Moles: How to Identify and Get Rid of Moles in the Garden or Yard | The Old Farmer's Almanac

How to Identify and Get Rid of Moles


Moles can be a nuisance to the gardener because they dig up the soil. Here are tips for how to get rid of a mole.

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Prevent Mole Damage in Your Lawn and Garden

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Pest Type

Moles are carnivorous, so they eat insects, grubs, or worms—not your plants. Despite this, moles’ digging can damage your garden and lawn. Here are tips on how to identify, deter, and control moles.

What Are Moles?

Moles are small insectivorous mammals from the family Talpidae. They are completely subterranean animals. Moles are expert diggers that consume up to 60 to 100% of their body weight in insects, grubs, and earthworms each day. This equates to a 5-ounce mole eating 50 pounds of its prey annually!

(Note that moles are completely different than voles, though both dig tunnels. Voles are rodents and vegetarian plant eaters. Learn more about voles.)

If you see a mole (which is doubtful), they have pointed muzzles, tiny eyes, and bodies shaped like Idaho potatoes. In motion, they actually swim along underground, using wide front flippers to part the soil as they go. They prefer moist, loamy soil and are most active in the early morning or evening in the spring or fall; they also come out after a warm rain.

Moles have the distinguishing characteristic of a hairless, pointed snout. Their small eyes and ear canals are concealed by fur, and they do not have external ears. They have very large and broad forefeet with webbed toes. Their hind feet or more narrow and have slender claws. They are usually about 7 inches in length and weigh about 4 ounces.


How to Identify Moles in Your Garden

While moles are not after your plants, they end up making underground tunnels that can ruin your garden and lawn and make easy access to your plants for other rodents. 

Unlike voles, moles dig deep. Their tunnels are usually at least 10 inches underground, unless they’re scanning the surface in search of a mat. 

These expert diggers create characteristic volcano-shaped hills in the lawn. The tunnels are dug at a rate of 18 feet per hour and can add 150 feet of new tunnels in the lawn each day. 

Moles are usually found where soil is rich in organic matter. Their presence in unusually large numbers might be due to a high population of soil pests. It, therefore, serves as a warning that all is not well with the soil life.

mole damage in a lawn

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Control and Prevention

How to Deter Moles

  • If you have a persistent mole problem, the best solution is trapping. Frankly, this is often the only way to get rid of moles. Use a humane trap, and release the moles at least 5 miles from your home in a rural area away from someone else’s garden. See more details below.
  • Placing an ultrasonic device or noisemaker, such as a spinning daisy, near the runs is often effective.
  • Owning a cat that enjoys walking through your flower beds is a very effective deterrent to rodents.
  • Moles are carnivores that make themselves at home in lawns rich in grubs and insects. When their food is seasoned with castor oil, they will go elsewhere for meals. (Wouldn’t you?) Mix up a spray of 3 parts castor oil to 1 part dish detergent; use 4 tablespoons of this concoction in a gallon of water and soak the tunnels and the entrances.
  • Dip an ear of corn in roofing tar and place it in one of their tunnels. Moles hate the smell of tar, and you’ll block their escape.
  • Some readers say it works to sprinkle dried blood, tobacco, powdered red pepper, or coffee grounds near tunnel entrances. Remember to re-apply after a rain.
  • However, many folk remedies do not control moles, such as placing gum, human air, bleach, ammonia, or mothballs near the tunnels. Remember that moles will not eat peanuts or grain; they are insectivores.
  • You may have luck using wind power—setting up vibrations in the ground that will bother moles and send them away. Low-tech methods include kids’ pinwheels placed here and there on the lawn or a homemade thumper: Cut fins in the sides of a bleach bottle and place it on a stick driven into the ground near a mole entrance.
  • Finally, there are mole repellents as well as baits though we do not personally use. Bromethalin is sold in the form of a worm-shaped bait; place baits in an active mole run. Correct placement is critical; read and follow all directions provided with the product.

Trapping Moles

No permit is required for trapping. Place traps so that they will be triggered as moles travel in the runs. 

Before placing a trap, make sure the run is active by pressing down with your foot; if the soil is pushed up the next day, the run is still active. 

Straight runs, especially those near the edges of a driveway or sidewalk, are preferred. If the trap does not catch a run in two days, move the trap to a different run.

mole coming out of a tunnel

Prevent Moles in Your Yard and Garden

  • Check out your soil for the presence of pests; if you have a lot of moles, you may have an oversupply of grubs and bugs. You can try getting rid of the grubs with beneficial nematodes, however, it doesn’t necessary mean the moles will go away; grubs are only part of their diet. 
  • If you want to protect specific plants, dig a 2- to 3-foot hole and line the sides and bottom of the hole with wire mesh. Fill the hole with soil and plant.
  • Where you are determined to try bulbs, make a small “cage” of 1/2-inch mesh screen. Place several bulbs inside, root plate down, and bury the entire cage at the proper depth. Rodents won’t be able to chew through, but roots and stems can grow out. Note: moles are often blamed for the damage caused by field mice.

Learn more about moles and what they do in your yard. Do you have comments or questions about moles? Let us know below!

About The Author

Catherine Boeckmann

Catherine Boeckmann loves nature, stargazing, and gardening so it’s not surprising that she and The Old Farmer’s Almanac found each other. She leads digital content for the Almanac website, and is also a certified master gardener in the state of Indiana. Read More from Catherine Boeckmann

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