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How to Get Rid of Moles in Your Garden Humanely

by Jack Grover
garden mole
Reading time: 21 min Prefer to listen?

In the tranquil, verdant world of your garden, a sudden eruption of molehills can feel like an invasion. Despite being small, these burrowing creatures can cause big problems for your cherished green space.

But before you declare war on these furry little archaeologists, remember that they are living beings, too. So, how do we strike a balance between maintaining our gardens and respecting wildlife?

This article will provide you with essential information about moles and guide you through humane ways to deter them from your garden without causing them harm.

First Things First: What Are Moles?

Moles are fascinating creatures, albeit unwelcome guests in our gardens.

Measuring about 6-8 inches long, they sport a coat of fur that ranges from gray to velvety black. These burrowing insectivores are easily recognizable by their slender, hairless snouts and small eyes and ears. Their large front feet, equipped with long claws that function like a hoe, make them highly efficient diggers.

closeup image of mole

The intricate network of tunnels you discover in your yard is typically the work of a solitary mole. Excluding the breeding season in early spring, moles are loners who prefer their own company. Yes, the multiple-tunneled pattern wreaking havoc on your lawn is likely the home of just one industrious mole.

To fully understand how to dissuade these subterranean excavators from invading your garden, it’s crucial to comprehend their lifestyle.

Moles are constant builders, creating new feeding tunnels frequently and rarely revisiting the same one twice. You might stumble upon entry and exit mounds — symmetrical and round structures that are pushed up volcano-fashion by the busy mole. Though often filled with soil, these holes remain visible, serving as links to the mole’s main runways.

These main runways are like a mole’s highway system, located 12-18 inches underground and used repeatedly. They’re not usually visible to us surface dwellers but play an integral part in a mole’s subterranean life.

When it comes to the menu, moles have a voracious appetite for insects and their larvae. They particularly relish white grubs — a common pest found in lawns.

Related: The Good, the Bugs, and the Bountiful: A Guide to Beneficial Insects in Your Garden

The soil type also influences where a mole decides to set up a home. Given a choice, they would opt for moist, sandy loam soils over dry, heavy clay soils.

They are most active during warm, wet months but remember — moles are year-round residents living comfortably beneath the surface.

How To Identify Mole Damage?

Mole damage, while similar to the havoc wrought by voles, mice, or other rodents, has its unique identifiers.

mole damage

Here are the common signs to look for when trying to diagnose your garden’s mole issue:

Patches of Dead Grass

Patches of dead grass can be a telltale sign of mole activity.

As these subterranean diggers tunnel through your yard, they disrupt the root systems of your lush green grass. This disruption deprives the grass of essential nutrients and water, causing it to wither and die, leaving unsightly patches in its wake.

Molehills

The phrase “making a mountain out of a molehill” is more literal than you think.

When moles dig their extensive network of tunnels, they push up mounds of soil at the entrance — creating what we commonly refer to as “molehills.” These mounds are a clear indication that you have a mole problem.

Distant Mounds

While moles aren’t the only creatures that create mounds — gophers do too — there’s an easy way to tell their work apart. Gopher mounds tend to be clustered close together, while molehills usually maintain a distance of about six feet from each other.

Related: Flooding Gopher Holes: The Right Way To Do It!

Clumps of Dirt 

Gophers and moles also differ in their digging styles. While gophers pulverize the soil into a smooth powder, moles dig up the earth in chunks.

If you find clumpy soil around your mounds, it’s a surefire sign that moles are the culprits.

Surface Runways

Another classic sign of mole activity is the presence of surface runways. These are feeding tunnels that moles create just below the surface of the soil, appearing as raised ridges across your lawn. They typically don’t have mounds attached to them but betray the presence of a hungry mole nonetheless.

These industrious creatures can dig up to 100 feet of surface runways each day! Some of these runways form part of their daily routes, while others are used sporadically for feeding.

One important thing to remember: Moles don’t chew plants or root systems; they dine on earthworms, grubs, and centipedes instead. If you notice gnaw marks on your garden plants or vegetables, it’s more likely voles or mice — not moles — are responsible.

So, how exactly do you get rid of these intruders? And, more importantly, how to do so humanely?

Discourage Moles by Controlling Their Food Sources

Firstly, it’s essential to understand why moles venture into your garden.

They’re not there to wage a personal vendetta against your petunias. They simply follow their food source, which includes earthworms and grubs. When the soil is rich and moist, it attracts these delicacies, which in turn lures moles.

One effective way to repel moles from your garden is by managing the population of their primary food source.

It’s important to note that while you may want to eliminate grubs, you should strive to keep earthworms as they play a beneficial role in soil health.

Related: The Role of Beneficial Insects in Organic Farming

If your garden is infested with grubs and beetles, reducing their numbers could effectively deter moles. Here are some natural methods to help control these soil dwellers:

  • Introduce beneficial nematodes. These microscopic creatures naturally control the grub and beetle population by seeking out and eliminating these pests in the soil.
  • Encourage birds and chickens. These feathered friends will happily feast on beetles and grubs, reducing their population over time.
  • Manually remove Japanese beetles, which mature into grubs, from your garden. Placing them in a jar of soapy water will not only lessen the current grub population but will also prevent future generations.
  • Use homemade garlic spray as a natural deterrent for grubs. Simply steep some garlic bulbs in water overnight, then fill a spray bottle with the solution and spritz it around your garden.

Learn More: 8 Natural Pest Control Methods for Your Garden

Opt for Natural Repellents

Natural repellents are a gentle yet effective way to keep moles at bay.

For one, castor oil is considered an effective solution — moles find the taste and smell of castor oil disagreeable, making it an effective, harmless deterrent. By mixing it with dish soap and water, you can create a solution that moles detest but isn’t harmful to them or your plants.

Spray this magical concoction around the garden, focusing particularly on the areas where mole activity is most prevalent.

Planting mole-repelling vegetation is another wonderful natural method. Plants such as daffodils, marigolds, and alliums are not favored by moles and can act as natural barriers. By planting these in strategic locations throughout your garden, you can create natural barriers that moles are likely to avoid.

Dig a Trench

Another way to prevent moles from burrowing into your garden is by digging a trench around the area you want to protect.

This trench should be approximately 2 feet deep and six inches wide. Fill it with rocks or line it with wire mesh or hardware cloth featuring holes that are ¾ inch wide or smaller.

While this method is labor-intensive, it provides a long-term, effective solution to keeping moles at bay.

Keep Your Lawn Tidy at All Times

Moles prefer operating under cover, so eliminating their potential hiding spots can encourage them to move on.

  • Regularly mow your grass and maintain your garden beds.
  • Avoid using thick layers of mulch and promptly remove any piles of organic debris or wood stacks.
  • Consider reducing your watering routine, as excess moisture not only attracts insects but also creates an ideal habitat for moles.

Create an Artificial Drought

Speaking of moisture — both moles and their favorite meal, earthworms, are fans of soft, damp soil. By avoiding over-watering your lawn, you can make your yard less appealing to these burrowers.

Keeping the soil slightly dry can limit earthworm activity and deter moles from settling in your yard.

Remember: Most lawns only require approximately an inch of water per week to stay healthy, which means this approach shouldn’t impact the beauty of your outdoor space.

Isolate the Mole

This strategy may not be the simplest to execute, but it’s still a more humane approach than trapping. Here’s how to isolate the mole and remove it from its burrow:

  1. Start by patting down any visible molehills in your garden or lawn with the back of a shovel. Once done, withdraw to a spot on your property where you can observe the smoothed areas, preferably downwind and at a distance. Moles are sensitive to scent and vibrations, so if they detect your presence nearby, they’re less likely to emerge.
  1. Wait patiently — remaining as still as possible — until you notice the soil stirring. This movement indicates the mole returning to repair its disrupted tunnel.
  1. Armed with two shovels, swiftly approach the disturbed area and plunge your shovels into the ground on either side of the moving earth. This action should effectively trap the mole within the small section of its tunnel between your tools.
  1. Having isolated the mole, dig it out and gently transfer it to a cardboard box or humane mole trap.
  1. Relocate it to a field far away from your property. Repeat these steps until all moles have been relocated.

Note: Some states have regulations regarding the relocation of nuisance wildlife. Be sure to research local guidelines before proceeding with this method.

Consider Trapping Only as a Last Resort

Resorting to traps should only be considered when all other humane methods have proven futile.

Remember: Trapping can be labor-intensive and may put you in close contact with moles. If the idea of handling animals makes you uncomfortable, it might be best to enlist the help of a local wildlife control professional.

If you’re comfortable dealing with animals and have exhausted all humane removal options, then purchasing mole traps from an online vendor or your local home center could be the next step. Many homeowners have reported success with spring-loaded snares.

When setting a trap, make sure to place it directly into an active mole tunnel. If you’re unsure about the status of a tunnel, cover the nearest molehill and wait for a day or two. If the molehill is uncovered again, that’s a clear indication of mole activity.

Consistent monitoring is key after setting a mole trap. Don’t assume catching one mole signifies an end to your problem — additional moles may decide to occupy the existing tunnels. Several moles might need to be trapped before the tunnel network becomes inactive.

Bear in mind that in some regions, using lethal traps for moles may not be legal. It is advisable to check with local authorities or consult a wildlife specialist on the legal implications of this method.

Methods to Avoid

In the quest to rid your garden of moles, there are some tactics that have proven ineffective or even unwise. Here are a few methods that you should definitely skip:

Natural Predators

It might seem logical to introduce natural predators like owls, hawks, snakes, or even domestic dogs and cats to combat your mole problem.

However, this approach is flawed for a couple of reasons:

  • These predators won’t effectively eliminate a severe mole infestation.
  • Moles can transmit diseases and parasites to dogs and cats, transforming what may seem like an innocent face-off into potential harm for your beloved pets.

Ultrasonic Devices

While they may initially startle moles, ultrasonic devices are not a worthwhile investment. 

Moles quickly acclimate to these noises and will soon resume their usual activities — digging, eating, and breeding — rendering the device useless.

Electromagnetic Devices

Similar to ultrasonic devices, electromagnetic spikes make lofty claims about keeping moles at bay. Unfortunately, there’s no solid research to back these assertions.

Just like with ultrasonic devices, moles will swiftly adapt to electromagnetic interference either by learning to avoid them or by ignoring them altogether.

When to Call Professionals?

There comes a point when friendly DIY techniques might not cut it, and the mole issue in your yard continues to persist. It’s at this juncture that you should consider bringing in a professional wildlife control service

Professionals exist for a reason — managing wild animals can be unpredictable, and certain situations are best handled by experts. They possess the knowledge and tools to tackle mole infestations effectively, humanely, and in an environmentally conscious manner.

And let’s face it, not everyone has the time or physical ability to plant mole-deterrent flowers, dig trenches or physically remove an animal themselves — not to mention safety considerations. In such instances, a pest control service could be a worthwhile investment.

So, how do rodent control professionals get rid of moles in your yard? Let’s look at some of the most common tactics:

  • No-kill mole trapping. A humane way to address your mole problem is through non-lethal trapping. After inspecting your yard and identifying active mole runways, an expert places no-kill traps accordingly.
  • Grub control. By targeting the moles’ food source — grubs — they can effectively drive away moles from your yard.
  • Exclusion. This humane method makes it difficult for moles to enter your yard using devices like gopher baskets and gopher wire.
  • Annual mole control. To maintain a healthy, green lawn year after year, consider enrolling in an annual mole control program.

Conclusion

Remember — moles aren’t evil invaders intent on destroying your beautiful garden; they’re simply following their food source. While they might be an annoyance, they also serve an important role in the ecosystem by aerating the soil and controlling insect populations.

With these humane methods, you can protect your verdant sanctuary without resorting to violence against these furry earth movers.

Mole Control FAQ

What time of day are moles most active?

A: Moles are most active during the cooler parts of the day, typically early mornings or late evenings.

However, they can also be found burrowing at any time during the day or night. Their activity does increase during rainy periods when the soil is moist.

What is the fastest way to get rid of moles?

The fastest way to eliminate a mole problem is by contacting a professional pest control service. They have the training, experience, and tools necessary to efficiently and humanely handle a mole infestation.

If you prefer DIY methods, trapping is often considered the quickest way to get rid of moles.

Will moles eventually leave on their own?

Moles are solitary creatures, and they tend to move around in search of food. While it’s possible for a mole to eventually leave your yard, it would only be because it has exhausted its food supply or found a more attractive area elsewhere.

Unfortunately, this can take quite some time and cause extensive damage to your lawn.

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