This winter has been a particularly good year for moles. We have received a lot of calls here at the Extension Center asking for help to control moles in people’s yards. What’s a person to do?
First, be sure you have moles. Moles are small grayish animals that burrow underground and make tunnels that are sometimes visible above the soil surface. Moles are 6-7 inches long and have very large, wide front feet perfect for digging. They have small eyes, their ear openings are covered with fur, and they have a long, pointy nose. Their hind feet are much smaller than their front feet and they have a short tail.
Moles eat earthworms, grubs and insects and can eat 70-100% of their body weight every day. The tunnels you see in your yard are the ones they leave as they search for food. They prefer to hunt for food in soil that is cool and moist. The winter moist, cool soils are perfect for hunting. If you’ve ever had them in your yard, you’ve seen the damage they can create while tunneling for food.
Moles can be very difficult to control. If you have a cat or a dog, you’ve probably seen them digging in the yard, often making larger holes in pursuit of moles. Sometimes you can even watch them dig along the mole tunnel looking for the little pest. There are a lot of control products advertised, but none of them have shown to be particularly effective. Spear type traps are effective, but they can be difficult to position correctly. Moles are classified as wild, nongame animals here in North Carolina. To legally kill them, you must request and receive a permit from the NC Wildlife Resources Commission. There are several species of moles that live in our state that there aren’t many of, so all mole species are protected.
Some things you can try in your yard to make them less attractive are to roll the yard and pack the soil. If there is one area that is particularly affected, you could target your rolling there. Maybe the mole will move on to softer soils. Most gardeners and landscapers work hard to loosen and unpack our native clay soils, so this method probably sounds strange.
Moles do play a role in nature by loosing soils and eating earthworms and insects, some of which are pests. As they tunnel and dig, they help loosen up channels in the soil and improve soil aeration. Their digging helps move soil particles and nutrients around which could be beneficial to our landscape planting.
Once summer gets here and our soils aren’t so cool and damp, you’ll likely see less damage in your yard. If you know you have moles in your yard, be careful to avoid twisting your ankles by stepping in one of their tunnels.
For more information about moles visit the following link:
Horticulture, Environment & Natural Resources Agent, NC Cooperative Extension, Catawba County
Executive Director, Keep Catawba County Beautiful