Playing whack-a-mole is tons of fun at a carnival or an arcade, but not in your yard. If you have a mole invasion, don’t make the rookie mistake of using bait or hair to get rid of it. To keep the critter from wrecking your lawn, the most effective method is trapping. This guide covers everything, from how to get rid of moles in your yard to move removal methods to avoid.
- What are moles?
- How to get rid of moles in your yard
- Why are moles bad for your yard?
- Mole removal methods to avoid
- How to keep moles away from your yard
- How to tell the difference between moles, voles, pocket gophers, and shrews
- FAQ about getting rid of moles in your yard
What are moles?
Contrary to popular belief, moles are mammals (Scapanus species), not rodents. You probably won’t see these burrowing insectivores, but instead, the mounds they create by tunneling through your yard.
If you suspect a mole infestation in your yard, the quickest and easiest way to identify a mole is by looking at its front paws – this critter has broad, paddle-shaped feet with long, sharp claws. Moles also have long, pointed snouts.
Typically around 4 to 7 inches long, moles have no external ears, but their eyes are so small that they almost look as if they have none. Their short, dense blackish-gray fur (except on their short tail) has no resistance, allowing them to travel both backward and forward through the soil.
Signs you have a mole problem
Volcanic-shaped soil mounds and raised ridges in the yard are the tell-tale signs of moles living in your lawn. Most lawns only house one to two moles, so you won’t be targeting an entire mole community.
Moles dig two types of tunnels:
- Deep runways: Typically 12 to 18 inches below the soil’s surface, these deep runways are used by moles for daily travel. When you spot a molehill in your yard, there’s likely a deep runway underneath.
- Surface tunnels: The surface tunnels are used when moles are looking for food close to the surface. They cause the uplifted ridges.
These pests build surface tunnels primarily to forage for food in spring and fall. During the winter and dry summer months, they move down to their deep runways, searching for food.
How to get rid of moles in your yard
Most experts agree that the most effective way to get rid of a mole is by trapping it. Fall and early spring are the best seasons for trapping moles because they’re active near the soil’s surface. You may need to wait a day or two before the trap catches the mole, but this simple method only requires you to set the trap and then go about your business.
The most popular mole trap among homeowners is the Victor harpoon or plunger-style trap. It’s easy to set up and kills the mole quickly. But if you want to catch the mole alive, consider making a mole pitfall trap.
Note: Before you set any trap for catching moles in your yard, it’s essential to check your state laws, as some states prohibit the trapping of animals.
Setting a trap may feel a bit tricky at first. But if you read the instructions carefully and remain patient, you should have success in no time.
Here’s what you’ll need to do to set a harpoon trap:
- Find an active tunnel: As moles search for food, they create unsightly ridges in your lawn. You may discover tunnels as you’re walking and suddenly feel the earth sink beneath your feet. To determine whether the tunnel is active, lightly compress the ground. If the mole pushes the soil back up within a day, this means the tunnel is active.
- Compress the soil: Once you discover an active mole tunnel, compress the raised soil lightly with your hand.
- Place the trap: Place the trap’s standing legs over the compressed area, making them straddle the tunnel. Then, push the legs deep into the ground. If the soil is too soft to support the trap, then you’ll need to find a better location.
- Check the trigger pan: Ensure the trigger pan is flush with the ground. You may need to push the trap deeper until the trigger pan is flat against the soil.
- Check the spring handle: Pull the spring handle up and down a few times, but without setting the trap. This step will ensure the spikes can move in and out of the soil with ease.
- Set the trap: Carefully pull the spring to set the trap. Hold the trap in place as you pull the spring (you don’t want to accidentally pull the trap out of the ground).
- Cover the trap (optional): If you’re concerned about animals or children touching the trap, cover the trap with a bucket to discourage tampering.
Note: If you don’t catch a mole in 3 to 4 days, move it to a different location.
If you’d prefer a less permanent ending for the mole, you can build a pitfall trap instead. As the mole moves through its tunnel, it should fall into the trap and not be able to get out.
- Find the tunnel: Your first step is to locate the tunnel.
- Bury the trap: Next, bury a wide-mouth quart glass jar or 3-pound coffee can (or similar-sized container) until the container’s opening is level with the tunnel.
- Fill the sides: Fill the tunnel’s side openings with soil.
- Cover the tunnel: Cover the exposed tunnel with cardboard.
- Relocate the mole: Check with local laws because they can vary. But as a rule of thumb, you should release the mole in a wooded, shady area.
Why are moles bad for your yard?
Not to make a mountain out of a molehill, but there are quite a few reasons moles are bad for your yard. If you don’t take action right away, a mole infestation can:
- Ruin landscapes: Molehills and raised surface tunnels don’t scream beautiful front lawn. After all the work you put into keeping your turf thick and freshly cut, you don’t want to see a mole tearing up your landscape.
- Cause harm: The loose soil and uneven land can cause someone to trip or twist an ankle. The pits and hills also can make it difficult to mow the lawn.
- Jeopardize lawn health: Moles leave behind patches of brown grass as they tear up your turf’s root system. They can even dislodge a plant or two in your garden or flower bed.
- Carry ticks: Moles also carry fleas and ticks into your yard, which can easily transfer to you, your family, or your pet.
Mole removal methods to avoid
As you search for mole removal solutions, you might encounter home remedies or anecdotal methods that promise to remove moles from the yard. We’ve listed many of these techniques below.
Some of these techniques may have worked for your neighbor who swears by them. But before you dive right in, keep in mind that these mole-control solutions have inconclusive scientific results.
✗ Frightening devices
Electronic, magnetic, and vibration devices intended to scare off moles have not been proven effective. While ultrasonic mole spikes may frighten moles initially, the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture warns that moles can quickly adapt to these sonic spikes and are unaffected by their presence.
Some gardeners might say, “Don’t knock a control method until you’ve tried it.” However, there is no scientific proof that borders of marigolds can effectively repel moles from entering a garden. Some may suggest daffodils or other members of the alliums family, but their effectiveness is similar to marigolds.
Filling up a mole’s burrow system with toxic fumigants often produces ineffective results. Moles can detect the gas and quickly seal off the affected tunnel.
The jury is still out on whether flooding a mole’s burrow system is effective. You may be able to encourage a mole to escape a flooded burrow occasionally, but results on the method’s effectiveness are inconclusive.
✗ Home remedies
Every homeowner and their neighbor has read about homemade pest control recipes online. While some DIY homemade remedies do affect various pests, many homemade mole deterrents are not effective.
According to the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, home remedies are ineffective or pose more danger to the human residents than the moles.
Ineffective home remedies include:
- Broken glass
- Castor bean
- Castor oil
- Diesel fuel
- Dish soap
- Euphorbia lathyris
- Human hair
- Dog hair
- Razor blades
- Rose branches
- Sheep dip
✗ Grub control
The effectiveness of grub control as a mole removal solution is disputable. Moles love to snack on grubs, so the idea of removing their food source makes sense. But moles still have plenty to eat without a supply of grubs, including insects and earthworms.
Secondly, removing grubs may make the critter desperate for food if no other food supply is available, leading to further mole activity in your lawn.
Note: If you also have a grub problem, you need to get rid of them. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a severe grub infestation that will eat your grassroots. You can try beneficial nematodes, milky spores, or insecticides to get rid of grubs in your lawn, but it would be better to hire a local pro.
Although toxic baits are available for mole control, little research supports whether using bait is a cost-effective alternative to trapping. Moles are meat-eaters, which means the baits you use to control herbivorous pocket gophers will not likely work on moles. Some mole baits are worm-shaped, but their effectiveness is still questionable.
How to keep moles away from your yard
If you take preventive steps, you can avoid having to get rid of moles again. Some of these methods may look familiar because they’re not very effective at getting rid of moles. However, they can be helpful in deterring moles from making a home underneath your lawn.
- Use protective plants: Some plants are natural pest repellents, including alliums, daffodils, fritillaries, garlic, marigolds, and shallots. They deter many insects, decreasing the mole’s food source.
- Keep your lawn healthy: Insects, and therefore, moles, love an unhealthy, cluttered lawn. Keeping your yard free of debris and in good health won’t make an attractive home for moles, so they’ll look elsewhere.
- Apply mulch and compost piles: Mounds of mulch and compost attract lots of bugs, giving moles a feast to gorge on. If you’re making your own compost, try using enclosed bins.
- Use pesticides to remove their food source: Moles eat invertebrate bugs, like grubs, crickets, and beetles. Using pesticides, milky spores, and other beneficial nematodes will kill the insects. Without food, moles will likely move along.
- Correct drainage issues: Standing water in your yard causes soft soil and attracts insects, both of which will make a mole happy enough to make camp. Fixing your drainage problem will not only stop a mole-friendly environment from forming but also save you from fungus, dying grass, and possible foundation issues.
- Install an underground mesh fence: Dig a small trench at least 12 inches deep and install a wire mesh fence. While no method is 100% fool-proof, an underground fence is as close as they come.
How to tell the difference between moles, voles, pocket gophers, and shrews
Before you try to remove moles from your yard, you’ll need to correctly identify the critter. Moles can be easily mistaken for animals that require a different control method, such as pocket gophers, shrews, or voles. A mole trap isn’t going to catch a gopher. And a mole isn’t likely to eat gopher bait.
Difference between a mole and a vole
Ensure the critter you’re dealing with isn’t a vole. Voles have a mouse-like appearance, which can help you distinguish them from moles. They are about the same length as moles and have a mix of chestnut-brown and black fur.
But unlike the mole, which has no visible ears and very small eyes, the vole’s black eyes and prominent ears are more noticeable. Voles also have blunt snouts and short legs.
Note: Don’t confuse your vole problem for a mouse problem because they look similar. Voles have shorter tails than mice, while a mouse’s tail is typically the length of its body.
Difference between a mole and a pocket gopher
Pocket gophers are usually larger than moles, measuring around 6 to 10 inches in length. You can easily recognize this rodent by its exposed, yellow front teeth. Gophers have small ears, short legs, and fur-lined, external cheek pouches they use to carry food (it’s no wonder we call them pocket gophers).
Note: There are many different species of pocket gophers, so not every gopher is going to look the same. Fur colors typically range between brown and gray, depending on the species.
Difference between a mole and a shrew
Shrews are smaller than moles, measuring around 3 to 4 inches in length. Shrews look a bit like a cross between a mole and a mouse with small eyes (not as small as moles), small ears, and long mouse-like snouts. Like moles, they have short, dense gray-to-black fur.
Like moles, shrews are insectivores, consuming grubs, earthworms, and other insect larvae. But unlike moles, shrews don’t do their own digging. They travel in already-established tunnels and can be seen scurrying above ground.
FAQ about getting rid of moles in your yard
When are moles most active?
Moles are most active in the early mornings and late evenings of spring and fall, especially on cloudy days.
Can I just flatten the molehills?
Although you can flatten the molehills, the mole will just push the dirt back up. You’ll end up playing whack-a-molehill until you give up and either trap the mole or hire a professional.
If I ignore the moles, will they eventually go away?
Mole presence in your yard depends on two factors: food and predators. If there is an increase in mole predators, like owls and hawks, or a decrease in food sources, such as grubs, earthworms, and insect larvae, moles will leave the yard eventually. However, if they can eat safely, they’ll happily frolic under your grass forever.
Hire a professional
Any way you look at it, having moles in your yard is awful. They destroy your lawn by forming depressions, holes, and mounds, so they have to go. And while it’s a pretty easy DIY project, mole trapping is about as fun as a root canal and can be time-consuming, too.
But finding a reliable, affordable pest control company is another task most homeowners avoid. No need to stress, though. We can help connect you with an experienced, highly-rated local pest control pro who knows how to get rid of moles in your yard without breaking the bank.