Catching moles in your garden, the humane way
If a mole moves in to your garden you can use peaceable methods to evict it, with a live mole trap you build yourself. First step is a proper ID to be sure you have moles, and not gophers or other furry, four-footed garden "companions". In our video Tricia explains how to distinguish between the above-ground mounds of moles and gophers. Remember, moles "swim" through the soil, creating ridges at the surface -- a ridge is the telltale sign of a mole. Then, the dilemma. If a mole is doing too good a job of aerating your soil, and is instead creating underground channels that will add excess air or even water, then you have a decision to make -- will you repel the mole, kill the mole with a scissors trap, or do catch-and-release with a live trap? If you're a fan of the Mole character from The Wind in the Willows you'll want to go for our mole repellents or a live trap.
How to build your own live mole trap
Those ridges that helped you ID your garden visitor as a mole rather than a gopher are the same ridges that will help you locate the mole and usher him out of your garden. To do live trapping you first have to find the live mole. Early in the morning, and moving with gentle footsteps in your garden, look for the ridges the mole has created and then see if you can spot a new ridge running along. That will be the mole on his morning hunt for a breakfast of grubs and other insects. Moles make their way through a network of underground tunnels and live in burrows further below the surface. Once you know where the mole is working in the morning, trace the about-ground ridges back to what looks like an intersection of ridges. You want a well-traveled tunnel as the site for your live trap.
Things you'll need for a live mole trap
Wide-mouth, quart-size jar OR a three-pound coffee can Board to completely cover the jar/can and exclude all light Shovel or spade to dig into the mole tunnel
Building the live mole trap
Make a clean cut into the mole tunnel or runway with your spade or shovel then excavate a hole large enough to just fit your jar or can. The University of Missouri Extension suggests "caving in" the runway on either side of the trap. Your digging may do that for you. Place the jar or can in the hole. Cover the opening at ground level with a board, making sure it completely blocks the sunlight from the runway.
Catching the mole
Ideally, the mole will trundle along its runway, dig through the caved-in section, and fall into the jar. Check the trap several times a day by lifting the board. Moles are on the go most hours of the day and night. Once you find the mole in the trap, cover the jar and move the mole.
Catch a mole, go to jail?
When is a mole not a mole? When it's a "nuisance animal" and your state or county forbids you to move it off your property. For instance, the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries says, "it is illegal in the State of Virginia to trap and relocate an animal to another area". The easy solution is to relocate the mole to an area of your garden or land where it can do no harm. It's possible that you can relocate the mole to someone else's land -- just be sure to check the regulations first. Moles can be garden helpers, gobbling up pesky insects -- but if they're too much of a good thing, try this live mole trap and move 'em on out.
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I have tried that method. These moles are too smart to fall for that trap. They keep back filling in the container.