We all know that moles live in holes, or burrows, to be more accurate. But, how much do you know about these tenacious tunnelers? If you notice a maze of rounded ridges extending across your landscape, chances are a mole has decided to take up residence. My information on mole was provided by IFAS Emeritus Horticulture Specialist Dr. Robert J. Black.
The eastern mole, (Scalopus Aquaticus) occurs throughout Florida. Moles are not rodents but belong to mammalian order insectivora. Insectivora means insect eaters, and this group includes moles, shrews, and hedge hogs. The most notable aspect of the mole is its large, powerful front feet, designed for pushing soil out of its way.
Moles live so completely underground that they are seldom seen. The mole is relatively small measuring about five or six inches from the tip of its long flexible nose to the end of its short tail. Its body is covered with brownish plush-like fur. Having no external eyes or ears, the mole apparently is guided by sensations of touch and smell. A mole moves through the soil with a breast stroke action, reaching ahead and pulling the earth back and to the sides. This action also forces the surface soil upward; make the familiar ridges that trace its progress. If you observe a large number of burrows in your lawn or garden, it’s natural to assume that many moles are present. Actually, a single mole could be responsible. The mole is a very active animal. It requires a large amount of food, often consuming an amount equal to its body weight in a single day.
Moles often are blamed for eating root crops, such as sweet potatoes, carrots, and peanuts. However, the real culprits usually are pocket gophers, cotton rats, or mice. Earthworms and insects constitute the bulk of a mole’s diet. If the mole’s menu were the only consideration, it undoubtedly would be considered a beneficial animal, because it eats many harmful pests. Unfortunately in searching for food, moles damage lawns and gardens by uprooting small plants, breaking the roots of others, and loosening the soil around larger plants, causing them to suffer a severe lack of moisture.
Trapping, which is the most satisfactory method of mole control, requires some care and planning. If any portion of a trap is exposed in a mole’s runway, the mole will detect it and back away. On the other hand, moles are not disturbed by soil blocking their runways. Burying your trap in a runway completely surrounding it with soil is the key to successful trapping.
Trap placement is also important. Many burrows made during the search for food, are never used again. To find a burrow that is consistently traveled, cave in short sections of all visible runways, and check each day to see which ones the mole reopens. After repeating this process for two or three days, you should be ready to set traps. Be sure to carefully follow all of the manufacturer’s directions for trap use.
If a trap fails to produce within two days, it probably means the mole has change its habits or the runway may have been disturbed too much, or the trap may have been set improperly. In any case, a nonproductive trap should be moved to a new location after a reasonable wait.
You may hear about other methods of mole control such as, poison baits, gas, and flooding. Unfortunately, these are not effective. Your best bet is trapping.
For more information on mole control contact the Gulf County Extension Service @ 639-3200.