6-16-09 Holy Mole-ly

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The moles have appeared again this year. They sure can destroy a yard with their aimless and persistent tunneling. One of the best investments I ever made trying to keep them under control was buying a Victor Harpoon-style mole trap; they sell them at Ace Hardware and also all over the web. There are many other products on the market that claim to get rid of moles, but most are ineffective and can be potentially dangerous to other animals. The trap method may seem to be a little brutal but this is war.

The culprit is the Eastern mole (Scalopus aquanticus). Moles are about the size of chipmunks (six to eight inches long) and have gray-black fur with oversized front feet perfect for digging. They can tunnel up to 18 feet an hour and travel through an existing tunnel at about 80 feet per minute. Many people think they are eating bulbs and roots, but their primary diet is earthworms, grubs and insects. If there is a lot of moisture at the surface of the lawn

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and the worms and other insects are up there, the moles will be tunneling around eating them at the surface. If moisture is less and down deep in the ground, the moles will follow the worms and go deeper under the soil and the tunneling won't be seen. So I guess if you have a lot of tunnels around the yard, the ground is good and wet. I just wish they were eating someone else's worms.

Some extreme remedies I have heard of include trying to flood them out with the garden hose or shoving a hose from a running car exhaust in the tunnel to gas them out, just a waste of time. The only thing that seems to get the job done is the trap. It is important to always follow the manufacturer's instructions to safely use the equipment, but patience and persistence will pay off.

When I see a tunnel I flatten a section of tunnel with my foot and then set up the trap there. Sometimes I can come back minutes later and the trap will be tripped. If you don’t want to see if you got him just pull the trap out of the ground and wait to see if more tunnels appear. If none appear you got him and the mole can stay in the tunnel dead and buried. If you see more tunnels you missed him or there is more to deal with. If you want to check to see if you got it just dig down an inch or so and see if you see any fur then you can dig him out the rest of the way and put him in a deeper hole or cover him up and he will become worm food right in the tunnel.

It sounds worse than it is but leaving them unchecked can really be a mess.

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