Moles can ruin a lawn. But how do you keep these troublesome creatures under control? Andy Walker shows you how to get rid of moles.
The mole has been trapped and managed for generations. There are still professional mole trappers practising across our land, turning fields of molehills back into rich pastures. In this article I will be talking you through how I trap moles and the equipment I use.
Mole trapping is another one of those highly contentious pest control jobs where every one who has ever caught a mole has a different technique. I hope to teach those who are new to the process how to catch moles in a quick and clinical way and give those who have tried to catch moles in the past tips on how to increase their catch rates.
Types of mole trap
Mole traps come in many different guises but there are two main types. First the scissor trap. It has two spring-set scissor arms at each end of the trap, which the mole crosses only to be faced by a metal plate. On touching the plate the trap is sprung and the scissor arms close. The down side of this trap is it will only catch one mole at a time but it is a highly effective mole control trap. Another major disadvantage is that it sits on the ground making it noticeable to passers by.
The second is the half-barrelled Duffus trap. I prefer to use this because it is easy to set, can catch two moles at a time, and is barely noticeable to the general public or light-fingered thieves.
All new traps should be “seasoned”. Mole trappers have their own technique, from planting them in the compost heap for two weeks to layering them in tea bags for two days. I have heard it all. My technique is to place them in leaf litter for four days. This will get rid of any non-natural smells and means you don’t have to spend time burying and digging up traps. Moving on to personal hygiene, don’t splash yourself with aftershave when trapping because non-natural smells will scare anything off your traps.
Where to set your trap to get rid of moles
When setting a mole trap it is important to understand how a mole will work its tunnel system. If you are trapping moles near or close to hedgerows and dry-stone walls, you will see there is a series of side runs going back to the hedgerow or wall and there will be a main run in the field. I get my best results from setting my traps near to the first molehill that runs in to the field. This is because the mole will rest up under these obstacles and come out to feed every four to six hours. The mole has to travel out of these tunnels to get to the main feeding tunnel system.
The next job is to find these tunnels using a probe. I use a very simple 2ft long 5mm steel rod with red electrical tape on one end, and I find the tunnels by pushing it into the ground between hills. You are feeling for a continuous pressure, then a break in the pressure when you are pushing the probe in. This is how you know you’ve found the tunnel system. These tunnels can be anything from 2 to 18in deep, depending on the soil type. I have known systems on heavy gravel soil to be 2in deep and only 6ft away; in light sandy soil to be 12in deep.
Once you have located the tunnel system you should dig down and uncover the system. Be as careful as possible because you don’t want to drop any loose soil back down the tunnel. Loose soil in the tunnel will result in failed sprung traps. This is due to the mole pushing loose soil on to the trigger point which will spring the trap before the mole has entered the trap.
I use an Eezyspring pigeon decoy stick to clean any unwanted soil from back down the tunnels, but any flat piece of steel roughly 2cm tall and 10cm long will do the trick. One end of the stick needs to be bent in to a ‘U’ shape to help hook the loose soil out from back down the system.
When digging the hole to put the trap in, I tend to use a trowel on lighter soil and a spade on tougher ground. My spade is a border spade and in width is 2in shorter than the trap, meaning the trap is a tight fit in the hole and only needs a light amount of padding in.
Once the trap is in the hole it is a good idea to make sure the trapping loop is just slightly pushing into the ground so that the mole does not feel it when it walks over it.
Once I have the trap in the correct position I will start to fill around the trap sides making sure not to drop any soil into the tunnel system. I try to use soil clumps around the sides and good sprinkling of light molehill soil on top of the trap. You don’t want to leave any light gaps, nor do you want the mole to sense a difference in air pressure from the lack of soil above. Ensure that you don’t place too much soil on the moving actions of the trap because it will hinder its effectiveness. Once I have the trap set and covered up I will place a marker. I tend not to use a marker on heavily populated areas, instead opting for a map record.
How often should I check a mole trap?
Again this is another contentious issue where opinions are divided. I check all my traps every day and follow a simple three-stage plan.
- If a trap catches after day one I reset it and leave the traps that haven’t caught anything running
- Day Two: if any traps have not caught anything I move those to a new area
- If I do not catch any further moles from a run after three days I will then remove that trap.
Throughout the year I undertake a great deal of mole trapping and I know how difficult it can be when you start out. I hope I have given you an insight into mole catching best practice. Remember, there is no substitute for practice and if things don’t go to plan first time, think about what you have done and what you could try that’s different. Learn from your mistakes, as there is nothing more satisfying than mastering a process.