How to Catch a Mole

MolesMost people find catching moles to protect their lawns and gardens to be a frustrating process of trial and error. But with the right information on how to catch a mole, any homeowner can remove moles from the landscape for good. It all starts with choosing the right trap for moles.

Choosing the Right Mole Trap

There are at least 65 types of traps for moles on the market. Most of them are very hard to use, but four brands are especially useful for home mole control.

  • Black Hole Rodent Trap. Moles are not rodents, but this humane killing device will capture larger moles, especially the "boar" (breeding male) moles. It is important to follow the directions for trapping moles, baiting the Black Hole Rodent Trap with food moles eat, such as grubs or worms, and making sure that light does not leak around the trap once it has been placed into the ground.
  • Nash Choker Loop Mole Trap. Unlike most other traps, the Nash Choker Loop Mole Trap is lowered into a tunnel through a slot dug above it. The tunnel collapses, and when the mole digs to repair it is caught in the trap. The trap needs to be covered with a bucket so it is not activated by passing animals and pets, and both the trap and the bucket need to kept free of human scent. This is the trap to use if you can find tunnels but not entrances. It is best to use the trap in new tunnels. You may get better results if you "stake" the sides of the trap with coat hanger wire so moles cannot easily tunnel under it.
  • Victor 0631 Out-of-Sight Mole Trap. This Victor mole trap is relatively inexpensive but relatively difficult to set—and many users forget to release the safety latch to spring the trap before they leave the trap. It works best in about 5 cm (2 inches) fresh dirt, either at the mouth of a tunnel or lowered from the top of a tunnel. It is fussy to operate but relatively inexpensive.
  • Wire Tek 1001 EasySet Mole Trap. This trapping device kills moles as it "removes" them. It is very effective when it is placed directly over a mole hole. Vertical movement through the trap captures the mole. The trap pops up out of the ground so homeowners will know when the mole is killed. Placing this model into a tunnel where moles travel horizontally across the spring mechanism, however, is unlikely to result in any kills, and it would be necessary to dig into the tunnel to check the trap. Anytime human scent is transferred to the trap it becomes less effective.  Click Here to read a full review of the best traps.

Before You Put Out Your Trap

You will never catch moles if you handle traps with your bare hands. You must wear gloves to avoid transferring your scent to the trap. Human scent is danger signal to moles.

And before you use gloves for handling mole traps, you need to "season" them with fresh dirt, preferably dirt that is dug from a flower or vegetable bed that has lots of earthworms. Rub your gloves thoroughly with fresh soil. Use them only for handling mole traps and not for any other purpose, always picking them up by the inside to avoid contaminating them with your scent.

Scouting Out an Active Tunnel System

The next thing you need to do to catch a mole is to locate tunnels where moles are active. This is not hard to do. Just look for a mound of fresh dirt or a raised tunnel you have not noticed before. The moister and fresher the dirt in the mound, the more likely you are to trap a mole. It is always best to put out a trap next to the entrance to a tunnel that has been dug just in the last 12 to 24 hours. The best time of day to set out a trap is during the heat of a summer afternoon or the cold of a winter morning, when moles are most likely to be resting in chambers farthest away from the entry point.

If you have trouble finding a new tunnel, you can always obliterate the openings to old tunnels. Shovel off and fill in old openings and stomp down new tunnels. You won’t crush any moles—they will hear you and scamper away, but they will have to dig new openings. The best time to check for new tunnels is in the early morning.

Getting the Tunnel Ready for a Trap

Make sure that the molehill where you will be placing your trap actually leads to a tunnel. You won’t be able to peer directly inside. Usually moles fill in the entryways to their tunnels with fresh dirt that they can dig through easily but that slows their predators down. Carefully remove a little dirt to confirm that the molehill leads to an actual tunnel.

Then you need to smooth out the molehill so that your trap is flush against the surface of the ground and covers the entire entrance to the tunnel. You may need to enlarge the entry—making sure that you have not held your tools with your bare hands—to fit the trap. The trap rests on soft dirt, not over an open tunnel.

Setting the Trap

Open the jaws of the trap. Set the trigger and lock the hook in place so you don’t trap your fingers. No matter what kind of trap you are using place the trap into the entrance to the tunnel or into the tunnel itself so that the jaws or trap door open in the same direction as the tunnel. Don’t expect moles to dig around to the side of your trap just so they can get trapped!

Once the trap is set, partially cover the trap with loose dirt or bits of sod so the mole will dig down to the trap. Then release the safety latch to activate the trap. Cover the trap with an inverted bucket to keep pets and other animals from disturbing or getting caught in the trap.

Monitoring Your Trap

That’s all you have to do. Typically you will catch your first mole by the next morning. If you don’t catch a mole in 1 or 2 days, then making sure you are wearing seasoned gloves, remove the trap and reset it in another location. If you don’t catch a mole the second time you set a trap, see the troubleshooting tips in the next section of this article.

When you catch a mole, dispose of it and repeat the process until you no longer have a mole problem. New moles will occasionally find their way onto your property, but you can keep mole problems to a minimum with much less work.

What to Do When Your Traps Are Not Catching Moles

Mole HillsSome simple mistakes can make the difference between catching moles and letting the pesky little critters escape to make havoc elsewhere on the landscape. Here are the 5 most common mole trapping problems.

1. Trap set too deep in the tunnel.

Many models of mole traps have to be set inside the tunnel rather than at the entryway of the tunnel. The more you disturb the tunnel itself, the more likely it is that moles will simply flee the scene. It is important to use sharp digging tools to make a clean cut into the tunnel and to be careful about covering the trap with dirt and sod when it is set. Be sure to note the location of the trap so you can find it easily later.

2. Trap safety latch on (a particular problem with the Victor model).

It may seem obvious that the trap has to be set before it will catch a mole, but it’s easy to forget that the trap has to be sprung before it can actually catch the animal. Be sure to unhook the safety hook before you leave the trap.

3. Choosing the wrong tunnel to place the trap.

Mole traps placed at the openings of tunnels that don’t have any moles inside them won’t catch any moles. If there are many mole hills in your yard, choose the one with the freshest dirt. Dry, clumped dirt that shows evidence of having been rained is not likely to be part of an active tunnel.

4. Rain.

Especially if you have clay soil, rain can cause the soil to swell and clump. Moles may choose alternative exits that are easier to dig through. However, a very heavy rain will flood the tunnels and increase activity through the highest point available to the mole.

5. Human scent.

Most home mole trappers remember to season their gloves with dirt and to reserve the gloves exclusively for mole trapping. It’s more common, however, to forget to rinse the bucket before putting it over the trap. Make sure that bucket you place over the mole trap was not used for some purpose that would contaminate it with human scent.

Frequently Asked Questions about Catching Moles

Q. I can’t wait for my mole traps to arrive from Amazon.com. Is there anything I can use in the meantime while I’m waiting for my shipment.

A. Moles are roughly the size of large mice. They can be caught in release mouse traps and released or disposed of. Since moles don’t eat cheese, bacon, or peanut butter, you will need to capture an earthworm or grub to bait the trap. A mousetrap can be set inside a tunnel rather than on soft dirt at the entrance to a tunnel, but the trap must not be contaminated by human scent. This means you will need to wear seasoned work (not latex) gloves from the very first moment you handle the trap.

Q. Can I "herd" moles to locations where I’ve set out traps?

A. In addition to shovelling in older entryways to burrows, it can also help to put out garlic or child powder on freshly loosened dirt, causing the mole to choose another point to exit its tunnels, or you can spray a solution of one tablespoon castor oil (to drive away moles) and one tablespoon of detergent (to make sure the castor oil is dispersed) in 4 litres (1 gallon) of water around the openings of tunnels or around plants you want to protect. Blood meal, bone meal, human hair, animal or human urine, and cayenne pepper will all cause moles to detour away from garden beds and shrubs you want to protect.

Q. What is the best time of year to catch moles?

A. It is best to capture moles in the late winter or early spring before they reproduce. This is especially important if you live in the United States in regions where there are cicadas that hatch in mass numbers every 13 to 17 years. When there are large numbers of cicada larvae, there are large number of moles.

Q. Is it better to place a trap in a bend of a tunnel or in a straight section?

A. Always place the trap in a straight section. The mole has to move directly over the activating mechanism to get caught in the trap. If you place the trap in a bend or curve of the mole’s tunnel, you will only capture moles going in one direction.

Q. Can I leave a mole trap in the same location all year?

A. No. Moles, when they are not mating, are highly territorial. You usually get better results by resetting the trap in a different location every time you catch a mole.

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Mark has a strong background in Engineering and a huge interest in Pest Control as a way of getting rid of rodents and other unwanted pests who can cause a nuisance in your home and garden. You can subscribe to his free daily paper on Pest Control Solutions and follow him on Facebook or Twitter

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