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EASTERN MOLE (Scalopus aquaticus)
Moles frustrate many homeowners because of their molehills and tunnels, but they are actually beneficial to have around. Where possible, mole activity should be allowed. They eat large numbers of grubs and other harmful insects, and they help improve soil aeration and drainage.
Eastern moles are small mammals that weigh approximately 4 ounces and are 4-7 inches in length. Their hairless tail is only about 1 to 1 ½ inch long. They have fur that is extremely soft and velvety which allows the mole to move through the soil both forward and backward with no resistance. Individuals have gray fur on top and white fur on the underside. Moles have large, webbed forefeet that are wider than they are long with sharp claws for digging. The hind feet are small with slender, sharp claws. The feet and snout are light pink colored and nearly hairless. The snout is cone shaped with nostrils on the top and is about ½ inch long. Moles have no external ears and very small eyes that are hidden by their fur.
Moles are insectivores and eat grubs, termite, sowbugs, slugs, snails, millipedes, centipedes, ants, beetles, earthworms, crickets, and spiders. Moles will also eat some seeds.
Distribution and Abundance
Moles prefer loamy, well-drained soils. They avoid soil that is too wet, too rocky, too sandy, or too heavy with clay because these soil types make it hard for the mole to dig. Moles can be found in pastures, woodlands, agricultural fields, meadows, gardens, and lawns. About one acre of good soil habitat can support three to five moles.
After approximately 44 days, the female mole has a litter of three to five young. Litters are born anytime from late February through early June. Moles only have one litter a year. The young are born without fur in a plant-lined nest in one of the deeper chambers. They will stay in the nest until they are about four weeks old. By three months old, they are adult size and they can breed at the end of their first year.
Prevention and Control
Since moles live underground their whole life, they do not leave tracks or droppings on the surface. Their presence is indicated by the piles of recently excavated soil and tunnels that they create. They actively build two types of tunnel systems year round: the shallow hunting tunnels and the deep tunnel system. The deep tunnel system is usually at least 10 inches below ground and is used for rearing young, resting, and winter hunting. When tunneling deeper in the ground, the mole pushes soil up to the surface causing molehills. The hills typically have a diameter of less than 12 inches and are five to eight inches deep. Moles prefer to dig when the soil is moist, which is why tunnels often appear after a heavy rain. Moles can damage plants by digging near their roots, even uprooting some plants. Mole tunnels may also give mice and voles access to seeds and tubers.
Constructing an underground barrier to keep moles from tunneling into an area can be used in small areas such as flowers beds. In a new flower bed, hardware cloth can be placed at the bottom and sides to prevent access by moles. Preferably the wire should be 12 inches deep. In an existing flower bed, you can dig a 12 inch deep trench that is 12 inches wide around the bed. Use a piece of 24 inch wire, bend the wire at a 90° angle and place it in the trench with the lower piece facing out from the area to be protected. Replace the soil covering the wire. Due to the expense, this is not an option for entire yards.
No repellent seems to work on moles effectively and consistently. Some people have tried a castor oil repellent, but with mixed results.
Many devices are commercially available to scare moles such as vibrating stakes, ultrasonic devices, and pinwheels. Moles do not seem to be bothered by these vibrations, probably because of their repeated exposure to vibrations from people and power equipment. These scare tactics are not effective.
Getting rid of the grubs in your lawn will not eliminate the moles. Grubs are only a portion of the mole's diet so they can easily switch to other insects and such. Expensive soil insecticides may contaminate groundwater, kill beneficial soil invertebrates, and damage songbirds while not offering any long term control of moles. This is an ineffective method of mole control.
Fumigants are typically ineffective and are not recommended for mole control.
Trapping using harpoon, scissor-jaw, and choker traps can be a successful way to eradicate moles. A permit is not needed from the DNR to trap pr kill moles. Always follow trap instructions for best results. Remember that when you remove a mole from your yard, space is opened up for other moles to come in. You will have to continue trapping on and off to keep the mole population down.
Moles are sensitive to concussion, so smacking a shovel on the ground above a mole in its surface tunnel will often kill it instantly.
Flooding can force moles to the surface where they can be quickly killed with a shovel. Flood the tunnel system quickly by using five-gallon buckets of water poured into the holes. A running hose can be used to supplement the flooding, but when used alone doesn’t do the job fast enough. Flooding works better if the moles have just entered your yard. If they have been there for a while, their tunnel system is probably too deep for this method to work very well. Do not use the flooding method near the foundation of your home.
Reposition and cover plants with soil as soon as possible. Many plants can survive as long as their roots do not dry out. Raised ridges can be flattened with your foot or a garden tractor. Spread molehills flat with a rake and reseed.
Moles are beneficial by providing insect control and aerating the soil. These benefits may well be worth having to rake over some molehills now and then.