For Release March 19, 2006
by Chuck Otte, Geary County Extension Agent
In all the years that I have been doing this job, there are still a few problems that I have yet to find an easy solution for. Moles are probably number one on that list! Moles have gotten extremely active in recent weeks and they are about to drive myself, and many homeowners, based on the daily calls I'm receiving, crazy! Let's cut right to the heart of the problem. Moles are native to Kansas, we will always have them and there are no easy or permanent solutions for dealing with them!!
Moles are insectivores, meaning they eat 99.9% insect or insect like creatures that they find in the soil. Plant material accounts for less than 1% of their diet. Moles breed in late winter and early spring and will have one litter of two to five young born from now through early May. Since many of them are probably having young right now, it probably explains the burst of activity that we are currently seeing. About four weeks after birth the young moles will leave the nest to establish their own territories.
Contrary to what most homeowners think, there are not dozens of moles in their yard. Moles have a very high metabolism and this time of year will be eating 70% to 100% of their weight ( three to four ounces) per day. Three to five miles per acre is considered a heavy infestation, so most yards will have one, maybe two, moles.
Since moles are native to Kansas, they can be expected almost anywhere. We generally find most problems in areas adjacent to open grasslands, timber, fields or ravine areas. In fact if you are next to one of these natural areas, you are probably going to always be fighting moles. They also prefer loose moist soil and tend to stay away from dry heavy clay soils. Yards and gardens often become very inviting locations.
Moles have two types of tunnels. The very obvious ones are those close to the surface that are feeding tunnels. These are usually used just once and then abandoned. Slightly deeper are the permanent tunnels that are used on a regular basis. These deeper tunnels are less noticeable, but often will have a mound of dirt pushed up by the mole as they excavate permanent tunnels. There is another soil dwelling mammal that pushes soil to the surface, the pocket gopher. The pocket gopher mounds will always be comprised of very fine soil and there will often be a series of these mounds basically in a long row. Pocket gophers also don't make tunnels that cause the soil to be spongy underfoot.
Moles can be poisoned or trapped IF the trap/poisons are placed in the permanent tunnels. Grain based toxins (i.e., poison peanuts) will not be effective against moles, but there are some new formulated baits that are usually in pelleted or gel, form that do work. Another approach is to try to control the food sources through the use of soil applied insecticides. This is a very slow method and there is no guarantee that you will get rid of the moles. Flooding can occasionally work, but it may take a lot of water!
There are a lot of mole control devices and techniques being promoted and most of them will not work. Included in this list of "don't waste your time with these" is: chewing gum, electronic devices, any sound making device, lye, castor oil, and garlic. Moles are an ongoing challenge for homeowners. I encourage you to stop by the Extension Office and pick up our bulletins on moles before you spend a lot of time tackling a mole control challenge!
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