Mole management presents a challenge for homeowners
By Ray Ridlen
How can such small mammals tear up the lawn? Yes, I am talking about moles. They can be a huge challenge to handle in the lawn. To improve your success of managing them, some tips are provided below.
Moles are found in lawns, pastures, meadows, and woodlands. The eastern mole (Scalopus aquaticus) is the most common and abundant mole in Oklahoma.
Moles are not rodents. They have sharp, pointed teeth used for catching and eating primarily earthworms and grubs. The enlarged front feet are paddle-like with enlarged toenails uniquely adapted for digging.
The mole also has a cylindrical body, a long, tapered snout, and eyes and ears so tiny they almost appear to be missing. The hind legs are very small, enabling the mole to turn with ease in a narrow passage. Fully grown moles measure 4 to 7.5 inches long including a very short tail.
Fur color varies from black to brownish to grayish with silver highlights.
Moles construct and use two types of extensive underground tunnels: shallow surface tunnels in the spring, summer, and fall, and deep, permanent tunnels used year-round as the main avenues of travel and for feeding. Surface tunnels are most abundant after a warm rain or during the spring and fall when moles are actively searching for grubs or earthworms. They are the only animals that create surface tunnels.
Moles are antisocial, solitary animals and live alone except to breed. Males and females come together only for a brief encounter during February to mate. In April, after a 45-day gestation period, two to five large, hairless young are born in the underground nest chamber. At 5 weeks, they are half grown. At 6 weeks, they leave to fend for themselves.
Eastern moles are active any time of the day, but they are most active from 4 a.m. to 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. all year. Moles must be very active to meet high energy requirements. In fact, they can burrow as fast as 1 foot per minute. High-energy mole food comes as earthworms, grubs, beetles and beetle larvae, insects and insect larvae, snails, and spiders.
If you have problems with moles, one of the most effective ways to control them is to use a harpoon trap. Surface burrows are used most actively during the spring and fall. To be successful, you must find an active burrow.
To determine which runs are active, flatten a small section of the run with your foot and check the next morning. Within 12 to 24 hours active runs will be repaired. Place a trap in this location.
Be sure to handle the trap safely; keep it away from children and follow the manufacturer’s directions. Put a small bucket over them if children or pets are present.
If the trap has not captured a mole in three days: the trap was placed in the wrong location; the run was disturbed too much; the mole detected the trap; the mole changed its habits and was not actively using the burrow; or all the moles in the general area are captured.
Another product on the market is a fake worm injected with the rodenticide, bromethalin. Examples of trade names for this product are Talpirid and Tomcat Mole Killer. These can be placed into active runs or mounds to give immediate mole kill when they eat it.
When you find an active run, the void within the run is only an inch or two below the grass. This is where the biodegradable worm is placed. With fresh mounds, the underground run is usually 6 to 18 inches below the mound. The worm has to be pushed down into the void by using a dowel or stick through the one-inch diameter hole that the mole made to connect to the below ground run.