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There are several species of moles in the U.S. The Eastern mole (Scalopus aguaticus) is the most numerous and widespread in the eastern United States, and is responsible for most of the complaints concerning mole damage to lawns and gardens. The most troublesome species on the coast of Oregon and Washington is the Townsend's mole (Scapanus townsendi), and in California, the broad-footed mole, (Scapanus latimanus).
Other species of moles in the United States for the most part are of no pest significance. Although there are some differences between the various species of moles, most moles have similar biology and behavior. Therefore, this page will be based upon the biology, behavior and control of the eastern mole.
Moles are not rodents - they belong to the group of mammals known as Insectivora, and thus are more closely related to the shrews. Eastern moles have pointed snouts, greatly enlarged rounded front feet with stout claws, and a short, nearly naked tail. They are 5-8 inches long with short, velvety fur that is usually gray to silvery-gray. The eyes and ears of moles are very small and are concealed in the fur.
Moles can be destructive pests in lawns, gardens, nurseries, parks, golf courses, and cemeteries. During their burrowing activities, they produce mounds and ridges that disfigure lawns and sometimes dislodge plants or injure plant roots. Their mounds also provide a medium for the germination of weed seeds.
Moles feed primarily on earthworms, beetle grubs, ants, and other arthropods and animals found in the soil. A smaller part of their diet consists of various seed and vegetable matter. But they usually do not eat bulbs or the roots of garden plants.
Moles are active day and night throughout the year, but they are most visibly active during the spring and fall on damp days or following rainshowers when they push up more tunnels and mounds. When the ground surface becomes frozen in the winter, or very dry during the summer, moles use only the deeper burrows.
Mating occurs during February and March, with a single litter of three to five young born later in the spring following a 6-week gestation period. Young moles grow rapidly and have the appearance, and behave like an adult at about one month of age. Young moles may use their family's burrow system for up to six months before dispersing to establish their own burrow systems and territories nearby.
Two types of runways (tunnels) are produced by moles: sub-surface runways and deep runways. Certain tunnels of both types are used as major lanes of travel (called main runways) and may be used by several moles in the area.
Sub-surface runways are feeding tunnels just below the soil surface and commonly seen as the raised ridges running through lawn areas. The mole is capable of extending these runways at the rate of 100 feet per day. Sub-surface runs may be used daily, may be revisited at irregular intervals, or may be used only once for feeding and then abandoned. They connect with the deep runways, which are located between 3 and 12 inches below the surface. Generally, few or no mounds are produced as a result of the production of sub-surface tunnels.
Deep runways are usually main runways, since they are used daily as the mole travels to and from the main sub-surface runways or the nest. The soil excavated from the deep tunnels is deposited on the surface through short vertical tunnels in volcano-like mounds. (Mole mounds should not be confused with pocket gopher mounds which are horse-shoe shaped.)
The number of mounds or surface ridges seen in a yard is no indication of how many moles may be present. Generally, one acre of land will support about two or three moles at one time. However, yards surrounded by or adjacent to large tracts of forested areas or weedy fields may be subject to continual invasions by moles because such areas may support many moles.
Trapping is the most reliable method of mole control although it can also be the most tedious. The key to success is patience, practice and persistence. Moles have an uncanny ability to detect and spring improperly set traps. But if traps are placed carefully and correctly they often produce results within one day.
Generally, trapping is easiest and most effective during the spring and fall, when mole activity is at a peak. Once mole activity is noticed, control efforts should begin as quickly as possible to keep damage to a minimum. Also, trapping in the early spring can eliminate pregnant females, thereby reducing the likelihood of having to contend with a family of moles later.
For successful trapping, it is essential to locate the main runways. To identify main runways in a yard or area, look for runways which:
Also, because nests are commonly located at protected spots along the edge of areas such as hedgerows or fencerows, border trapping at the places where runways enter the yard, field, or garden often proves highly effective.
Unless the mole activity is extremely light, more than one trap should be used. Use between three and five traps per acre for quick results. If possible, one trap should be placed in each of the above main runway areas.
A common misconception about mole control is that if you eliminate grubs from lawns you will eliminate the moles. But grubs make up only a portion of the mole's diet which also includes earthworms and other soil animals. Thus, moles often are present in grubfree lawns.
If all the earthworms, grubs, and other soil insects in a lawn are eliminated through repeated applications of insecticides, the moles would be forced to seek other, more insect infested areas. However, mole damage would likely continue and even increase during this time. In short, lawn spraying can be an expensive approach to mole control, and is not all that effective. If you are convinced that you need to apply something to kill the moles, then consider using either Merit 75 or Dominion 2L to kill and control grubs. Be sure to check with your county agricultural extension service to know when the optimum "window" of time during the summer is to control grubs.
Attempting to kill moles with poisonous gases (fumigants) can also be effective. Care has to be taken to ensure that the toxic gas does not escape through the moles extensive runway system, or their killing effects are lost through the escape of the toxic gas upwards from the sub-surface tunnels. The use of poisonous gases must be performed by a licensed pest control operator.
The "Giant Destroyer" Smoke Bomb is the only "bomb" type product available to non-licensed persons. The bomb is actually a small cartridge that it lit with a match or lighter and placed into the moles tunnel. It then releases a smoke that contains Sodium Nitrate and Sulphur that basically runs the mole out of their tunnel. If using this method, be prepared to either capture or kill the mole by whatever method you choose when the mole runs out. Using a brick or concrete paver placed over tunnel openings can sometimes trap the mole inside the tunnel which can result in death. Don't expect this to be the case. Be prepared to do something with the mole - ie "shotgun", "pitchfork", etc when the mole runs out.
Talpirid is a synthetic earthworm mimic that looks and smells like an earthworm to a Mole. When a Mole eats a Talpirid worm, it has the same effect as rodent bait would have on any other rodent such as rat or mouse.
Kaput is a gel based product that is inserted into the mole tunnels. Once applied into the tunnels the gel based Kaput is contracted by the moles as they crawl through the tunnels. Kaput gets on the moles paws and coat and is then ingested by the mole as it grooms to clean itself. Unlike grain baits, Kaput does not have to be eaten. The mole inadvertently crawls into the gel and does not know what has happened. During the grooming process, the Kaput is ingested but is not a bait. Control with Kaput takes about 3-5 days once the moles ingests any of these products.
When applying poison mole baits, it is very important that the bait be made available to mole with a minimum of dirt or contamination and also be completely sealed from access by pets such as dogs, etc.
When applying poison mole baits, the best method is to simply use a dowel rod or some sort of spike and poke a hole into the top of tunnel. At the very least, make a hole into the middle of the tunnel. For best results, do this in the middle, and near both ends. Make the hole clean and into center of the tunnel. Place the bait into the hole and then cover with a brick, cement pad or some kind of heavy object. This covers the hole, blocks access to the bait from pets and sunlight, but more importantlly, keeps the bait CLEAN.
Baits such as Kaput are a gel. If you put dirt back into the hole, it will fall on top of the bait, and make it virtually worthless. Kaput requires the mole to get the bait onto their paws or coat from which they will groom and lick it off.
Talpirid is a gummy worm bait, that if it gets dirty will be hard for the mole to find it. This bait must be eaten. For this reason, the mole must be able to see the worm bait. Dropping the Talpirid worm into the hole and then covering the hole with dirt will cover the worm with dirt. Don't make this mistake. Keep the hole clean, the bait clean and cover the hole with something that will not allow dirt to fall back into the hole.
Control of moles using baits usually takes several days up to a few weeks. The mole may not eat the bait or may avoid the bait at first. Once the mole eats the bait, depending on which chemical it contains, it can then take up to a week or more for the mole to die. It is not instant. Don't assume that the bait does not work just because the moles are not dead or not dying. A perfect application of bait is probably not going to happen until you get some experience in applying it.
Poison mole baits must also be reapplied on a frequent basis. Don't expect 1 application of mole bait to kill all of the moles. If you follow the above steps and still have moles, then it is probably due to the fact that you didn't use enough bait, didn't put into the correct areas, placed it in old tunnels, or there are more moles than what you thought. There can be multiple reasons why you don't get control. Don't assume just because you stick the bait into a mole tunnel that it should work. Remember, you are dealing with a creature that has been around for millions of years. It takes some thought, work and strategy to kill them.
Not applying enough bait, (it can take a lot of bait - read the manufacturers instructions on how much bait to use) and not applying enough bait over a period of time are the main reasons that control is not obtained. Professional companies that use these products use a lot of bait, and make frequent visits. They put you on a program. This is not a 1 time treatment, nor is it an exact science. Use enough bait, keep it clean, keep it plentiful and keep a record of when you apply it. If you do this, eventually, you will get control of moles using poison baits.
Meadow voles, also known as meadow mice, represent some of the most prolific, numerous, and widely distributed mammals in North America.
Meadow voles are small, chunky rodents; adults are about 7 inches long. The tail is usually short, about 1-1/2 inches. Their ears are furred and do not project much above the hair on their heads. Mature meadow voles are chestnut brown mixed with black on the back. Their underparts are dark gray, and their feet are brown. The thinly haired tail is dark on the upper surface, shading to a lighter gray beneath. Young meadow voles are uniformly gray.
Most professionals sometimes confuse meadow voles with moles and shrews. But moles are easily distinguished from voles because they have greatly enlarged front feet, with prominent digging claws. And shrews have long, pointed snouts and needle-pointed front teeth, whereas meadow mice have rounded, somewhat blunt snouts, and their front teeth are chisel shaped.
In cases of just a few voles in and around ornamental plantings, ordinary snap-back mouse traps such as the Trapper Mini Rex are effective. A dozen or more traps should be used. If possible, vole runways should be located in grassy borders of the gardens, and the traps set at right angles to the runways with the trigger in the runway. Traps can be set at 10-foot intervals along the plant rows. A pinch of oatmeal sprinkled over the trigger of the trap is an effective bait. Avoid using bait such as bacon that may be attractive to birds. Traps should be reset daily and freshly baited until no more voles are caught. Keep grassy and weedy areas well-mowed to reduce the protective cover for voles.
For large infestations of meadow voles outdoors, several baits are available. In most states, zinc phosphide baits such as ProZap Mole and Gopher Bait are registered for agricultural applications, and may be useful for golf courses, parks, etc. This bait is labeled for moles and gophers but will also kill voles.
These baits are usually placed in infested areas but baits can also be placed within meadow mouse runways in various types of bait stations as described for rats and mice. Baits are also effective when placed directly into burrow openings.
Voles occasionally enter buildings, but they do not become established or reproduce indoors. They can be controlled by setting snap traps, glue boards, or live-catch traps as would be done for controlling house mice.
Populations of meadow voles fluctuate greatly from year to year. Several hundred mice per acre may be present in years when they are abundant, and they may be extremely destructive to vegetation. Their usual foods are grasses and herbs, but during the late fall, winter, and early spring, they may gnaw (girdle) the bark of young trees and ornamental plantings, especially where snow cover is present, causing damage and even death to the plant.
Voles are prolific small mammals. They can produce from 5 to 10 litters per year, with an average of 5 young per litter. Gestation is about 21 days, and females may mate again the day that the young are born. Young voles grow quickly, are weaned at 2 or 3 weeks, and are sexually mature in a month or two.
In regions receiving snow, homeowners are dismayed when the snow has melted by the ragged and chewed-up appearance of the grass where voles have been living beneath the snow during the winter. In most cases however, the damage to the lawn is not permanent, and the voles usually leave with the melting snow. This vole activity is sometimes blamed on moles, but moles do not construct surface runways through the grass, but dig a network of tunnels beneath the soil surface.
Pocket gophers are burrowing rodents so named because they have fur-lined pouches outside of the mouth, one on each side of the face. These pockets, which are capable of being turned inside out, are used for carrying food. Pocket gophers are medium-size rodents ranging from about 5 to nearly 14 inches long (head and body). Their fur is very fine and soft. Colors range from nearly black to light brown to almost white.
Gophers are extremely well adapted and built for an underground existence. They are powerfully built in the forequarters and have a short neck; the head is small and flattened. The forepaws contain large claws. Gophers have small external ears, small eyes, and lips that close behind their large incisors.
Pocket gophers dig burrows in lawns and gardens, pushing the soil from the burrows into mounds on the surface. These mounds are characteristic in that they are built in the shape of a horse shoe around the burrow opening (note: moles construct volcano-shaped mounds).
Their underground burrows may be several hundred feet in length ranging in depth from a few inches to several feet. Gophers are solitary animals except when breeding or rearing young. They are active year round, but are the most visibly active in the spring and fall when the soil is of the ideal moisture content for digging. Cwt roots are usually stored in small chambers within the burrow.
The biology of pocket gophers varies slightly according to the particular species. In the northern part of their range they have one litter per year. In the southern portion they may have two litters per year. The average litter size is three to four young. In late summer and early fall, young gophers disperse from the family unit to establish their own burrows and territories.
For small numbers of pocket gophers, control can be accomplished with the use of traps. Several types of gopher traps are available. The most commonly used traps include Victor Easy Set gopher trap, and the squeeze-type box trap. Both of these types of traps work by the gopher pushing dirt against a flat vertical pan or seizing bait attached to a trigger.
The key to effective gopher trapping is to properly locate main tunnels and then correctly place the traps within the tunnels. Traps are most effective when they are placed in pairs in opposite directions in main tunnels as they will intercept gophers coming from either direction. In addition to the main tunnel traps, traps can also be placed in the lateral tunnels leading to mounds.
Main runways can be located by probing with a sharp stick or rod one or two feet away from a mound opposite the burrow plug. Once the tunnel is located, it should be opened with a trowel or shovel to allow for the placement of traps. The traps should be worked back and forth in the tunnel to loosen the earth. After setting the traps, it is important to exclude light and air currents by covering the opening with grass clods, cardboard, or some other material. All traps should be wired to stakes to allow for safe and easy trap/carcass recovery as well as to prevent predators from removing the traps. Traps should be checked once or twice daily. If a trap falls to catch a gopher within 3-4 days, it should be moved to a new location.
Trapping can be done any time of the year (as long as the ground is soft enough to permit digging), but spring is overall the best time to trap as this is when gopher activity is high and the ground is easy to work. Moreover, trapping in the early part of the year will help to maintain population levels by eliminating breeding females.
After removal of any trapped gophers, it is wise (if it does not pose any hazard to children or pets) to leave a few traps set in the burrows for a week or two because new invading gophers often explore vacated burrows before constructing completely new burrow systems.
Poison baits can also be used to control pocket gophers. Baits can be placed directly into the burrows by using a special hand-operated bait dispenser probe, or, in the cases of minor infestations, the bait can be placed directly by hand by making an opening into a main burrow using a probe and then hand-placing the ball. Baits should be placed well into the tunnels at 3 or 4 different places. All openings into balled tunnels should be closed up with clumps of sod or soil. Baits which are accepted by gophers are usually eaten within a week after their placement.
Various fumigants are registered for burrowing rodents. In general, most fumigants are not very effective because the burrow system of pocket gophers may be too extensive to permit an effective level of toxic gas to be distributed. Moreover, gophers are capable of detecting poisonous gases and quickly plug off portions of the burrows to exclude the gases. Fumigants are usually restricted use and not available for purchase or sale to the general public. The Giant Destroyer Super Gasser Smoke Bomb is a good alternative, and works by dispursing smoke throughout the tunnel system. It normally does not kill the critter, but chases them out. What you do with them once they exit the tunnels is up to you.
Many dollars are wasted on slick looking ultrasound stakes and devices that "claim" to kill moles or drive them away. The bottom line without a lot of discussion is that they don't work. Period. Ultrasound waves cannot kill rodents, and will have no impact on them.
Ultrasound or sonic wave producing machines are simply not effective for control of moles or gophers, although many are available on the market. For this reason, ePestSupply does not sell or offer any Ultrasound device for mole or gopher control. We want you to be happy with your purchase from us and feel that selling you something that is not "professionally accepted" and proven to not work in University Tests is a disservice. We simply will not sell something that will not work.
Poisonous plants (Euphorbia lathyris) have not proven to be of any value and do not work to control moles.
If you are seeking additional information you are encouraged to contact local county extension agents for assistance.
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