Mole hunters should gear up for spring onslaught

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 28, 2010

I know that my predecessor, county Extension agent Terry Rector, addressed mole problems many times during his tenure, as have I.

However, these pesky, little critters continue to cause problems. Today’s column is a review of mole biology and recommendations for control. Now is the time to get prepared.

John C. Coccaro is county Extension director. Write to him at 1100-C Grove St., Vicksburg, MS 39180 or call 601-636-5442. E-mail him at

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Moles are small, furry critters with beak-like noses, tiny rudimentary eyes, no visible ears, paddle-like front feet with large claws, and stubby, hairless tails. The soft moist soil from winter rains followed by warmer spring weather really gets these critters on the move. The ridges homeowners see on their lawns are caused by moles’ shallow tunneling in search of food  — earthworms, beetles, grubs and other insect larvae. While moles rarely feed on plants, their tunneling can cause damage to roots.

In controlling moles, remember they are there because they are finding something to eat. And, if the food is not there, they will soon leave. Repellents such as castor oil might deter moles from using tunnels they’ve already made. However, that won’t stop them from making new ones.

Several poisonous baits are available, but caution must be taken in using these where other animals such as cats, dogs and squirrels might come in contact with them. One called mole gel bait with the active ingredient warfarin, an anti-coagulant, is packaged in a caulking tube. You can inject the gel into the tunnel and, as the mole crawls through, he gets the gel on his face and feet. He attempts to lick it off and is poisoned.

Another bait-type product with bromethalin is shaped, textured and even smells and tastes similar to earthworms. You simply make a small hole in the tunnel and drop in one of these earthworm-type baits. It is sold as Talpirid and other names. Information can be found at

Trapping is still the most cost-effective and safe method. However it requires some skill, a lot of patience and general knowledge of mole habits. A harpoon trap can be purchased from most any garden center. Early spring is usually the best time to trap since the moles are active close to the soil surface and the soil is cool and moist. Not all tunnels are traveled regularly, so it is important to find the main daily run. Do this by stepping on the tunnels to firm the soil back down and by checking each morning to find which tunnel is used daily. Then set the trap on that tunnel. If you are not successful after a couple of mornings, reset the trap in another location.

Happy hunting!