How to Deal with Moles in Your Yard

Moles dig tunnels under lawns and create dirt mounds, causing many headaches for gardeners.

Just when you think you’ve gotten your yard to the pinnacle of neatness, here comes a pesky mole to turn your lawn into a superhighway!

Unfortunately, we gardeners are excellent mole-magnets: our tilling, mulching, and watering create a virtual paradise for these burrowing critters who love nothing more than a nice, moist, earthworm-rich hunting ground.

About Moles

Here are some facts about our furry mole friends (or enemies):

  • Moles Are Insect Eaters: A typical 5-6 ounce mole can eat as much as 50 pounds of bugs and worms in a year. Among their diet: beetles, earthworms, and lawn-destroying grubs. If you can stand them, they’re excellent natural insectivores.
  • Moles Are Loners: The average acre of land usually supports only 2-3 moles.
  • Moles Are Natural Aerators: Moles live and breed in deep runways and burrows underground, digging upward of 20 feet per hour! Their highway system branches off into surface runways for feeding; these are the telltale “molehills” you see in your yard. While the surface burrows can damage lawns, overall moles are beneficial by aerating, mixing, and loosening the soil.
  • Mole Damage: Contrary to popular opinion, moles don’t eat your plants. However, their surface tunnels can disturb plant roots, which can cause distress. In lawns, molehills make walking and mowing difficult and sometimes damages the grass. And, their tunnels can be hijacked by voles, little mice who DO eat plants.
  • Mole Habitat: Look for mole activity around fences, hedges, buildings, and near woods.
  • Moles Are Year-Round Pest: Moles are active year-round, but they’re particularly busy in spring and fall. During rainy periods, you’ll see more molehills as the earthworms move toward the surface.
Mole traps on store shelf
Trapping can be effective against moles.

How to Eliminate Moles

Unfortunately, moles aren’t easily dealt with. Unless your yard is really showing damage, the best approach is to leave moles alone. They’ll usually move on once they’ve eliminated their food source. You can keep your lawn in shape by flattening the runways with your feet or a lawn roller, or by raking out the tunnels.

If you do have damage from moles, here are some tips on mole control:

  • Determine if Moles Are Active: To test mole activity in your yard, go out and stomp down the existing molehills. Then, watch each day to see if the mole pushes them back up again.
  • Forget Grub Control: The popular wisdom used to be, that to get rid of moles, you must get rid of grubs. That theory’s been pretty much disproven, since moles eat many other insects besides grubs, and if they can’t find food, they tunnel all the more.
  • Trapping Moles: If you really want to get rid of the moles in your yard, the only surefire way is to trap them. Follow trap directions exactly, because improper placement of the trap will doom your efforts! While you can’t control whether or not new moles will move in, trapping lets you know for sure that you’ve eliminated the ones you have. Before you begin, make sure mole trapping is legal in your state.
  • Home Mole Remedies: Human hair, broken glass, mothballs, bleach, thorny branches, car exhaust . . . the list of homemade mole remedies is endless, but the list of results are nonexistent, so save your time and money.
  • Ultrasonic and Vibrating Devices: These clever gizmos are popular marketing ploys, but they don’t work either.
  • Mole Fumigation: Poison gas fumigation is very iffy, because the runways are so extensive and the gases are so easily absorbed in the loose soil or vented to the surface. If you do want to try fumigation, hire a professional exterminator who can do it properly.
  • Mole Poisons: Poisons are also iffy and like fumigants, should be applied by a trained professional to keep you safe. Wormlike baits can work if applied properly. Don’t be fooled by grain-based baits and poison peanuts, moles are insectivores and don’t have the right teeth for gnawing.
Lawn damaged by moles
Lawn damaged by moles.

Mole Resistant Landscaping

The best way to declare a cease-fire with moles is to change your landscaping:

  • Shrink Your Lawn: Lawns are the most susceptible to mole damage. If your area is eternally overrun with moles, consider replacing all or part of your lawn with naturalized areas and shrub plantings.
  • Reduce Watering: Overwatering saturates the soil, inviting earthworms and moles to the surface. Cut back on irrigating your lawn, and choose drought-tolerant grasses and plants.
  • Go Native: Native plants are less damage-prone and require less water than imported varieties.
  • Keep Moles Out: Protect your raised beds from moles and other critters by lining them (including the sides) with 1/4″ metal hardware cloth. You can also try a mole barrier around the perimeter of your yard. Hardware cloth or sheet metal should be buried at least two feet deep and should stick up about six inches.
  • Natural Predators: Moles aren’t really a popular predator snack (they apparently don’t taste very good), but your dog or cat might enjoy hunting them or scaring them off.

Further Information