Frequently Asked Questions about Mole Catching
Q: Why is mole control necessary?
A1: Actually this question isn't the most frequently asked, but as anyone who has had mole problem in their garden will know, they just want the mole gone and for the destruction of their lawns to stop. It is people who have never had a mole in their garden that usually ask why I have to kill moles.
Firstly if you can tolerate the odd molehill or minor mole activity, then leave the mole alone, mole control is only necessary where numbers are so great as to cause problems. I use the word control, as the aim is not to totally exterminate, but to reduce the numbers to a level that is acceptable to each individual client.
Generally in domestic gardens it is just because of the unsightly molehills on a lawn.
On farmland the reasons are much more important and varied, but the main problem is soil contamination of silage, and haylage from the molehill soil. This results in poor quality fodder for farm animals and horses. Soil affects the fermentation of the cut grass and reduces its nutritional value and palatability to livestock, to the point were it is refused by the animals and the farmer has to throw it away. Bacteria in the soil, typically Clostridium botulinum and Listeria monocytogenes are very nasty and will kill sheep, horses and cattle if ingested in sufficient quantity. These soil borne bacteria work in different ways. Clostridium produces very poisonous toxins when deprived of oxygen, so when cut grass is wrapped or covered with plastic film, as farmers do to create the ideal conditions to make good silage or haylage, the conditions are perfect for Botulism to flourish. Listeria does not need any specific conditions to multiply to cause livestock fatalities.
Soil and stones from the molehills blunts and damages grass-cutting equipment. Moles tunnelling under newly planted seed crops cause poor crop yields, this is because the delicate roots of the seedlings are displaced either to the surface and die or are deprived of soil nutrients and water because of the mole’s tunnel.
Molehills and tunnels can be dangerous to livestock’s legs and feet, especially horses if they trip or stumble on the disturbed ground conditions.
Other reasons are for safety of the public in recreational/utility areas and to reduce the risk of bird strikes on airports and airfields.
Q: How much does it cost to catch a mole?
A2: A lot less than you think.
Garden moles from £10.00 and the price per mole on farmland can work out as little as £3.00 per mole, plus travel.
Homeowners look Here
Farmers and Landowners look Here
Q: Why have I got moles and my neighbours don't?
A3: Basically your land/garden provides everything the mole needs to survive at that time. A mole needs food, lots of food for its size, water and a resting place that is not affected by sudden weather changes.
Moles are members of the insectivore family; they eat insects and grubs, typically worms.
If your soil has a good worm population then you may have moles at some time or other. If you have plenty of worms you also have good soil conditions, so if you try to reduce the worm population, your soil quality will deteriorate.
In a typical garden situation, if you water your lawn in the summer months and your neighbours don’t, moles activity will be more visible in your garden because the worms will be closer to the surface in the moister soil and so will the moles.
In dry spells worms retreat to deeper levels and the moles will stay deeper as well.
If you have a natural or man-made water source in your garden it will also be popular with moles in drier periods as they come to it for water and the increased worm numbers surrounding it. Moles will also retreat and keep to their natural habitat in drier periods, which is woodland, established hedgerows and anywhere with shade or cover from the hot sun. These areas hold on to the moisture content much longer and always have good worm numbers.
Moles also prefer loose workable soils compared to hard compacted ground, it’s easier for them to dig. So a newly landscaped, reseeded or turfed lawn will always be very attractive to a mole. Keeping your compost bin and grass clippings close to your lawn is not a good idea; it will remain moist and have a massive population of the small red litter dwelling worms. And bird feeding stations will eventually be found by a mole due to all the organic dropped by the birds which will soon create a high worm count under and around the bird table. You may end up with rats as well.
A mole may be using your garden and lawn just for food or water. It could be both and it may even be living there as well.
Q: Why are there so many moles now?
A4: Many reasons are thought to be responsible for the apparent increase in the mole population. Foot and Mouth Disease in 2001 prevented a lot of rural mole control, so moles for one year were not controlled. Hardly a major factor I think.
Milder winters and cooler, moist summers have been favourable to more visible mole activity. Climate change is perhaps benefiting the mole.
September 2006 saw the withdrawal of Strychnine as a poison bait method authorised for mole control. This meant that only the only control methods left were trapping and gassing.
Strychnine was very effective at mole control, though it was indiscriminate in what it killed and there were concerns over actually how humane it was on moles, as the poisoning effect was not thought to be immediate and the moles bodies were horribly contorted when found.
Gassing with Aluminium Phosphide tablets, which is legal, is also indiscriminate in what it kills and cannot be used in certain locations and weather conditions. Its effectiveness is open to question, as soil conditions and the correct placement of the tablets are crucial for a quick humane death. It is too expensive for large scale mole control.
This leaves trapping, as the only humane and cost effective method of mole control left, unfortunately at the present time there is a shortage of people who have the necessary skills and knowledge catch moles successfully, especially with the ability to deal with large-scale mole control on farmland.
There are plenty of hobby garden molecatchers, but the garden mole population increase is a direct result of inadequate control on farmland.
Q: How do you catch a mole and how long will it take?
A5 Lancashire Mole Control uses powerful spring powered traps to catch moles and in the process,
kill them as humanely as possible.
It’s a procedure similar to what you might use to catch a mouse, but you don’t use a bait to attract the mole to the trap.
You place your trap in a mole tunnel (not a mole hill) that is being used regularly and wait for the mole to come along. As it passes through the trap, it triggers the trap and is caught instantly.
This is where the skill, knowledge and practical experience of a professional mole catcher come into play.
By presenting a trap correctly in the right place, a result is guaranteed, in a very short period of time.
Moles can be caught in less than half an hour, sometimes minutes if the mole was nearby when you set the trap. Normally a trap will have caught within 12 to 24 hours, hence the daily inspection. Sometimes a trap may not catch till the 2nd or 3rd day. This is not very common, but something to consider when deciding how long to leave a trap in the ground.
In a typical domestic situation I will place traps one day and inspect/remove them the following day. Sometimes traps may need to be reset or another area set with traps if fresh molehills have occurred there overnight. This will mean another visit the following day.
I can lay traps in such a way that pets and livestock can still use the area. In these situations the traps are completely out of view and covered. I routinely have to work in areas with sheep, cattle, poultry, dogs, and where the public have access.
You only need one mole trap to catch a mole, but by placing more traps in an area where you only need one, you put the odds in your favour and decrease the time it takes for the mole to be caught.
Some times there will be just a couple of molehills in an area, leading you to believe there is just a single mole. However I often find a main run nearby which to the untrained eye would go unnoticed. There are generally no molehills to be seen here, but a single trap in this run can catch 5 or more moles, usually one a day until all moles in the area are accounted for.
Q: Why can’t you catch the mole alive and release it elsewhere?
A6: Good Question, you can, live catch traps are available and legal, but are considered inhumane because of these mole facts.
Moles have a very high metabolic rate and need to eat 60 to 75% of their body weight in worms and grubs each day.
They eat and rest in cycles, throughout the 24 hour day. Moles can be territorial of their feeding areas and may defend them from another mole if they feels their food source may be compromised by the other mole. In areas where the worm count is high, moles seem to get along together quite well, with multiple moles using the same tunnels.
So if you set your live catch trap, which is like a toilet roll tube with a flap at each end and check it 8 hours later you’ve possibly got a dead mole. It’s either died of starvation or stress at being held captive in the tube.
Even if you check the trap after 4 hours and find a live mole, how long has it been there? And what do you do with it now?
If you think release it in a nice field, think again. It is an offence to relocate a pest onto another person's land without permission.
Is the mole still strong enough to dig and find food?
Or if it finds another mole tunnel, is it strong enough to defend itself from the current owner of this tunnel, if it has to?
The abandonment of Animals Act 1960 section 1 makes it an offence to release an animal into the environment if it does not have a reasonable chance of survival.
My opinion is that live catch traps, if used, should be inspected every couple of hours, and even if you do have somewhere to legally release it, I still believe it's not humane due to the stress the mole has already gone through.
So why use a live catch trap in the first place?
If you require more information on why I won't use live catch traps and on other mole management control options, this document from Natural England will help explain.
A humane kill trap is the only option to control excess numbers of moles.
Q: You have caught my moles, will I get any more?
A7: There is a relatively high risk of another mole appearing in the majority of gardens and lawns that I visit.
However some properties will not have another mole for years. Then one will suddenly turn up when you could very much do without it, like just after laying some turf!
Your location and surrounding mole population is the main deciding factor to the increased likelihood of another mole.
Moles being slightly territorial, will not normally invade another mole’s feeding area unless that area is very large, has a well established tunnel system and has a high worm count, or the occupant of a feeding area has been removed. If a mole is trapped and removed other moles nearby will be able to sense this and may move in if the feeding is good. If the whole area has been trapped well and other moles have also been removed then it can be a year or so before the area gets badly infested again.
You can also be unfortunate enough to have a main run passing through your garden, either at a depth or a shallow tunnel along a perimeter fence or hedge.
Here moles will be using the same tunnel and many moles can be caught in a short space of time.
Usually all activity then stops.
In periods of drought and prolonged dry spells, moles may concentrate in areas that are retaining moisture. If you have a water feature, a soakaway, or a natural spring in your garden and all surrounding ditches and water sources are empty, you will have a steady procession of moles coming just for water.
I’ve cleared many a farmers’ field of moles by having a trap in an adjacent domestic garden that has a source of water.
Q: Which is the best trap to use?
A8: Unfortunately there is no one type of mole trap that is 100% perfect for every soil type and moisture content.
Many molecatchers swear by one type and swear at another.
From meeting and talking to many molecatchers over the years I have come to the conclusion that a molecatchers preference of trap stems from what they were taught to use or learnt to use years ago. Most find it difficult to adapt to using another style of trap, stating they cannot catch moles with other types.
Also the type of ground in the area a molecatcher normally catches will have a bearing on the type of trap that they use.
I use 4 types of mole trap for good reason, so I can catch moles anywhere, in any soil type and any moisture content.
These four traps are:
1. Duffus half-barrel mole trap. Widely available, though there are some terrible, cheap and flimsy imported versions about. Perhaps the most common trap used by professional molecatchers. Light weight to carry, able to catch two moles at once, good for all types of mole run, deep and shallow. Can be difficult to set correctly for new molecatchers and reported to be prone to getting filled with soil by some, but that is operator error and not a trap design fault. Works well everywhere with the exception of loose dry soils, and very wet mud, but this can be overcome if you know how to. But it's better to use another trap design in these conditions.
2. Talpex mole trap. Not freely available, expensive, bulky and heavy but stackable. Exceptionally strong spring making them difficult and dangerous for people with weak or small hands to set, but the most humane mole trap to date. Suitable for all depths of tunnel. Good for wet conditions and loose soils. Not the best trap to use in very hard ground.
3. Scissor mole trap, often call pincher mole trap. This is what most people think of when a mole trap is mentioned. You can pick them up in most garden shops, DIY centres etc. Unfortunately a lot of them are rubbish, with the main concern being weak springs. Even the best scissor traps lag behind the previous two to terms of a humane kill. This trap tends to restrain and squeeze a mole rather than kill it outright. Death can be over a period of hours with weak traps, NOT GOOD. This trap is a favourite of farmers and amateur molecatchers, probably because it is the easiest of all the traps to set. They are bulky and heavy; generally only good for shallow runs, and lets everyone know you have put a trap down with the two arms stuck up in the air. At least you can see from a distance if the trap has gone off (and so can any one else passing by).
4. The Trapline trap is a very small specialised trap that I use when we are in monsoon season and the ground is completely waterlogged and farmland is like a collection of rice paddy fields. They are very light and you can carry loads though they don’t stack and get tangled up with one another in your mole bucket. You need to set two of them, back to back in a tunnel, unless you have the magical powers to know which way the mole will come through the tunnel. Sometimes this is obvious, but I’ve been proved wrong on so many occasions that I don't take the chance if I’m using these traps any more. Also you need to secure the traps to some thing, as being so small and light a big mole can drag one some distance.
So as you can see there is no trap that is 100% perfect in all conditions, though the Duffus trap comes closest. Any molecatcher just using one type of trap is putting them selves at a disadvantage if they are trapping for a living. If you only go molecatching when the conditions suit your choice of trap, then this is not an issue.
Q: How do I become a mole catcher?
A9: First of all it would be a distinct advantage to have been brought up in a rural environment. Then you would probably have most of the necessary knowledge and attributes without even realising you had them.
To start from scratch, you need to gather as much information as you can find. There are books available, the Internet and there are training courses you can go on.
I knew basically what to do from being a child, but really developed my techniques much later on by time consuming trial and error; find a field full of molehills, take a selection of traps, add a lot of free time and a completely open mind, noting and recording what worked in a particular situation and what didn’t.
The result was that I was able to remove the luck element from mole catching and replaced it with a scientific component and that, along with a logical, reasoned approach meant I was able to guarantee a successful result every time. For me Mole Catching had become an exact science.
This is where what you read and get told starts to confuse things, because asking two molecatchers how to go about catching a mole will more than likely get you two completely different sets of answers. How one molecatcher sets their traps can be different to another. You need to find out what works best for you.
There are other skills and knowledge that will help to increase your catch and make you more efficient. Just think about the time wasted by finding runs and setting 100 traps only to catch 20 moles, what if you could catch the same number of moles just using 30 or 40 traps, or having the knowledge to know that you do need to set 100 traps because you will catch 60+ over the next two days.
You need a very sound knowledge of the mole and how it goes about its day. As much information as you can find about farming and agriculture if you intend doing farm mole control. You need a good understanding of the weather and climate and ideally a better ability to forecast the weather than the experts on the TV. A good knowledge of the different types of soils and soil layers and how this will affect the mole and the invertebrates that live there. A general interest and appreciation for the countryside, wildlife and nature in general and finally, to be able and not mind working outdoors in all weathers. Yes it’s the ultimate place to be on a nice warm spring morning, in the middle of the countryside, doing something you enjoy and are good at, but you have to feel the same way about it when it’s windy, grey and pouring with rain, or it’s – 5 degrees, your nose is dripping like a tap and you can’t feel your fingers. The Joys of Mole Catching.