Depending on your age and where you grew up, moles might make you think of wind and willows. Or it might have you launching into superfan civil war. If you were more into Mi5 and 007, you may think it’s a snitch. Or maybe you’re more focused on SPF numbers.
Whichever version of the word comes to mind, having moles in your garden is rarely a good thing. They dig up your plants, make a mess, and just look weird. So let’s discover some top tips on how to get rid of moles in your garden. Preferably in a humane, non-lethal manner.
How to Get Rid of Moles in Garden
Tip #1: Spot the Mole
How well do you know your garden rodents? Can you differentiate a mole, a vole, and a gopher? As long as they stay out of sight below ground, you’re fine. They may even be helpful, controlling insects and aerating the soil. But sometimes they burrow closer to the surface, ruining your flower beds and sprinkler system. So how can you be sure it’s a mole?
Look for rows of ridges and little hills of loose soil and upturned mud. They look like volcanoes whose craters measure between 1 and 5 inches across. And there’s a hole on top. That’s a mole. If the mound is crescent-shaped and blocked at the top, that’s a gopher. Voles (field mice) don’t dig fresh holes – the squat in abandoned gopher holes and mole tunnels.
Tip #2: Pick Your Penalty
Technically, a mole isn’t a rodent. Rodents are herbivores and their teeth are for gnawing on roots and veggies. Gophers can crush a tree by eating its roots until it collapses. And they can pull entire plants underground – roots, shoots, and all. But moles eat ‘meat’ underground. Their main damage is in collapsing your plants and messing your manicured lawn.
Because they don’t do as much damage – and because they seem so blind and helpless (and cute and furry), not everyone is happy killing moles. So before you decide how to get rid of the moles in your garden, confirm whether you want them dead or alive. Your mole control options depend on it. And yes, it’s possible to trap and release your uninvited garden guest.
Tip #3: Make a Humane Mole Trap
You don’t find gophers in the UK unless they’re in someone’s taxonomy collection, so you’ll mostly be dealing with moles (and voles). There are hundreds of mole trap designs, and we’ll dig into quite a few, pun intended. But a lot of these traps are macabre and lethal. If you want a gentle one, try something like the video shows. It’s a large can. The mole falls in and can’t get out.
Because the sides of the can are smooth metal, the mole can’t get traction to dig its way out. You can then catch the mole and release it elsewhere. The point of release should be 8 to 10km away so the mole can’t find its way back. And ideally, choose a spot with no human traffic – you don’t want to export your mess into someone else’s garden … or do you?
Tip #4: Get a Cat
In many parts of the UK, killing moles is considered animal cruelty. It’s not illegal … but it’s in bad taste … for humans. Felines – on the other hand – they can go nuts. And their curious nature and hunting instinct makes them especially good at sniffing out and digging up moles, voles, and other small rodents – unwanted or otherwise. So sit back put Fluffy on the case.
Yes, free-range cats kill hundreds of wildlife every day. And when you’re thinking of how to get rid of moles in your garden, you want these genocidal furballs and their murder mittens. Besides cat litter keeps the moles away too so even if Kitty does his/her business alfresco, sprinkle peed-on litter down the mole hole as a warning that this is feline territory.
Tip #5: Make Some Noise
Well … sort of. We assume moles don’t have ears, so this advice may seem silly. They do though – just not external ones. Their ear canals are hidden by their fur. So yes, sonic weapons can keep moles away. Specifically (ultra)sonic devices. They come in various styles. Spinning Daisies are popular and these fabulous fake flowers double as garden ornaments.
The petals sit on an axis that spins in the breeze, creating vibrations that rumble through the soil. This nudges moles to change direction and burrow the other way. Some ultrasonic mole repellers are solar-powered while others are rechargeable. One type emits vibrations and sonic pulses. Sonic spikes are sold in multiples so you can spread them along the burrow.
Tip #6: Rent an American
Well, technically, the word we want is ‘hire’. Just to be sure they understand you. And as you can see, out lovely yanks across the pond have helpful hobbies. Like sitting around the garden all day hunting moles. So if you don’t want burrowing blood on your hands, invite this guy over and watch him work. Offer him beer and barbeque after, but not too much.
This method involves cornering the mole and trapping it with a shovel (and crocs). So you have to be extra careful if you don’t want to slice the poor thing in half – which some less humane trappers literally do. Typical traps use harpoons, spikes, scissors, springs, or claws. The spade seems safer and kinder. If nothing else, it’s an eventful way to pass the afternoon.
Tip #7: Buy Something on Amazon
Yes, there’s an app for everything. On iPhone. But there’s also a product for everything. On Amazon. So look around their selection of no-kill rodent traps. These are flimsy and mostly work on mice, but they’re sturdy enough for voles and moles as well. The downside is these traps can be slow – this sample took over a month to catch a single mole. Some traps are dark.
They have blackened walls to simulate the unlit tunnels moles are used to. It’s why they’re sometimes called black hole traps. But with black models, you have to lift out the whole trap to check if you’ve caught anything. With translucent versions, you can see the mole inside.
Tip #8: Bait the Bugs
Apparently, you can kill a mole by seeding their holes. Toss some chewed (?) juicy fruit gum wrapped in its aluminium foil packaging. They can’t digest it, so it’ll kill them. This sounds like a rough way to go. A similar alternative is to use poisoned bugs and grubs. Start with organic options – saturate their burrows with a mix of castor oil and liquid dish soap.
Other things you can put in mole tunnels to deter them include maize dipped in tar, tobacco, pepper flakes, petrol, coffee grounds, or chilli powder, but not at the same time. Avoid some of the crazier ideas like burying burning flares or soaking the soil with ammonia. But you can buy poisoned bugs like Tom Cat and plant them for moles to find. They contain bromethalin.
Tip #9: Smoke Them Out
Yes, we’ve mentioned some farmers have tried burying live flares to get rid of rodents. But turns out the idea is more common than you’d think. This variant suggests fumigating your mole tunnels with exhaust fumes from your car. It seems like something frat boys would do, but allegedly, it works. Just try not to poison yourself (or blow yourself up) in the process.
Setting up this smoking mole trap is a drawn-out process that will delight the average male. It involves tin foil, hosepipes, and revving engines.
Need I say more? (Yes, you probably rushed for duct tape first, but it’ll melt. It seems cruel, but the moles will pass out … a bit like dying in their sleep. So it’s a gentle mole deterrent, and the lads will love the mechanics of it.
Tip 10: Shock Their Senses
Moles have ears we can barely see and tiny eyes that leave them practically blind. But what they do have is an exceptional sense of smell. And that’s the safest way to send them off. No, you don’t need toxic fumes. Just the type that’s unpleasant enough to send them swimming through the soil in the opposite direction. Dog droppings are good, though cat poo is not.
For cats, use litter they’ve peed in but not pooped on. Spoiled fish is another top selection. Plus, certain plants put off moles and gophers – plants like euphorbia rigida / lathyris/ biglandulosa . It’s a weed in the East but a flower in the West. You may know it as milkweed or gopher surge and it’s an excellent rodent repellent (and it works on moles too!)
Tip #11: Install an Underground Fence
This idea seems desperate as you chew on how to get rid of moles in your garden. But it does work. Gopher fences are made of twisted wire mesh that looks like finely gapped chicken wire. Before you plant, install a horizontal gopher fence beneath the seedbed or a vertical on at the borders of your garden. The mesh will block moles, voles, and gophers as they burrow.
Deterring them in this way may be all you need because moles are migrant. They mostly live 10 inches underground or deeper and only come up for air – pun intended – when they want a mate. So they’ll hang out in your garden, have a few dates, make some babies, then move on. Physically block their burrowing path and they might choose a different honeymoon spot.
Are you managing moles in your garden? Share your tips in the comments, we’d love to hear!