Moles or Voles?

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Q:  How do I get rid of moles in my lawn?

 A:        How to get rid of moles is a question that comes up very often. All of us have experienced a time when you are walking in your lawn and feel the earth sink below you, only to realize that a critter has been tunneling through out your lawn. Many times these tunnels are caused by moles.

Many confuse moles and voles. If you have something that is pulling flowers underground, chewing on bulbs, or gnawing on roots then you have voles. A vole’s diet consists of plant material, while a mole’s diet is insects and earthworms. Moles make tunnels in the lawn and landscape while searching for insects. Although moles may disrupt plants in search for insects and worms, they will not feed on or damage plants.

Unfortunately, when it comes to controlling moles there is not a one-time, cure-all solution. The reason why there is not a good way to control moles is because they are a protected species in North Carolina. Now you maybe wondering why they are protected when it looks like moles have took over your lawn and made themselves at home. There are a couple of mole species in North Carolina. The eastern mole is the species that is typically making tunnels in people’s lawns. The other mole species in North Carolina is the star-nosed mole and is less commonly seen. All moles are protected species in North Carolina because of the star-nosed moles being a rare species.

The mole is actually not considered a rodent but is related to shrews and bats. It is believed the mole is a loner and each mole makes their own network of tunnels. Because the moles are looking for insects in the soil they tend to cover large areas in search of food. Some of the mole’s tunnels are used one time in search of food, while some tunnels are reused as main paths in and out of their home site. Moles prefer to hunt in soil that is shaded, cool, moist, and populated by worms and grubs.

Because moles are a protected species in North Carolina, there is not a simple solution for controlling them. Probably the most effective way to control moles is by trapping them. There are various mole traps that can be set in the tunnel so when the moles runs under it, it will set off a trigger which will kill the mole. The disadvantage to traps is that you have to hope you set it in the correct location where a mole will run under it. If you use traps, you will want to check them every 3 days or so and move them to new locations if you are not trapping any moles. Since moles are protected you are suppose to have a depredation permit to trap them. To obtain a permit contact the NC Wildlife Resource Commission at 1-800-662-7137.

You often hear controlling grubs in a lawn will eliminate the food source for moles. If you have a large grub problem in your lawn, this may help reduce the mole’s food source but do not count on it eliminating moles. A mole’s diet also consist of earthworms, spiders, and other insects in the soil.

If you do not want to trap moles, there are some repellents available. The active ingredient for many mole repellents is castor oil. Repellents can provide some help in controlling moles but will not completely eliminate the problem. The main disadvantage of mole repellents is they only remain effective in the soil for a short time and would have to be reapplied often.

There are many home remedies people often ask about for controlling moles. These home remedies include everything from chewing gum to bleach to broken glass. These home remedies are not found to be effective controls for moles and are not recommended.

Moles are a pesky pest that creates a lot of frustration when one finds tunnels through out their lawns. Controlling moles will take a combination of several strategies along with some trial and error to reduce mole damage.

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 Jessica Strickland is an Agriculture Extension Agent, specializing in horticulture for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Wayne County. Forward any questions you would like answered from this week’s column to