How To Get Rid of Moles
12–14 minutes to read | Updated for 2018
Moles are an underground wildlife pest that can be tricky to spot and even trickier to get rid of. While they can help rid your yard of insects, their underground tunnels are infamous for destroying lawns and gardens.
Since they move about underground and usually only come on land to find a mate, you may not ever see a mole itself. Their tunnels, however, are clear signs that this pest has invaded your property. Even though they can reach as deep as a foot, moles tend to kick up dirt overhead that causes large mounds running the length of the tunnels, crisscrossing throughout your yard.
Moles are easily identifiable by their hairless pink snouts, webbed feet, and long claws. They usually reach about seven to ten inches and have a round body similarly shaped to a potato, with dark grey to black fur. While they do have eyes and ear canals, these are covered by fur and so small that they are barely visible.
Common Species of Moles
How To Identify:
- Adults can grow up to 7”, not including the length of their tails, which usually reach 1.5”
Fur ranges from grey to black and can even have a reddish tint
- Can be found along the entire East Coast of the U.S., from Florida all the way up to New England
Need moist, sandy soil and prefer to create tunnels in open areas like large yards, fields and pastures
- Active for most of the day, except for very early hours in the morning before sunrise and towards the early evening. Their tunnels will be more of a problem during summertime, as these tend to be less deep than winter tunnels.
How To Identify:
- Can grow slightly larger than average, reaching 8” as adults
- Fur can be dark brown to black, with lighter brown fur on its underside and belly
- Mainly found throughout the northern U.S., as well as Canada
- Prefer moist-to-damp soil and will seek out habitats near bodies of water as well as in marshes, swamps, and other areas with poor drainage
- Uses its star-shaped snout to prevent soil from entering its nose and to move faster throughout underground tunnels in the same manner that whiskers help cats feel for their surroundings
American Shrew Mole
How To Identify:
- Smaller than average when compared to other species, often reaching no more than 5.5” in length
- Fur ranges in different shades of black
- Found throughout the western U.S.
- Prefers soil that is moist and deep enough to easily dig.
- More likely to be found in temperate locations that receive a lot of rainfall
- Active throughout the day, alternating between searching for food and taking short naps.
- Known to travel in groups at times
Differences Between Moles and Voles
- Voles look more like mice, with identifiable eyes and ears and a small nose rather than a snout.
- Moles are grey to black; voles are usually brown in color.
- Moles’ diets consist of insects, whereas voles are herbivores that feed on fruits, flowers, grasses and other plants.
- While moles are solitary creatures, voles live in groups.
- Although both damage property by creating burrows and tunnels, voles will also cause problems on land through feeding on vegetation.
What Is The Life Cycle of a Mole?
- Mates from late winter through spring, from February through March and April
- Gestation period of four to six weeks
- Give birth to two to seven pups per litter
- Remains with mother for four to five weeks after birth
- Reaches maturity at tenth month of life
- Average lifespan is four to six years
- Mole hills can reach up to 8” high off of the surface of the ground
- Some states have protective laws covering moles which can limit pest control methods
- Most likely to be seen above ground between February and March when most species mate
Can Moles Transmit Diseases to People?
Moles have been known to transmit rabies, although their biggest danger is parasites like fleas and ticks. It is best to keep your distance if you see one, especially if it seems aggressive. If moles are currently a pest issue, limit your pets’ time in your yard and carefully inspect them – as well as yourself – after being outside.
Why Are There Moles On My Property?
In general, moles will be attracted to your yard because of the number of insects in your soil and the ease of digging through it. Most species enjoy wide, open spaces to do this. If your yard is large and unobstructed, your mole damage may be particularly extensive.
Gather the Tools You’ll Need
Step 1: Survey Your Property
Carefully walk around your property to determine if you do have mole tunnels and locate where they are. Even during daytime, a flashlight will help you identify any raised areas before possibly tripping over them. Note that most species of moles are solitary, so even if you see many tunnels, it’s usually only the sign of one animal.
Step 2: Inspect Your Vegetation
Voles, gophers and groundhogs all create burrows and tunnels, so simply seeing those in your yard isn’t an automatic sign of a mole. Your next step should be to check your vegetation. Moles only eat insects and stay mostly underground, so any plant damage is a sign of another critter, like a vole. Monitor your plants every day to see if they look like they have been damaged or tampered with.
Step 3: Monitor For Critters
Knowing a mole’s physical characteristics is more helpful during a process of elimination. If you have noticed tunnels and damaged vegetation, there’s still a chance you could have a mole problem in addition to a separate herbivore pest. To be sure, make a point of monitoring your yard. The best way to do this would be to set up a camera for a day or two and watch the recording when you can. If you see a critter scurrying by, compare its appearance to that of a mole to determine what type of pest you’re dealing with. Keep in mind that moles only come on land to find a mate, so it is rarer to see one than other wildlife.
Step 4: Create A Long-Time Strategy
Once you have identified your pest, it’s time to develop a long-term strategy to get rid of it. It may be tempting to immediately start flattening the tunnels and mounds, but this could be dangerous if you haven’t removed the mole yet. Your first step should be setting traps and using repellents, whether you do this yourself or hire a mole control professional.
1. Physical Barriers
Moles can dig deeply, so a standard privacy fence around your yard won’t keep them out. However, smaller physical barriers around specific areas like your garden or and trees can keep them from tearing up roots and grass. These barriers must be fairly deep to be effective, which can make this task quite labor-intensive. Don’t create a physical mole barrier around your entire house unless you’re hiring professional help to do so.
The barrier should be at least 30 inches deep and five to six inches out of the ground. You can use the following materials:
- Gravel (buried inside a trench and covered with dirt)
- Wire Mesh
- Wire Cages
2. Yard Drainage Improvements
Most moles need moist soil that is easy to dig through and which contains the necessary nutrition for insects to flourish. Reducing the moisture on your property and increasing your soil drainage can make your property less conducive to mole tunneling. The following tips can help prevent your lawn from becoming too moist:
- Keep mulch around your yard to a minimum.
- Rake up piles of leaves and other yard debris as often as you can. Otherwise, they’ll sit in your yard and retain moisture, allowing the soil underneath to remain wet.
- Trim back your trees and bushes regularly so that your yard sees as much sunlight as possible. This will help dry the yard out after every time it rains.
Use a dry roller across your lawn regularly and help compact the soil and make it less likely to retain moisture. Keeping it compact will also prevent moles from being able to dig through it.
- Use proper landscaping methods to prevent puddles or areas that don’t drain properly after it rains. This could mean surveying your yard after rainfall to see if water is pooling anywhere. If so, you may be able to take care of it yourself with a shovel, or you may want to call a professional landscaper if the job seems too big to complete on your own. Either way, properly landscaping your property is a great investment that helps keep out a multitude of other pests.
When to Call a Professional
Although moles are generally an easy DIY yard problem, sometimes it is better to hire help before the damage becomes too extensive or costly. If you’re experiencing any of the following scenarios, contact a wildlife professional who specializes in mole control:
- You aren’t sure if you’re experiencing a mole problem or if a similar type of critter has invaded your lawn. (Moles and voles, groundhogs and gophers can all yield similar damage and resemble each other.)
- You’ve used several DIY methods already, and nothing seems to be working.
- You can tell that there are multiple moles in your yard, so the problem will be too difficult to resolve on your own.
- The mole or moles have already caused extensive damage, so you want to prevent any more from happening.
- At any point, you’ve felt that your own or your family’s safety has been compromised.
There are also certain instances when you’re implementing preventative measures where it would be wise to contact a professional rather than attempting to do it on your own. This could include setting up physical barriers that reach the requirements necessary to keep out moles, or working on any landscaping in order to prevent the buildup of moisture in your yard.
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Yard moles can seem like a difficult pest problem to solve because of how quickly they can cause damage throughout your yard.
They travel underground and can tear up your grass, plants and other lawn vegetation without being seen even once. While this may seem hopeless, keep in mind that most mole species are solitary. You’re usually only dealing with one at a time, or, at most, a few spread out around the property. By learning how to treat and prevent lawn moles in tandem, you should usually be able to get rid of them yourself without having to call in a mole control expert.
Even though moles remain underground most of the time, their damage will extend onto the surface in the form of tunnels and ridges along your lawn and volcano-like mounds that can raise as high as eight inches. The damage done underneath your lawn will also tear up plant roots and can cause them to die slowly. For more information about identifying moles, visit our identification guide.
If you’ve identified mole tunnels and mounds throughout your yard and can tell that it isn’t a similar animal like voles, shrews, or gophers, you can use the following treatment methods to help get rid of them. Some of these treatments can be done using simple household items that you may already have, but others will require a trip to the store to purchase some products and materials.
Moles eat insects like grubs and worms, so one simple preventative measure is to eliminate this food source. You can treat your yard regularly with surface insecticide granules or a spray. Along with keeping out moles, this great habit can protect your home from smaller pests like roaches and other insects. But if you already have a mole problem, you may not want to use this method until the issue is resolved. Killing off lawn grubs and other food sources could cause the mole to dig deeper in search for food and create even more lawn damage before it finally moves on.
Bait and Poison
There are several products on the market that act as both mole bait and poison to the critters in your yard. These usually come in the form of fake worms that mimic the shape and feel of real earthworms but contain the poison bromethalin. Bromethalin contains both bromine and fluoride and affects the moles both physically and neurologically until they die. Other common types of poisons include warfarin and zinc phosphide.
If you decide to use poisons, it’s very important to read the instructions carefully before placing them in the ground. If you use too many or too much, the poisons could affect other wildlife and even your outdoor pets. One advantage of using poisons on moles is that they’re already underground and you won’t have to deal with a carcass. However, the instructions will usually tell you to continue monitoring your yard for new tunnels for a certain period of time until you can be certain that the mole activity has ceased.
Live Traps: Live mole traps are usually cylindrical chambers with a one-way door on each side. You can usually bait a mole with worms or grubs inside the trap, which you can then place inside an already-dug tunnel and knock in the sides next to it. Place a piece of plywood on top of the trap and cover it with dirt so that the trap isn’t just sitting out in the open. The mole will smell the worms and also want to head towards the trap in order to re-excavate the points that you’ve knocked in. Once inside the trap, they’ll be locked inside with the worms. To humanely release the moles, check the trap every four hours.
- Flooding The Tunnels: The flooding method is only recommended if you’re comfortable with coming in contact with the mole or if you’ve handled wildlife before. It’s also better suited for those with smaller yards or if you can easily see this mole in its entirety from a single vantage point. You’ll need at least one other person to help you with this process:
- Everyone involved should be prepared with long pants, long sleeves and gloves.
- Locate an end to one of the mole tunnels.
- Open the tunnel and insert a hose.
- Slowly fill the mole tunnel system with water.
- Keep an eye on the remainder of the tunnel system. You’ll want to look for any movement or new tunnels being made.
- Once you see any sign of activity, stop the mole and snatch it with your gloved hands, a shovel, or any other tool of your choice. Put the animal in a large bucket.
- Carry the bucket away to a drop-off location far from residential property.
Spring-loading Traps: If you’ve ever dealt with mice or rats, you’ve probably used a small-scale spring-loaded trap. Traps designed for moles are slightly larger and use either spikes or blunt force to kill them. The spring works by creating tension in the mechanism until it’s triggered by movement. Once released, the trap will either crush or stab the mole.
Even though moles are already underground, you’ll still have to go through the cleaning process if you’d like to reuse the killing trap. This means that you’ll still want to check these mole traps as often as you would check a live one so you can remove the carcass from the ground before any decay has begun.
Many different types of mole repellents exist, both DIY and on the market. These can be used as a preventative measure or in combination with other treatment methods, but it isn’t recommended to use them on their own for mole removal. A mole could likely dig deeper to avoid the repellent or tunnel elsewhere in your yard. Repellents are best used to keep moles from coming into your yard in the first place, or at least to keep them out of certain areas.
Tar: Similar to castor oil, moles will also stay away from the smell and taste of tar. This repellent is more difficult to work with, so it isn’t recommended to spray or pour it directly on your yard. Instead, you can use a small object to dip in the tar before placing it in the ground within the mole’s tunnel system. If you do this at strategic points around your yard, the animal is bound to change course and stay away.
Sonic Repellents: Sonic repellents are not an easy DIY project, but they’re usually budget-friendly and easily available in-store and online. They work by sliding them into the ground, usually with a spoke, where they emit sonic vibrations that scare off moles and other rodents. This frequency is undetectable to humans, so it repels your mole problem at no nuisance to you. With this method, you also won’t have to worry about checking a trap or using poisons if you have children or pets.
Granulated Repellent: Granulated repellents usually contain a combination of ingredients which moles can’t stand – including castor oil, citronella oil, and garlic. As with any store-bought pest treatment you’re using on your yard, be sure to read the instructions fully. Reapply as necessary – not any more or less.
Liquid Repellent: Store-bought repellents also come in liquid form. They’re most commonly a blend of castor oil along with other ingredients that keep moles away. The benefit of buying a liquid repellent is that it takes away a lot of the work you would otherwise be doing to create your own DIY recipe. Some of the other ingredients inside liquid repellents include eggs, clove, fish oil, garlic and onion, and wintergreen.
Gassing is a form of poisoning moles that is only recommended to be done with store-bought gas bombs. Depending on the size of your yard and length of its mole tunnels, the packaging will usually recommend the exact number of bombs that you need to buy. Gas bombs work by being placed at the entrances to mole tunnels. Once they’re set off, they’ll quickly fill the length of a tunnel with poisonous gas. After using them, you’ll want to monitor your yard for a certain period of time to see that the moles are dead and didn’t simply run away from the poison.
As with any store-bought poisons, you should read all of the instructions thoroughly. If you have outdoor pets, there may be special instructions to keep them inside for a certain amount of time while the poison is being released.
DIY Treatment Methods
To create a live trap with a bucket from home, follow the same steps you would when placing a store-bought live trap:
- Choose a portion of mole tunnel that has already been dug out and open it up.
- Dig into the ground far enough so that the bucket can fit and its opening is level with the bottom of the mole tunnel.
- Place a piece of plywood over the top of the tunnel so that it isn’t open to daylight.
- Cover the plywood with dirt.
With a bucket trap, the idea is that the mole will fall inside and won’t be able to climb out. As with store-bought traps, you’ll want to remove the plywood and check inside the bucket at least every four hours so you can take the mole away while it’s still alive.
Moles don’t like the smell or taste of castor oil, so they’ll stay away from any areas where they find it. To use it as a mole repellent, you can add some to a spray bottle with water and spray it along the perimeter of your house as well as directly on their tunnels and mounds. To make it more potent, you could even pour it directly into the ground and mix it with dirt at strategic points of the moles’ tunnel system.
DIY Castor Oil Spray
- 3 parts castor oil
- 1 part dish soap
- 3 parts water
Combine all of the above ingredients into a spray bottle and liberally soak the mole tunnels in your yard, paying special attention to entrances and areas with vegetation and plants, such as your garden, trees or shrubs.
Tobacco and Other Household Substances
Tobacco is another substance that moles find to be foul. You can sprinkle it all over the mole’s tunnel system, mole hills, and specific points around your yard, such as your garden, to prevent them from returning. Other common household substances you can sprinkle in your yard include:
- Red or cayenne pepper
- Coffee grounds
- Cat litter
Last update on 2018-10-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
While it’s possible to replicate the methods of a wildlife professional yourself, you may not wish to do as much work yourself and leave it to a company that has a record for being effective.
If you’re trying to decide between treating a mole problem on your own or contacting a professional, it helps to evaluate all of the different steps involved for treatment. A wildlife professional will usually:
- Take the time to complete a full inspection on your property, determining the scope and size of the problem
- Use the highest-quality methods available on the market
- Use both prevention and treatment methods in tandem so that the moles don’t return
- Give guarantees as part of their service so they’re required to come back until the problem is taken care of (either for a reduced fee or for free)
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