Identifying Moles & Gophers
Learn About Moles
Learn about the anatomy, signs and habits of moles.
Moles tunnel year-round looking for food.
Moles are an ancient species of mammals that are well adapted to their life underground. With their powerful forelimbs, moles excavate through the ground in search of food. These industrious creatures can tunnel up to 100 feet per day, causing significant damage above ground.
Usually grey or black, they are equipped with small hips for getting around tight corners, and shovel-like paws for digging. Their fur can go either way to allow them to escape backwards in their tunnels.
To fuel their high-energy lifestyle, moles require vast quantities of high protein foods. Although they sometimes consume grubs or insects, their favorite food is the earthworm. Contrary to popular belief, moles do not eat plants, roots or bulbs. Moles live underground most of their lives. Moles seen on the surface are most often juveniles, forced from their mother's nest and moving to establish their own tunnel system.
Do You Really Have Moles?
While moles as a species have had millions of years to hone their excavation skills, they are not the only creatures that instinctively dig or occupy mole tunnels. In fact, there are a variety of rodents (unrelated to moles) that will gladly take advantage of abandoned mole tunnels as safe passageways from area to area.
Two rodents commonly mistaken for moles are pocket gophers and voles. However, pocket gophers and voles make clearly visible entry and exit holes to their tunnels. Look for these especially at the beginning and end of visible tunnels.
Pocket Gopher: Unlike moles, pocket gophers are rodents. They are grain eaters. With their large clawed forepaws, they grow from 5- 14 inches in length.
Voles: Voles are rodents and generally are 4-7 inches in body length with small eyes and ears. They eat a variety of plants, grasses, crops and bark. Their presence is indicated by damage to ornamentals, trees, and garden plants.
Moles cause damage to lawns as they tunnel underground in search of food. Typically moles create two types of tunnels – surface runways and deep tunnels – each with its own distinct appearance above ground.
Surface runways appear as raised, brown, grassless streaks on a lawn, created when moles tunnel below. These unsightly patches fall into two categories: primary and exploratory.
Primary runways are long and relatively straight tunnels that a mole will travel through as often as 3 times a day. These are active tunnels that you will want to bait.
Exploratory runways, on the other hand, look more like an above-ground network of tunnels that spread over the lawn like a spider web. Moles create them as they explore new feeding areas. They are often abandoned and should not be baited.
Deep tunnels are often 3 feet or more underground and contain the mole's living, food storage and latrine areas. Deep tunnels are evident above ground as "mole hills" which are created when the mole pushes soil and debris to the surface while establishing or expanding these tunnels.
TIP: Before baiting, it is important to properly identify the primary surface runways and deep tunnels because each requires a specific baiting and treatment strategy to achieve the best results.
More About Moles
Moles are solitary creatures except during mating season. Females produce one litter a year in the spring that consists of 2-6 offspring. After a month or so, the young leave to develop their own tunnel systems – and increasing the number of grassless streaks and unsightly "mole hills" on your lawn.