Hairless, beady-eyed, web-footed and about seven inches long, moles leave visible tunnels running just under the soil.
Moles prefer loose, moist soil full of grubs and earthworms, which can be problematic for landowners and gardeners, said Dwayne Elmore, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension wildlife specialist.
“Moles remove many damaging insects and grubs from lawns and gardens, as well as aerate the soil. They are extremely beneficial animals,” he said. “However, their burrowing habits can disfigure lawns and parks, loosen the soil around shallow rooted plants and create havoc in small garden plots.”
It should be verified that moles are the cause of your damage and not gophers, which create conical shaped mounds rather than long visible runways in the lawn.
For areas, such as flowerbeds or small gardens, a metal or hardware cloth fence should be installed and buried to a depth of a least one foot and bent out at a 90 degree angle. This will not be practical for large areas.
There are many techniques to rid property of moles, including scaring them away with vibrational devices, using chemical products or toxic grain baits and using fumigants. Most of these are not highly effective. The most successful and practical method of getting rid of moles is trapping.
“Traps are well suited to moles because the moles spring them when following their natural instinct to reopen obstructed passageways,” Elmore said. “Success or failure in the use of these devices depends largely on the operator’s knowledge of the mole’s habits and of the trap mechanism.”
A popular style of mole trap is the harpoon or impaling-type trap. This style has sharp spikes than impale the mole when the spring-loaded spikes are driven into the ground.
“Select a place in the surface runway where there is evidence of fresh mole activity and where the burrow runs in a straight line,” Elmore said. “Dig out a portion of the burrow, locate the tunnel and replace the soil, packing it firmly where the trigger pan will rest.”
Once the location is determined, the trap is set by raising the spring, setting the safety catch and pushing the supporting spikes into the ground, one on either side of the runway.
“The trigger pan should just touch the earth where the soil is packed down,” he said.
Release the safety catch and allow the impaling spike to be forced into the ground, which will allow the spike to penetrate the burrow when the trap is sprung by the mole. After the trap is set it should not be disturbed. Also, there should be no disturbance to any other portion of the mole’s runway.
“If a trap fails to catch a mole after two days, it can mean the mole has changed its habits, the runway was disturbed too much, the trap was improperly set or it was detected by the mole,” Elmore said. “In any event, move the trap to a new location and try again.”
Moles are very important animals and should only be trapped when they are creating a significant problem. Their benefits far outweigh the damage they cause under most circumstances.