Welcome to the Kentucky Native Plant and Wildlife Blog.

Welcome to the Kentucky Native Plant and Wildlife Blog.
The purpose of this blog is to provide information on using native plants in the landscape, issues related to invasive exotic plants, urban wildlife management, and wildlife damage management. It is my intention that this information will assist you in deciphering the multitude of information circulating around the web and condense in some meaningful method as it relates to Kentucky. In addition, I hope to highlight a native plant that can be used in the landscape.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Making a Mountain out of a Mole Hill

All this warm weather seems to be getting life busy and into the fast lane. One of the creatures that is now beginning to show signs of activity is the eastern mole (Scalopus aquaticus) and the tell tale signs, hills and tunnels, are beginning to appear on the landscape.  I am curious of people's fascination with moles and how the minimal damage they do can create such hubris.  I mean really, people go crazy, putting chewing gum, razor blades, broken glass, diesel fuel, lye, Drano, pickle juice, red pepper, bleach, moth balls, rose branches, human hair balls, soil vibrators, ultrasonic contraptions,  gasoline and explosives down holes to drive them away.  Just as crazy is using poison peanuts or trying to fumigate an entire burrow system.  I understand people wanting a nice lawn, but the reason a mole lives in that lawn is because it has an abundant food supply, either insect grubs (not a good thing) or earthworms (a good thing) and the soil texture and moisture is to their liking.  Moles are quite beneficial in that they aerate soil and they break-up and condition soil through their burrowing activities.  One thing is for certain, there have been no advances in mole control for about 80 years and the old standby of trapping is still the best control method available.  Oh you can put down one of those castor oil based repellents and it may work for a month but you will then need to reapply and this can be expensive over the long run.  You can also control the grubs in the lawn so check out this great publication for help:
Perhaps you can get a dog that loves to dig and burrow and go after them when they are active early morning or late afternoon.  Or you can hire a professional to take care of the problem. But in the end you will come to the conclusion that trapping is the most effective, long term solution.  So why don't people trap moles?  Mostly because it takes skill and patience to be successful and most humans want a quick fix.  Before I go further into discussing why trapping often fails, I recommend you read and re-read the mole control publication from the University of Kentucky:
Now why does mole trapping often fail?  Biggest reason: not locating the active runs which are long and straight (see photo below of long, straight run).  Reason two: not enough traps.  If you have three active runs in a lawn, use three traps. Reason three: traps are not placed deep enough so the mole can squeeze past the trigger. Reason four: lack of patience.  If you haven't captured a critter in a couple of days, move the trap.  A few other pointers not covered in the mole publication.  When attempting to control moles keep the turf mowed close so you can see new mole burrowing activity and place traps in the appropriate position.  If a trap has been triggered, dig on either side to see if you have captured the animal because sometimes you think you haven't captured the suspect when in fact you have. Trap tunnels not holes (i.e. mounds of dirt) and when trapping tunnels don't trap the ends, trap the center section. While the new mole earthworm baits have been promoted as being effective, there is little independent research to verify these claims but it makes sense that to be successful the key to their success would be to getting those baits into the same tunnels you would trap.  Good luck because in all likelihood, you will need it.

1 comment:

  1. Moles and I have waged the occasional war. Generally they win. Cease fire negotions always include the arguement - moles are beneficial to soil and they have rights too. Then a couple of strawberry plants succumb to what looks like no better reason than the tunnel under their roots. Dogs in a vegetable garden are not useful. Traps are Ok in cut grass. Shotguns satisfy as an opening salvo. Then its all down hill until I wave the white flag.