Moles: While some people think they look cute, they can cause severe damage to your lawn and landscaping.
If you want to reclaim your yard, the only solution is to learn how to get rid of moles.
Here at Smith’s Pest Management, we’ve helped thousands of homeowners throughout California eliminate moles.
In this post, we’re sharing the exact strategies we use in the field for getting a mole-free yard and garden.
- To get rid of moles, identify active mole runways, set mole traps, implement a baiting program, and consider applying fumigants to your yard.
- You can keep moles out of your yard by eliminating food sources, digging exclusion trenches, and practicing good lawn hygiene (mowing the grass and removing wood stacks and debris piles that shelter them).
- If you hire a pest control expert to get rid of moles, they’ll employ tactics like trapping and baiting.
How To Identify Mole Damage in Your Yard & Garden
While mole damage may seem similar to the damage caused by voles, mice, or rodents, some key differentiators exist.
Here are five signs to look for:
1. Dead Grass
As we mentioned in a previous blog on the topic, patches of dead grass are a good indication that you have a mole problem.
As these pests dig mole tunnels, they disrupt the root systems of nearby grasses, killing the grass at surface level and leaving dead patches in their wake.
Have you ever heard the saying, “making a mountain out of a molehill?”
When moles dig their tunnels, they act like mini excavators, moving all that dirt out of the mole tunnel and up to the surface, creating a telltale, mounded molehill at the tunnel entrance.
3. Mounds That Are Far Apart
Moles aren’t the only creatures that make entrance and exit mounds.
Gophers do something similar.
However, the difference is that gopher mounds are close together, while molehills tend to be about six feet apart.
4. Chunks Of Dirt
When gophers dig in your yard, they pulverize the soil into a smooth powder.
Moles, on the other hand, dig the earth up in chunks.
As you evaluate the mounds in your yard, look for clumps of soil, which is a surefire sign of moles.
If you’re wondering whether you have moles in your landscaping, it’s equally important to know what not to look for.
Since moles are insectivores, they don’t chew plants or root systems. Instead, they eat earthworms, grubs, and centipedes.
If you notice gnaw marks on your garden plants or vegetables, it’s likely that voles or mice are responsible – not moles.
5. Surface Runways
Surface runways are feeding tunnels that moles create just below the surface of the soil. Usually, they look like raised ridges in a lawn area where moles are present. They typically do not have mounds attached to them.
Thanks to their proficient digging abilities, moles are capable of digging up to 100 feet of surface runways each day. While moles travel through some of their surface runways every day, others are only used for occasional feeding.
How to Get Rid of Moles (And Keep them Away)
1. Identify active mole runways
Before you can set traps or baits, you’ll need to identify high-traffic areas like mole runways.
You can find these runways by poking holes into the top of the soil near a mole hole using a stick or your index finger.
If the hole is repaired within a day or two, it’s a prime runway and a great place to trap moles.
Here are a few other ways to identify main runways:
- Runways usually follow a basically straight course.
- Runways typically connect two mounds or two separate runway systems.
- They tend to follow fencerows, concrete paths, or other human-made borders.
- They may follow the woody perimeter of a yard or field.
2. Set mole traps
Trapping is the most reliable method to get rid of moles.
Modern mole traps, including harpoon traps and scissor-jaw traps, use lethal methods to kill moles and quickly eradicate mole populations.
They also offer a high degree of target-specificity for moles and no potential for chemical buildup or secondary poisoning in the surrounding ecosystem.
Keep in mind that trapping moles requires consistency and creativity. Moles are smart, and they, more than many other small mammals, are excellent at detecting and avoiding traps that aren’t set or placed properly.
To make your trapping efforts as effective as possible, we recommend placing traps directly in active mole runways and trapping during the spring and fall, when moles are most active.
Trapping during the spring allows you to eliminate females before they give birth to young, which is an effective way to limit infestations.
In addition to timing your trapping correctly, we also recommend using about 3-5 traps per acre of property.
If possible, you should seek to place at least one trap in each of the moles’ main runways.
When trapping is executed correctly, it’s the easiest, most effective way to get rid of moles.
3. Start a baiting program
Baiting involves using poison to kill moles in their burrows.
Generally speaking, there are three different types of mole baits available: grain baits, gel baits, and synthetic worm baits.
They’re not all created equal, though. Here’s what you need to know:
- Grain pellet bait formulations have shown inconsistent results, since their efficacy is highly dependent on both the area and the mole species present.
- First-generation anticoagulant chlorophacinone pellet baits can be effective at certain times of the year, but they require repeated applications and may take as long as six weeks to eliminate mole populations.
- Earthworm-style baits containing the rodenticide bromethalin are generally considered the most effective since these baits can kill moles after a single feeding. Moles who eat earthworm-style baits die about 12-24 hours after a single ingestion. Additionally, earthworm-style baits tend to be enticing to moles since soil invertebrates are the main dietary staples for moles.
One of the benefits of baits is that poisoned moles typically die underground in their tunnels, so you won’t have to find and dispose of their bodies.
To use baits effectively, repeat bait applications every week for up to six weeks, and consider using high-success bait formulations, like gel baits that contain the anticoagulant ingredient warfarin.
If you want a faster-acting bait, look for synthetic worm baits that contain bromethalin, which can kill moles in as little as 24 hours with just one feeding.
No matter what kind of bait you use, you can make it as successful as possible by inserting baits directly into mole tunnels.
4. Consider applying fumigants
Currently, there are two fumigants federally registered to control moles:
To ensure success with fumigation, it’s essential to insert any fumigant you use deep into the mole tunnel, and only to use fumigants when the soil’s moisture content is high enough to contain the gas within the tunnel.
You may also need to apply repeated or large doses of fumigant, which makes this conventional control method drastically more expensive and time-consuming than trapping or baiting.
5. Eliminate mole food sources
Wondering how to keep moles away? Get rid of their food sources.
When you eliminate the grubs and other insects moles feed on in your yard, you make the habitat less attractive for moles.
We recommend controlling grub populations by using beneficial nematodes or milky spore to kill grubs. If you want faster results, use an insecticide instead.
6. Create dig-proof barriers
To form a human-made boundary around your lawn and garden, dig a trench that is roughly 2 feet deep and six inches wide around the space you’d like to protect.
Fill the trench with rocks or line it with wire mesh or hardware cloth with holes ¾ wide or smaller. This is a time-consuming but effective, long-term solution to keep moles from burrowing their way into your yard.
7. Keep your lawn tidy
Moles feel safest under cover. Because of this, eliminating their shelter is a great way to encourage them to go elsewhere.
With this in mind, keep your grass mowed and your garden beds manicured. Avoid using thick layers of mulch to cover beds and remove all wood stacks or organic debris piles.
You may also want to cut back on watering since excess moisture attracts insects and creates an ideal mole habitat.
Moles and the earthworms they love to eat enjoy soft, damp soil. Because of this, keeping the soil on the dry side is a great way to limit insect activity and discourage moles from setting up shop in your yard.
Remember that most lawns only need about an inch of water per week to stay healthy, so this approach won’t make your outdoor space any less beautiful.
Whatever You Do, Don’t Try these Unproven Methods
Some people believe that introducing natural predators like owls, hawks, snakes, and domestic dogs and cats can help get rid of moles.
Unfortunately, that’s not a wise approach.
Firstly, natural predators won’t be able to effectively or adequately eliminate a severe mole problem.
Secondly, moles can carry diseases and parasites that can transmit to domestic dogs and cats, so encouraging your pet to face off with moles just isn’t a good idea.
Don’t waste your money on ultrasonic devices. Although these devices may startle moles at first, the moles will quickly get used to them.
Once the moles adapt, they’ll go back to digging, eating, and breeding just like normal.
Like ultrasonic devices, electromagnetic spikes claim to keep moles away, but there’s no research to back that up.
Moles will quickly get used to the presence of these devices and will either learn to avoid them or will start to ignore them completely.
Some people believe that moles dislike plants with strong smells, such as daffodils, marigolds, and anything in the allium family, and that planting these species around the edges of your garden will form a natural barrier that protects your property from the digging pests.
Unfortunately, there’s no evidence to support this.
If you rely on repellent plants to get rid of moles, you’ll just wind up wasting your time, money, and effort and not controlling moles at all!
How Do Wildlife Control Professionals Get Rid Of Moles In Your Yard?
If DIY is not your style, you may want to call in a professional mole control team like Smith’s.
Thanks to their professional tools and tactics, these teams can effectively deal with severe mole infestations.
If getting rid of moles humanely is important to you, you can opt for no-kill methods that will drastically reduce your mole populations and restore your yard to its former glory.
Here are a few tactics our team here at Smith’s Pest Management uses:
1. No-kill Mole Trapping
Trapping is a sure-fire way to get rid of moles without killing them.
The Smith’s team will inspect your yard, identify the most active mole runways, and place no-kill traps accordingly.
This option reduces your existing mole problem, and when you opt to participate in our annual mole control program, it can prevent moles from coming back in the future.
Since moles get very active in the winter when soil moistens up, good mole control is best done with trapping or Talpirid worms.
2. Grub Control
Eliminate the moles’ food source – eliminate the moles!
Smith’s provides comprehensive grub control services for property owners with excess insect populations.
Because we use a granular lawn treatment, this option is fast, easy, and straightforward.
A popular, humane, no-kill method of mole control, exclusion relies on techniques that make it difficult for moles to enter your yard.
Gopher baskets and gopher wire can be particularly useful. While Smith’s does not provide mole exclusion services, the team can advise you on the methods that may work for you.
4. Annual Mole Control
It’s hard to get rid of moles forever. That’s why we recommend participating in our annual mole control program.
Each year, we’ll return to your property and help address and eliminate ongoing or recurring mole problems.
This is the most effective way to maintain a healthy, green lawn for years to come.
Professionals like Smith’s Pest Management know how to get rid of persistent moles that keep coming back to your yard.
Mole Control FAQs
1. What are moles?
Moles (members of the family Talpidae) are small burrowing animals that many people believe are related to mice or rats. While moles and mice look somewhat similar (they’re both small and furry), they’re very different creatures.
While rats and mice are rodents, moles are mammals that spend most of their lives underground, digging burrows. Their close relatives include shrews and hedgehogs.
Here’s how the National Wildlife Foundation (NWF) describes them:
Their eyes are poorly developed, but what they lack in sight, they make up for in their sense of touch. All moles have very sensitive snouts and long, clawed digits that they use to dig tunnels. The 22 tentacle-like protrusions on the star-nosed mole’s snout are six times more sensitive to touch than a human hand.
Rather than having fur that lays flat and points toward the tail like most mammals, eastern moles have dense fur that sticks straight up. This prevents soil from becoming trapped in their coats when they back up through a tunnel. Male moles are usually bigger than females, although most species don’t exceed 10 inches in length.
Moles are very efficient diggers. In fact, eastern moles (one of the most common mole species in the U.S.) can hollow out a 160-foot burrow in a single night.
Contrary to popular belief, moles don’t eat the roots of plants and trees, although they do tunnel around and beneath them.
In reality, moles are insectivores, and they make tunnels to locate the worms and other insects that live in the soil around plants.
Did you know that small numbers of moles can be beneficial for landscaping? They help aerate the soil and eliminate excess populations of harmful insects.
When you have too many moles affecting your landscaping, though, it’s time to act.
2. What attracts moles to your yard and garden?
These pests live their entire lives in their mole tunnels, so they’re more likely to frequent areas that offer the ideal habitat for feeding, breeding, and burrowing.
Here are 3 environmental factors that moles love:
1. Lots Of Insects
Moles eat a lot of bugs. In fact, the NWF reports that many species eat up to 100% of their body weight in insects each day.
Studies have shown that a mole’s diet consists of earthworms, white grubs, beetles, and larvae. Moles will construct elaborate burrows in areas where these insects are abundant.
2. Cool Temperatures
Contrary to popular belief, moles are not blind or nocturnal. They’re active throughout the day and prefer moist, cool soil that helps them regulate their temperature.
3. Landscaping Elements
The main runways moles construct tend to follow certain landscaping elements, like fence rows, paths, or other human-made borders.
They may also pop up along a line of hedges or another protected area. Moles will also burrow under shrubs and trees to locate the insects that live in their root systems.
Wherever moles set up shop, food is the primary motivator—because of this, controlling their food sources is one of the most effective ways to control the mole populations.
3. What is the fastest way to get rid of moles?
The fastest way to get rid of moles is through trapping. Live or kill traps remove mole populations rapidly and are excellent ways to deal with even a severe mole problem.
If you want an even more rapid solution, pair trapping with other methods, such as exclusion and deterrents.
4. How do I get rid of moles humanely?
You have many options if you want to get rid of moles without killing them.
Live traps contain moles without harming or killing them and allow you to release the rodents a safe distance from your property.
Other integrated pest management (IPM) techniques focus on exclusion (using wire mesh buried underground deter moles and prevent digging), store-bought repellents (planting mole-repellent plants and eliminating mole food sources), and habitat modification (creation of artificial drought and trench digging, for example) to get rid of moles humanely and effectively.
5. What home remedy will kill moles?
There’s no home remedy that will effectively and humanely kill moles.
Instead of focusing on home remedies, focus on proven control methods like trapping and baiting.
6. Can you flood moles out?
While some people recommend trying to flood moles out of their holes using hoses or buckets of water, we advise against it.
This approach will only damage your lawn and loosen the dirt beneath your grass, making it easier for moles and other pests to burrow into. Additionally, moles can simply take shelter above ground until the water recedes, making this tactic ineffective.
Instead, opt for a proven mole-control method, like one of the IPM approaches we listed above.
7. What time of day are moles most active?
Although moles are active throughout the day, their activity levels peak around noon and midnight.
They also tend to be active after a warm, soaking rain, when the insects they eat are most active.
8. Is it legal to kill moles?
Yes. Moles are not classified or protected in any way, and it is legal to trap or kill moles on your property when they are causing damage.
Dealing With Moles In The San Francisco Bay Area? We’re Here To Help!
Smith’s Pest Management helps residential and commercial properties in Northern California reduce, control, and eliminate their mole problems through our mole control services.
Smith’s also works with parks and large facilities to eradicate moles in an eco-conscious way.