How to Get Rid of Moles in Your Yard and Garden With Natural Methods
"True Moles" are small cylindrical mammals that live an underground lifestyle in gardens and lawns of North America, Europe, and Asia. Unrelated mammals ("false moles") with some similar characteristics are incorrectly identified as moles in Africa and Australia.
If you have watched cartoons about this little creature you probably think they have no eyes: but they do, only almost invisibly small, as are their ears. Contrary to popular wisdom, moles are not interested in eating plant roots but in getting at the earthworms that also inhabit the underbelly of lawns and gardens.
Because of their displacement of soil with their massive and strong 6-fingered paws, they are considered lawn and garden pests. Understandably, home- and business-owners contending with disheveled yards look for a way to get rid of the varmints and return their yards to their former order. Some of the methods of dealing with this pest are related in this article.
Traditional Methods Used to Get Rid of Moles
The following are some historical methods that have been used to get rid of moles:
- Ancient Romans are said to have buried earthenware pots in gardens, filled with water, to lure and possibly drown moles.
- In post-Victorian England, Edward the VII's wife, Alexandra, had a dress designed that required several hundred of the soft and pliable dyed mole pelts thereby launching a fashion trend that helped stem the out-of-control mole population in Scotland. (This pest-to-fashion-statement technique had earlier worked to eradicate beavers and buffalo in Canada.)
- Itinerant "mole-catchers" traveled from farm to farm in the British Isles and were paid in food and lodging to catch moles. They would sell the soft mole-skin pelts for cash, often to plumbers who would use the soft 'cloths' to wipe (finish) the 'joints' in their lead pipes.
- In the early days of mole-catchers, there was probably a reliance on wood, steel, and clay traps (clay did not carry human scent and was a preferred medium for traps). Smoking the moles out of their "galleries" or flooding them out were two methods to catch them. When they emerged, they were usually stabbed (or similarly dispatched) by the mole-catchers, who got a small sum from the farmer and more from the plumber or whoever else bought the pelts.
- The use of poisons and chemical pesticides became more common in the 20th Century, with 'pest control managers' ('exterminators') taking over from the traditional mole-catchers. While the poisons, such as strychnine, killed the moles faster than the more traditional methods, by the later 20th Century there was an awareness of the adverse impact of such poisons on the environment in general. Poisons like strychnine were removed from the market, but fumigation with aluminum phosphate is still allowed when overseen by a licensed exterminator.
Moles and "Natural" Pest Management Techniques
Here are some techniques for dealing with moles and molehills in as natural a way as possible:
- High-quality Nitrogen Gas can be used to exterminate the moles without affecting the environment adversely. An exterminator can do this.
- If you have the attitude that grass (lawn) is just a 'green desert' and are willing to look at other ways of using your property in a less conventional "pretty" way, you might want to learn to remove the aerated soil on top of the molehills and use it to grow food plants. You would thus leave the underneath "gallery" or burrows of the mole, allowing the mole or the labour (a group of moles) to continue to go about eating the earthworms and grubs from under your yard.
- Kitty litter and blood meal have been said to drive moles out of their burrows. But chances are they will just burrow into the neighbour's yard and come back to yours again later.
- On one forum about rat terriers, it would seem that they have a natural dislike of moles and will dig them up and kill them. This, of course, makes more trenches, and there is the issue of little corpses being mauled and deposited around the yard as well.
- A sonic stake is another method being explored with variable success-- some people state that this method (the emission of a very high penetrating sound that irritates the animals and compels them to try to get away from the sound quickly) works beautifully and some state that it doesn't.
- A bio-organic mole repellent works to coat the earthworms in your yard so that when the mole eats them, they taste unpleasant and disrupt the mole's digestion. Presumably, the mole will go off (to your neighbour's yard?). It seems that a neighbour doing the same as you is a pretty good assurance of continuing in harmony with your neighbour as well as the rest of your environment. This particular repellent (not harmful to pets or your children) is called "Liquid Fence for Moles." They promise that if it is not 100% effective, you can return it and have your money refunded.
Certain "modern" agricultural perceptions present an over-abundance of moles as a great threat to safety (citing molehill contamination for outbreaks of listeria and a decrease in crop yields). On the other hand, permaculture advocates argue that the proliferation of moles is indicative of a shortage of 'checks' on this mole over-population (decreased natural predator populations, etc.) that are likely the result of "modern agriculture" having knocked the balance off with its too zealous desire to 'control' the environment with fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, GMO seeds, etc.
Today's permaculturist is apt to see the molehill as a source of well-aerated soil for a great vegetable garden. As most of us laypeople gain more understanding about the somewhat mysterious harmonious interplay in our environment, it is possible to reframe what was traditionally seen as "damage" as something natural to the little creatures that created this assault on our comfort level. Granted, moles are not the most endearing animals, but they do not gnaw into your basement, as rats are capable of doing. They also do not attack your kids, like your neighbour's dog might, nor do they hack into your online accounts, as your neighbour's kid might.
I guess we each have the choice of whether we want to "make a mountain out of a molehill" or just look for some method of living more co-operatively with the moles.
Moles, Molehills, and Mole-catchers in Wikipedia
"Gas Out Moles" http://www.rtbot.net/gas_out_moles
Rat Terriers vs. Moles http://www.rat-terrier.com/Home/tabid/37/forumid/3/postid/434619/view/topic/Default.aspx
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2012 Cynthia Zirkwitz