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How to Get Rid Of Moles from Your Lawn

If your lawn or garden is infested with moles, you will probably notice many “mole-hills” – piles of loose dirt that have been pushed upward from underground. The damage they do to your lawn and potentially dangerous pitfalls leaves most homeowners asking “how can I get rid of moles from my lawn“?

Though moles do not eat plants directly, they can cause damage to your garden by undermining plants and removing beneficial earthworms. Moles can be beneficial in certain situations because they aerate the ground and remove some pests that do eat your plants, in other cases they must be removed before they damage your lawn.

In this article, we will look at the basic biology of moles and take a detailed look at both lethal and non-lethal means of removing moles.

The Basic Biology of Moles

Moles are one of the only mammals that spend almost 100% of their time underground. Unlike voles (which create underground burrows, but travel above ground) and gophers (which create extensive underground passageways but emerge to feed on plants), moles can spend their entire lives underground hunting insects and invertebrates like slugs, earthworms, and beetles.

Compared to voles or gophers, moles are slightly less destructive to gardens because they do feed on plants.

Surprisingly, moles are not closely related to rodents like mice, rats, or squirrels. Instead, moles are closely related to a number of purely insectivorous small mammals – including elephant shrews, hedgehogs, and tenrecs.

Contrary to popular belief, only a few species of moles are entirely blind. Though most species have greatly reduced eyes, they still retain at least some visual capability through small – but functional – eyes.

Since they spend the majority of their lives underground, eyesight is not a very necessary sense. Instead, they listen and feel for when a bug or earthworms falls into the burrow. When they sense a worm, they scurry over and bite the invertebrate.

Moles love earthworms!

Moles have a toxin in their saliva which paralyzes the prey, allowing moles to store many insects in a deeper portion of the burrow to feed on later!

Are Moles Pests?

There are two basic reasons that moles are sometimes considered a pest by some homeowners.

First, they mainly feed on earthworms. Earthworms are very beneficial to gardens and lawns as they aerate the soil and release a steady stream of nutrients as they process dead organic matter within the soil.

Second, moles are extremely good at digging through the soil. In a short matter of time, a single mole can burrow its way under an entire lawn or garden.

Though this rarely kills the plants above, it can leave an unsightly series of molehills and a network of visibly raised soil. In gardens, moles will sometimes undermine the roots of plants, causing them to tip over and die. 

how to get rid of moles

If you have seen these tell-tale signs of a mole on your property, you have several options.

First, if you have a more natural property, you may decide to leave the mole alone. Moles do have several beneficial functions for natural areas such as spreading nutrients, aerating the soil, and attracting other biodiversity.

However, if moles have invaded your yard or garden and are clearly causing damage, there are a number of non-lethal and lethal options available to rid your property of these burrowing creatures!

How to Get Rid of Moles from Your Lawn

Non-Lethal Methods

Since moles can provide many benefits for natural environments, it makes a lot of sense to capture the moles on their property and relocate them to a more natural area.

This is a very effective method of protecting your property since most species of moles will not travel further than a half-acre after being relocated! Here are the best ways to eliminate moles without killing them.

1. Eliminate Their Food Source

Moles may have invaded your property because it offers abundant food sources. Theoretically, the easiest way to get them to leave is to eliminate these food sources.

Moles feed almost exclusively on underground insects and invertebrates. The problem with this method is that it is often very hard to eliminate these underground organisms.

Spray pesticides may reduce above-ground populations, but they are often inactivated in the soil and do nothing to curb below-ground pests. Other pesticides offer control for burrowing grubs, but may not control earthworm populations. So, using pesticides to eliminate the food source may not be entirely effective.

Milky Spore Lawn Spreader Mix

Milky spore helps control grub and other insects in your lawn that moles like to eat.

Why DoMyOwn? offers professional-grade insecticides to DIYers while ensuring proper storage of chemicals. Couple that with their impressive customer service and knowledgeable staff, it’s the #1 choice.

Further, moles specialize in eating earthworms. While they do eat other organisms when they can, they have many specializations that help them find and eat earthworms specifically.

Earthworms are very beneficial to a garden or lawn. If you manage to eliminate all the earthworms, you may get rid of the moles, but you will also decrease the overall health of your lawn or garden.

Let’s look at some non-lethal methods that make more sense for reducing mole populations.

2. Exclude Moles From your Lawn or Garden

Moles are powerful diggers, but they do have limits. They cannot dig well in highly compacted soils, such as those usually found 12-18” deep. One of the most effective methods of keeping your lawn or garden mole-free is to simply exclude moles from the areas where you don’t want them to build tunnels. This method is fairly simple, though it can be a lot of work initially.

Dig a trench around the area you want to protect, making it at least 18” deep. Using sheet metal or hardware cloth, line the trench all the way around the protected area.

Moles will burrow up to this barrier, but will not be able to penetrate through it. Hardware cloth is preferred because it will allow smaller, beneficial organisms like earthworms to easily make their way into your garden! 

If you’re looking for a slightly less labor-intensive method, try the next option.

3. Live-trap Moles and Relocate Them

A “live-trap” is simply a device that captures an animal without killing it. Unlike many rodent pests that can jump and chew their way through simple devices, moles are very easy to catch.

Since moles tend to build tunnels once and reuse the same tunnels many times, it is easy to know where moles are going to be. Though this method still requires a shovel, you will only have to dig a few small holes to capture all of the moles in your yard.

Starting at a molehill, simply locate and follow a mole tunnel for a few feet. Sometimes, these tunnels are easy to see because they form bumps on the surface. If you see multiple molehills, you can assume that there’s a tunnel running in nearly a straight line between them.

Other times, you will need to dig into the molehill slightly to find which direction the tunnel runs.

Dig right into the tunnel, creating a hole big enough for a large coffee can (or another large container with slick sides like a large mason jar) to fit into. Place the empty coffee can into the hole, and cover the opening with a cloth sheet or any other material that will block light.

Example of a buried coffee can to catch a mole

Moles will fall into the coffee can as they hunt for worms. Check the traps daily, and move any moles you catch into a natural space a mile or more away from your house. 

This simple technique is likely the best non-lethal method. However, be sure to check your trap daily so the moles do not suffer death by starvation – a most inhumane death. 

Lethal Mole Removal Methods

Sometimes, it is not always possible to use humane and non-lethal methods to rid your property of moles. In these cases, you may want to use a more efficient lethal method to exterminate moles. Let’s take a look at some of the most common lethal methods for killing moles!

1. Lethal Trapping

There are many devices on the market available to humanely kill moles. Typically, these devices work by utilizing a spring and a hair-trigger to recognize when a mole is moving through a tunnel and deploying a method to kill the mole.

Talpirid Mole TRAP
Lethal Mole Trap

This trap can be placed in an active mole tunnel and it will kill moles that come across it. Must be cleaned and reset after each use, but it is infinitely reusable.

Why DoMyOwn? offers professional-grade insecticides to DIYers while ensuring proper storage of chemicals. Couple that with their impressive customer service and knowledgeable staff, it’s the #1 choice.

These traps can have sharpened harpoons, scissor-jaws, or other mechanical means for quickly killing a mole. Most commonly, these devices must be slightly buried into a mole tunnel.

Some devices can simply be deployed on top of a mole tunnel with minimal digging, and kill the mole as it passes through. 

While these devices are typically extremely effective, they do have some drawbacks.

For instance, you will need to regularly check and clean the traps to eliminate all the moles in an area. Moles have a good sense of smell and will avoid another dead mole or a trap that smells like a dead mole.

Further, many of these devices rely on powerful springs and sharpened implements – potentially able to harm a child or pet that accidentally encounters the device. For this reason, you should cover any lethal mole traps with an upside-down bucket to avoid the trap being encountered by anything other than a mole.

This will also help you keep track of all the traps you set! Check out our guide to the best mole traps to help you narrow down your decision.

2. Mole Baits

Since moles are insectivores, they will not take baits made for rodents or other pests that come in the form of small blocks or granules. Instead, they require a bait that looks and feels like an earthworm. Luckily, some products on the market are designed specifically for moles! 

Talpirid Mole Bait
Active Ingredient: Bromethalin 0.02%

This is the only baiting product on the market that will effectively work for killing moles.

Why DoMyOwn? offers professional-grade insecticides to DIYers while ensuring proper storage of chemicals. Couple that with their impressive customer service and knowledgeable staff, it’s the #1 choice.

However, these baits have very specific instructions for them to be maximally effective.

First, you must find which tunnels the moles are actively using. You’d also need to do this step when setting traps.

To find out of a tunnel is active, you simply puncture the top of the tunnel with your finger or a wooden dowel so it partially collapses.

Wait 1-2 days, and check all of the tunnels that you punctured. If the hole is sealed, the pathway is being actively used and can be baited.

Return to these tunnels with the worm-shaped bait, and puncture the tunnel again. Push the bait into the tunnel, and reseal the hole with a small amount of dirt to exclude light. If baited effectively, these products claim to eliminate a mole population in as little as 24 hours!

What about Mole Repellents?

Many devices on the market claim to “repel” moles from an area using thumping noises, ultrasonic sounds, or oils and liquids that moles do not like the smell of.

Castor oil may be effective at temporarily keeping moles away from an area, but eventually the effects will fade away. It may fade away very quickly with heavy rain, too.

With other thumping devices and ultrasonic devices, there is no real science to back up any of the claims these products make.

For this reason, there are currently no methods of repelling moles that we can suggest – besides excluding moles completely by building an underground fence (as described above). 

Getting Rid of Moles FAQs

There are a few common questions that people ask about moles, that we will take a look at here:

Will the above methods also work on gophers and voles?

The short answer here is “no.” While some lethal traps may be effective against gophers and voles, these animals have very different behaviors. Gophers and voles both create underground burrows, but leave these burrows at night to eat above-ground plant matter. Since voles and gophers do not prey on worms, lethal mole baits will be completely ineffective. Trapping gophers and moles in a non-lethal manner requires a much more complex trap since both of these animals can easily jump out of a coffee can. So, it’s best to identify whether you have moles, gophers, or voles on your property, then select an elimination method specific to that animal.

How can I tell if I have gophers, voles, or moles?

Telling the difference between these three types of animals is relatively easy. Moles form their signature “molehills” on a lawn or in a garden. These hills are the result of the mole digging an extensive tunnel network and pushing excess dirt out at specific locations. Gophers and voles do not create multiple molehills, since their underground activities are typically limited to a single burrow with a few accessory tunnels. Further, gophers and voles are mostly herbivorous and you will see direct bite marks on trees, vegetables, and shrubbery. In some cases, they will eat an entire area of grass – leaving visible bare spots. Moles are insectivores, and will not visible damage plants (though some plants may tip over if moles undermine their root system.)

To tell the difference between gophers and voles, there are two things you can look for. First, gophers are much larger than voles. Gopher holes will fit a rat-sized creature, whereas vole holes are more similar to the size of a mouse. Voles also tend to create a maze of folded over plants above-ground. These structures are similar to tunnels, but they are made by eating a pathway through dense grasses and folding the remaining grasses over the top of the pathway. These above-ground pathways will lead to the entrance of the burrow, where the voles spend most of the daylight hours. 

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Written by Gabe Buckley

Gabe Buckley is a professional science writer with a Bachelor's of Science in Zoology and a Master's of Professional Natural Sciences from Colorado State University.

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