Although there are other species, the most common mole in our East Texas sandy soil landscape is the Eastern Mole, a relatively small but robust, short brown-furred mammal that can tunnel in the right soil conditions at speeds of 15 feet per hour and can consume more than 66% of its' body weight in 18 hours. No wonder it seems like those well known raised feeding tunnels and raised excavation mounds seem to pop up over night. Moles are solitary creatures except for breeding time. It is rare to find more than five per acre.
The burrowing activities of moles cause the most damage on golf course greens and lawns, and in situations where accelerated soil erosion may result. Additionally, they have been known to wreak havoc by burrowing along crop rows and in garden beds. Contrary to the belief of many, moles are not specifically going after the roots of your plants. In most cases, they are searching out their main diet of earthworms and grubs. However, beetles, spiders, centipedes, as well as insect larvae and pupae, and some vegetable matter are occasionally ingested. Note that the burrowing activities of moles tend to aerate the soil, which is beneficial to plants. Sometimes the insect larvae removed by a mole can do far more damage to vegetation than the mole does. For example, larval June beetles (white grubs) feed on the roots of grasses and may, if present in large numbers, completely destroy the sod in an area. Moles occasionally attack the underground nests of yellow jackets and other wa sps.
However, the soil displacement that moles cause can break the heart of many a yard loving East Texan gardener, as well as the fact that mole tunnels have been known to be used by voles (field mice) which are voracious root eaters.
So I leave it to your own conscious with these choices:
My initial response to moles was to repel them with commercial caster bean oil based spray that attached directly to my garden hose. The oil irritates the furry little creatures and makes them go elsewhere. If next to a wooded area, this method is almost futile unless constant re-application is tended to. Since then, I've seen enough mounds in my lawn to justify the use of any possible weapon of mole destruction.
However, to be fair to those of you that don't have my mole murderous intents, I've broken down some options below. With any solution, I highly recommend studying more about your enemy before choosing your own line of attack. Mole's subterranean life has proven a fascinating subject, and success can be dependent upon how much you know about your enemy. The internet and publications at your local extension office can be valuable assets.
Doesn't Work, Limited Success, or just a Bad Idea:
Scott Martin, Smith County Master Gardener
Texas AgriLife Extension Service
Moles are small mammals that live almost entirely underground in a vast network of interconnecting tunnels 3 to 30 inches (7.5 - 75 cm) deep. The main runways are usually less than 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter, and may be 16 to 18 inches (40 - 45 cm) below the surface. Moles dislodge turf grass and plants as they push up through the soil from just below ground level looking for worms, insects, and other invertebrates. Surface feeding burrows appear as ridges. The mounds formed by moles are pushed up from an open center hole. The soil may be in chunks, and single mounds often appear in a line over the runway connecting them.
Trapping is the most dependable method of controlling moles. Various mole traps are available at hardware stores or nurseries. Traps are generally set straddling or encircling the runway. Before setting traps, determine which runways are in current use. Moles dig a system of deep tunnels as well as a network of surface runs that may only be temporary. To determine which ones are active, stamp down short sections of surface runways and observe daily for signs of activity. Set traps at least 18 inches from a mound and only in runways used daily. Deeper tunnels can be located with a probe. Remember to fill the portion of the tunnel under the trap's trigger with loose soil.
Art Phillips, Smith County Master Gardener
Texas AgriLife Extension Service