.
Runways are the tunneling paths that moles take as they dig their way through your yard, and on the surface, they look like long raised ridges of grass.
Mounds are cone-shaped piles of dirt, where moles look for the insects they eat. If you spot a runway, walk along with it and press it flat with your foot from end-to-end.
If it stays flat, the runway is no longer in use. If it raises and becomes tunnel-like again, it’s an active mole tunnel.
Voles are small rodents that look like mice. Unlike moles, which feed on insects, voles feed on vegetation.
A vole runway is a much shallower tunnel, and it kills the grass above it because voles chew through the roots of plants as they tunnel. Voles also live in colonies, while moles are solitary.
Voles have small tunnel openings, usually hidden below shrubs and vegetation, and eat plant roots.
If you spot long strips of dead grass that are about two inches wide with soft soil beneath, it may be a vole runway, and if your plants and shrubs are starting to wilt and yellow, you may have a vole problem.
Gophers are the biggest of these pests, so they can cause the most lawn destruction.
While gophers will occasionally eat insects (and even chew on utility lines), they are most attracted to vegetable gardens.
They may eat the roots of their preferred plants, or, just like a Bugs Bunny cartoon, pull plants down into their tunnels for a snack.
Gopher tunnels are larger and deeper than mole tunnels, but they dig on the surface of the soil more than moles, so their tunnels are less extensive.
Gopher mounds are fan-shaped because their holes are created by digging down from the surface, scattering the soil behind them, while mole mounds are pushed up from below the soil.
The most important distinction here is that moles eat insects, grubs, and earthworms, and are tunneling in your yard as they look for these food sources.
Voles and gophers are more interested in eating plants and therefore need a different approach to controlling them.
Do You Need to Get Rid of Moles at All?
In some parts of the US, certain species of moles are protected, and there are also regulations regarding what methods you can use to get rid of them.
It’s important to check your local wildlife rules when deciding how to address moles in your yard.
Because moles are insectivores and are often attracted to the grubs and larvae that damage plants, they are often regarded as somewhat benign pests.
The damage they do in a yard is simply aesthetic since they don’t actually harm plants, and in fact, they aerate and circulate the soil.
In many cases, having a pet cat in the yard is enough to deter the presence of moles.
In other words, while moles can do damage to your careful landscaping and leave unsightly mounds, they aren’t truly harmful pests.
It’s often just as well to bury cages and barriers to protect special plants and accept moles as part of nature.
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Can moles transmit diseases to people?
While moles are biologically capable of carrying rabies, there is no documented case of a human ever getting rabies from a mole bite.
Because they live underground and are solitary animals, moles almost never come into contact with people under normal circumstances.
While a curious dog or cat may occasionally try to dig after a mole, mole teeth are designed to eat grubs and insects, and they do little harm to pet animals.
In some cases, moles can carry ticks that can then transmit diseases to other pets and people, but no more than any other wild animal.
Why are there moles on my property?
Moles are solitary, territorial animals with a very large underground range.
A single mole may have a network of tunnels extending nearly 3 acres, and they are attracted to areas with lots of tasty grubs and worms.
So a mole may not be on your property exclusively; it may be visiting all your neighbors as well.
If your garden has lots of earthworms, grubs, slugs, insect larvae, and centipedes, a mole will be happy to hunt there.