The Q&A Archives: get rid of voles

Question: I live on long island , New York. What I think are voles are eating all my shrubs, annuals, perennials and vegetables. They eat the roots and pull the plant down into the hole. shrubs just fall over dead with no roots. They also are tearing up my lawn with their furrows. Keep in mind that I have a beagle in the back yard also digging up the lawn trying to catch them with no success. So I can't posion them in the back yard, but will do anything in the front yard. I want to kill them , not deter them. I want to see bodies. They are costing me a fortune.
Hope you can help with something you know will do the job.

Answer: Mole holes are unsightly on lawns and can be disruptive to the root systems of garden plants. Moles lurk in their subterranean fortresses throughout the year. But gardening and lawn-care enthusiasts are made acutely aware of the need for mole control mainly during the spring and fall, especially after periods of rain, when moles push mounds of dirt up to the ground surface.

The mole?s preferred diet is a carnivorous one: insect grubs, adult insects and earthworms. Neither the eastern mole nor the star-nosed mole is a rodent, and therefore any gnawing damage you detect on plants is unlikely to have been caused by moles. Rodents do, however, make use of mole tunnels to attack plants underground ? making moles accessories to the crime!

Moles produce two types of tunnels, or ?runways? in your yard.

One runway runs just beneath the surface. These are feeding tunnels and appear as raised ridges running across your lawn. The second type of runway runs deeper and enables the moles to unite the feeding tunnels in a network. It is the soil excavated from the deep tunnels that homeowners find on their lawns, piled up in mounds that resemble little volcanoes.

Since moles are not the only animal pests responsible for runways in lawn and garden areas, they are often confused with these other pests ? the pocket gopher and the vole. Because these lawn and garden pests are rarely seen, it makes more sense to base identification on the signs they leave behind, rather than on how the animals look. After all, you may never come face to face with these subterranean foes! And proper pest identification is the first step in effective mole control.

Whereas mole mounds, as stated above, are volcano-like in appearance, pocket gopher mounds are horseshoe-shaped. Voles, meanwhile, leave no mounds at all behind. Instead, voles construct well-defined, visible runways at or near the surface, about two inches wide. Vole runways result from the voles eating the grass blades, as well as from the constant traffic of numerous little feet over the same path. And if any of these lawn and garden pests can literally ?beat a path? through the grass, it?s the voles. Rabbits don?t have anything over this prolific rodent!

The best bets for mole removal are mole traps. There are traps designed specifically for killing moles, and they go by scary names like "scissors mole trap," "choker mole trap" and "harpoon mole trap." You can also trap moles using a small live-trap, such as is put out by the Havahart Company. The problem with Havahart traps, though, is that you still have to get rid of the live mole after you?ve trapped it. In some states animal relocation is even prohibited.

Trapping in the early spring can eliminate pregnant females, effectively nipping in the bud what would be a greater mole problem later. Where you place the trap is critical to your success in trapping. You?ll want to place your mole trap near active mole feeding tunnels (that is, the shallower of the two types of tunnel described above).

Here?s how to tell if a feeding tunnel is active:

Using your hand or a trowel, flatten sections of the moles? raised ridges of soil.
Mark these sections with something bright (perhaps some old ribbon that you can tie to a stick to make a little flag), so it will be easy to relocate them later.
Check back within 12 to 24 hours, to inspect the ridges you?ve flattened.
If the ridges of soil are pushed back up, you?ll know that Mr. Mole regards this tunnel as an active tunnel. This is where you?ll place your trap.
Cut out the turf over the active tunnel, and remove the soil right down to where the moles have beaten their path. Moles don't see well, so they'll stumble right into the trap. While their vision is poor, however, moles are sensitive to the touch. This means you can't leave any loose soil in the path leading up to the trap, or the moles will detect it and back off.

The formula for commercial mole repellents, such as Mole-Med, is based on castor oil. An example of a commercial mole poison is Moletox. When using mole repellents or mole poisons, you must often water the area where you?ll be applying them, so that the repellent or poison will permeate the soil. Water the area well both before and after applying the repellent or poison, if instructed to do so on the package of the particular product that you choose. Re-application may be necessary.

I hope this information helps you retain your sanity by eliminating the pesky moles or voles in your yard!

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