Most Common Garden Animal Pests: Identifying Moles, Signs of Their Damage and How to Control Them
It’s a good idea to start off this article with defining what is a mole and to not confuse moles with other pests like voles or mice (which will be covered in future articles). Moles are small ground-dwelling mammals that have big giant front paws that they use for scooping and digging. They have short velvety black or brown fur, and very small eyes. Some species have noses that are strangely shaped (for example, the Star Nose mole has a nose that looks like, well, a star with lots of appendages). They don’t really look like mice or gophers, as they have a distinct look about them.
Moles eat insects at a very fast rate. That includes worms, grubs, ground beetles, and whatever else they can grab in the soil. They are excellent predators of beetle larvae, such as the larvae of the Japanese beetle which they especially enjoy. Moles do not come out of the ground very often, so it’s rare that they’re seen. Moles don’t reproduce as easily as many other small mammals, as they usually have one small litter a year and take a year to reach sexual maturity- as opposed to voles and mice which become sexually mature at one month of age and can have many litters a year.
Voles on the other hand, resemble mice and share many of the same characteristics of mice, rats, and gophers. They are also very voracious plant eaters, and they especially enjoy the roots of plants, as well as tubers, bulbs, and corms. They reproduce very fast and live in colonies. Voles do a lot of damage to the typical garden and landscape.
However, none of this changes the fact that moles do indeed damage the garden, especially lawns. They create a network of tunnels just under the surface of the soil that they use to capture worms and grubs that fall into the tunnels. These tunnels will often have mounds which moles make to ventilate tunnels. These mounds deface lawns and cause ankle-rolling hazards in play areas too.
There are many castor-oil based repellents available that work well keeping moles away, and often work for a couple of months after a single application. You can also find baits that are laced with potent poison in the shape of worms that often work on killing moles, but you have to make sure these baits are far out of reach of children and pets. Both of these approaches are effective for killing the moles you have and keeping them away.
To repair your lawn, rake flat hills and seed the dirt patches with grass seed. You can also rent or purchase a yard roller that will help flatten out the tunnels so you don’t have to worry about tripping and falling on one. The best rollers are the type you can use water to add more weight. If you have a tractor, a roller that is made to tow is a good idea. You can also manually push many of these yard rollers too. Rollers made of poly plastic are easiest on existing lawns. Metal yard rollers are fine too, but harder to transport and use without power equipment.
We hope this helps you better identify moles you have in your garden, how to get rid of it, and how to fix the damage.