Ask the Master Gardeners: Traps are most effective way to control moles

By: Johanne Ryker, Placer County Master Gardener
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Question: Help! My once lovely yard looks like a minefield with small raised mounds of exposed dirt and raised rows (underground tunnels?) of grass that collapse or sink when you walk on them. Who are the culprits — gophers or moles? What can I do to prevent further destruction? Answer: Mounds and surface runways are obvious indicators of the presence of moles. Moles’ burrowing habits disfigure lawns and parks, destroy flowerbeds, tear up the roots of grasses and create havoc in small garden plots. Since the final yearly dispersal of baby moles occurs in late fall to early winter, severe lawn damage can occur now. Over-watering your lawn can bring moles closer to the ground surface, making tunnels more visible. Reducing the amount or frequency of watering may help temporarily. Also, Moles mostly feed on earthworms. While they do eat grubs, it’s an old wives’ tale that grubs are the reason that moles are in a lawn. Therefore using grub control products as a method of controlling moles will not be effective. Reducing the amount of turf grass on your property will also reduce the visible signs of damage. In the long run, converting lawn to gardens, paths, hedgerows, or other more natural habitats can save you time and money as well as provide habitat for beneficial birds and butterflies, not to mention conserve one of our most precious resources — water! There are numerous home remedies and gadgets that are supposedly effective in getting rid of moles, as well as several electromagnetic devices or “repellers” that have been marketed for the control of moles. Many books and magazines having to do with gardening and landscaping have references or advertising concerning bizarre strategies to control moles. Laboratory tests have not proven these devices and remedies to be effective. Unfortunately, there are no magic formulas for controlling moles. Trapping is the most effective and practical method of mole control. The most effective traps are the harpoon, scissor-jaw and choker loop. To ensure safe and humane use, be sure to follow all printed instructions. If a trap fails to catch a mole after two days, it may mean the mole has moved, the runway was disturbed, or the trap was improperly set or detected by the mole. In any event, move the trap to a new location. Mole traps and baits are available at most hardware, home repair and farm supply stores — right there in the middle of a bunch of mole control products that do not work. Buyer beware! Have gardening questions? Call the Master Gardener hotline at (530) 889-7388.