Moles

Homeowners get confused by all of the conflicting advice on mole control. It seems like anyone and everyone has their two-bits worth of mole remedies and concoctions. They'd like you to believe that every control method or home remedy is worth trying. Over the years, we have made it a point to learn all that we could about mole behaviour and control. The bottom line is simple. Chemicals and home remedies (including castor oil, grub controls and poisons) don't work. They're not only ineffective, but allow the moles time to establish and become major problems. All knowledgeable sources consider trapping the only effective method of mole control. When moles have been a problem for any length of time or when residential properties are bounded in any way by woodland (a mole's natural habitat), trapping is most effective when done over long periods of time.

Life cycle

Moles are about the size of hamsters and can weigh anywhere from three to six ounces. Total length can be six to eight inches. Moles have one litter each year. Litter size can be two to six depending on the health of the female. Males rut from about the last week in February through the first week in April. Gestation lasts about five to six weeks which means litters can be expected anywhere from mid April through to May. Moles are mammals and nurse the young moles for several weeks. Young moles disperse (newborn expanding off the mother's tunnel system or moving above ground to create or find new tunnels for their own use) from late April through to mid-June. This timing can be tempered by unseasonable extremes in temperature or ground moisture. The final dispersal can last through to late autumn and early winter. Since moles don't hibernate (they store neither food nor fat) final dispersal can result in severe lawn damage until the lawn surface freezes in winter. Newborn females will mate the following spring and the cycle begins again.

MoleCreatures of habit

Moles are believed to remain solitary as adults and to avoid contact with other moles. However, there are at least two exceptions. One occurs in the spring, when the males start to move around and leave their range in search of females. They may move about for several weeks, even after all the females in an area have mated. The other exception is that occasionally some tunnels are used by several moles; these tunnels are, in a sense, like highways. This communal use suggests that the social system of moles is more complex than we think.

These two statements seem to lend a mystic quality to moles and their behaviour but moles are creatures of habit and they do behave in fairly predictable ways depending on what they have and what they need. There are a couple of traits that need mentioning. The first is that moles will usually take the path of least resistance when tunnelling. This is great food for thought the next time you look at a maze of mole tunnels and mounds and wonder why moles do what they do. The second trait reinforces the first in that moles are re-colonizing animals and will readily take over existing tunnels. Simply put, trapping the moles that are currently damaging your lawn may not be a permanent solution to a mole problem. Because re-colonization is likely, trapping is the only way to keep up with them. Because mole tunnelling and damage are generally progressive (moles continually adding on new tunnels to the old year after year) the amount or kind of lawn damage at any given time is not indicative of the number of moles present.

Learn more

To find out more, download our guide to the behaviour, ecology and trapping of moles.