Appreciate these furry creatures and manage any problems with them using safe techniques.
Is it a mole, gopher or vole?
- Positive identification is crucial for deciding what to do.
- Moles make little volcano-shaped dirt mounds. They eat insects, slugs and snails, not plants.
- Gophers make little dirt crescents. They eat roots and bark and they help to aerate and improve soils.
- Voles, also known as meadow mice, use the tunnels of both moles and gophers. They eat plant parts.
Consider letting moles stay to eat bugs for you
- Rake out the mounds in lawns or convert to shrubs and groundcover so the mole holes are less noticeable.
- Check young plants every few days in case a mole’s digging requires you to unearth or reposition a tender little sprout.
Prevent problems with wire mesh barriers
- Use ½ inch mesh hardware cloth on the bottoms of raised beds, or formed into a basket for planting young trees or shrubs into.
If you must control moles, voles or gophers, trapping is the most reliable method
- In the state of Washington there are restrictions on the use of most lethal traps for fur-bearing mammals.
- Use a trap that is the proper size for the animal pest you have and set it carefully, following all label directions.
- Once caught, handle dead animals with a plastic bag on your hand. Turn the bag inside out over the animal, tie the bag shut and put it in the trash to avoid possible flea or tick transmission.
- Flooding can sometimes work on new, less extensive tunnel systems. Pour water from several 5 gallon buckets all at once since moles can outrun the water from a hose.
- You can also kill a mole active in a surface tunnel with a strong whack with a shovel – but this method isn’t for everyone.
- Oregon State University Extension Service provides details on mole control.
Watch out for snake oil
- While snakes, raptors, cats and other predators may help you reduce mole and gopher problems, “snake oil” is not likely to. Repellents, vibrators, noisemakers, smoke bombs, gas cartridges and predator urine are also unlikely to deter small mammals in the Pacific Northwest.
Beware of pesticide risks
- Poison baits, also called rodenticides, can be particularly dangerous to pets, children and other wildlife and they are less reliable than traps.
- Using insecticides to kill soil insects, grubs and worms is not effective for mole control and is potentially dangerous to you, to children, to song birds and to local waterways.