Identifying Moles & Gophers
Learn About Moles
Read about the habits of these underground creatures and how they can damage your lawn.
Whoever coined the phrase “don’t make mountains out of molehills” must never have had moles in their yard. That’s because molehills are actually quite large—in fact, they can be as big as 2 feet in diameter and 9 inches high! That’s pretty impressive for a little grey or black mammal that’s only 5 to 8 inches long.
Built for digging and foraging for food, moles have paddle-shaped feet with extra-long claws for shoveling. They also have elongated heads and snouts, eyes so small they can be hard to spot, and no external ears. Their small hips let them navigate tight corners, and their short, velvety fur helps them move through their tunnels swiftly both forward and backward.
They’re most often found where food is plentiful and the digging is easy; which means golf courses, parks, cemeteries, pastures, and well-maintained residential lawns.
If you’ve got moles in your yard, you’ll know it just from the evidence they leave behind:
· Above-ground dirt mounds and excavated soil
· Disfigured turf characterized by surface mounds and ridges
· Dislodged and disrupted plant materials
Here are 5 characteristics about moles that are worth knowing.
1. Moles are not rodents.
Although they look similar to rodents, moles are actually a different type of mammal. One reason moles are often mistaken for rodents is that rodents like pocket gophers and voles often take safe passage in abandoned mole tunnels. One telltale sign of rodents versus moles is this: Rodents make clearly visible entry and exit holes to the tunnels. Moles do not.
2. Moles want to be left alone.
Moles are notoriously averse to people. Frankly, they don’t really like to hang out with other moles, either, except at mating time, which usually occurs sometime between late winter and early spring. Moles have actually been known to fight to the death if another mole enters their territory outside of mating season. Since a mole’s territory range can be over 2 acres, there’s a good chance that all the damage in your yard is from a single mole.
Female moles produce just 1 litter per year, usually with 2 to 6 offspring. If you catch a glimpse of a mole, it’s likely you’re seeing a juvenile, not an adult. That’s because moles live most of their lives underground—until mama mole forces her baby moles out of the nest at the tender age of about a 1 month, forcing them to establish their own tunnel systems.
3. Moles create two types of tunnels.
A molehill isn’t just a molehill. Instead, it’s a complex system of both surface runways and deep tunnels.
- Surface runways are raised, brown, grassless streaks created in your yard as the mole tunnels just below the surface. These unsightly patches are considered either primary or exploratory runways.
- Primary runways are long and relatively straight, so that’s how they look on the surface of the lawn, too. Because moles use them to travel from tunnel to tunnel as often as 3 times a day, they’re considered active tunnels.
- Exploratory runways, on the other hand, look more like an above-ground spider web. They’re created as moles explore new feeding areas, and they’re often abandoned.
- Deep tunnels are located at least 3 feet underground and are used to house the mole’s living, food storage, and latrine areas. On the surface, deep tunnels look like what most people think of as a molehill: a large mound of pushed-up soil and debris.
4. Moles have humongous appetites.
Unlike grain-loving gophers and plant-loving voles, moles prefer to eat insects and worms. In fact, more than 90 percent of a mole’s average daily diet comes from earthworms and grubs. Because they’re constantly tunneling, these small mammals have enormous appetites, consuming up to 100 percent of their weight every single day.
Although they rarely eat vegetation, all that tunneling and searching for food can disturb and uproot flowers, bulbs, and ornamentals. One way to get rid of moles is to bait them with something that mimics their natural food source, like the worm-shaped bait found in Tomcat® Mole Killer. Before baiting, be sure to identify the primary surface runways and the deep tunnels. Each requires a specific baiting strategy to achieve the best result. (See the label for directions.)
Another option is to trap them. The Tomcat® Mole Trap is fast and easy to set, plus it kills moles without drawing blood. The key to effective trapping, however, is setting it in the right place—and that means putting it in an active tunnel. Again, be sure to follow all label directions.
5. Moles burrow year-round.
Moles can dig through loosened soil extremely quickly, clearing as much as 18 feet in an hour and adding up to 150 feet of new tunnels under your lawn each and every day. They don’t take vacations or time off, either. To help prevent them from decimating your yard, try creating an invisible barrier with a repellent like Tomcat® Mole & Gopher Repellent Granules. Its active ingredient is castor oil, which moles detest. You won’t notice the repellent, but the moles sure will!