There are 42 species of mole around the globe, all insectivores, with 6 species found in North America; and they're all well-known for doing one thing in particular: creating mole hills. Though not a too-common pest, the humble mole has caused many a nuisance problem in back yards and gardens of both residential and commercial premises, and we're regularly called out to properties experiencing mole hills, or other mole-based damage.
It isn't often that you'll actually see moles, because they live underground, mostly move around at night, and do everything in their power to avoid being seen above ground. Instead, what you will see is a lot of evidence that moles are living underground on your property.
If you were to see a mole, you'd see quite an odd-looking character. The common pest moles in the US are:
All of these are dark black/brown/gray in color, have teeny-tiny little eyes that are barely there at all, measuring no more than 8 inches in length, and weighing more than about 6 ounces.
Moles can live for 5 or 6 years or more with the right conditions, but many of them do not last longer than around 2 or 3 years in the wild, for a number of reasons. Disease quite often reduces population numbers, alongside starvation, exposure to the elements, and also conflicts with humans and domestic pets.
Moles can live in a diverse range of habitats, but experts believe that the animal doesn't like mountainous regions all that much, nor does it like soils that have high acidity levels. Apart from that, as long as the animal can happily dig underground, the mole can live pretty much anywhere it wants to.
Common ‘wild' areas for moles to live include areas of sand dunes, in grasslands, in agricultural areas, in forested and treed areas, and more. They are more and more frequently intruding on human land, too. They seem to have a particular love for gardens and back yards of residential housing estates.
Mole tunnel systems underground can be very extensive, with a number of different tunnels and chambers for different purposes. There will be ‘spare' entrance or exit points, food storage chambers, birthing chambers, bathroom chambers, sleeping chambers, and many different others. As you can imagine, these tunnel systems can run for some distance below your feet, not just in terms of spreading out but also in terms of tunnel downwards.
Moles eat earthworms, first and foremost, but they will branch out to other food types if there are no earthworms or similar food types on offer.
Alongside earthworms, moles eat spiders, snails, slugs, other worms, grubs, other small insects, and even smaller mammals and reptiles. They eat a lot, and they also eat frequently. The tunnel systems allow them to move around under the ground with ease, literally tugging worms and other insects from the walls as it runs along.
If you see damage to your plants, particularly plant bulbs, in your back garden, there is a chance that moles are NOT the culprit. They do not eat bulbs, but they can disrupt plants as they move about underneath them.
It is the tunneling and digging that causes so many problems when moles live on the same property as humans. Dangerous holes can form on the ground which can lead horses, dogs, humans, and other animals to fall right in, causing broken bones. In the case of horses, broken leg bones often mean that the animal will need to be put down.
As well as problems with animals, mole hills and mole tunnel, particularly the ridging that can happen besides tunnels, formed when the moles excavate the ground below, can cause problems with machinery, such as agricultural machines and even your simple home lawnmower.
Moles can be quite tricky to get rid of, because they spend so much of their lives hidden underground. It is actually possible for moles to live under human gardens for many months and years before they are discovered, and that is only when the damage is so vast that it is no longer missable.
There are a few preventative measures that you can take to avoid moles causing problems. These including using insecticides to keep insect populations down (food eradication). As you can probably imagine, getting rid of all insects is virtually impossible, but you can use animal-safe, non-toxic insecticides to help reduce numbers.
As well as that, avoid watering your garden or property. Moles cannot moved in heavily packed, dry soil. They prefer soil that is moist and not rocky. Keeping in the same theme, you could consider adding rough rocks or gravel to areas that are vulnerable. This makes the ground difficult to dig and move around in.
Generally, the professionals will trap and remove moles. They aren't easy to repel, physically grab, or otherwise annoy out of the property because they spend so much of their time underground, and also because they usually only move around at night.
With traps placed in the right positions, however, they can be set before nightfall, left to work their magic overnight, and then removed and the critters disposed of the next day. In some cases, it'll take a little longer than one night to arrange the traps in the right places, and also if there is more than one mole to remove. In some cases, where food is heavily available, it's not unusual to find multiple moles using one tunnel system.
1 - Moles are found on every continent on the planet with the exception of South America and Antarctica.
2 - The front paws of moles are curved and shaped like shovels to make it easier for the animal to move around underground.
3 - Moles very rarely come to the surface. They have no reason to, and when they do, it'll be overnight, when they are protected by the cover of darkness. Even then, they are still at risk from overhead predators such as birds of prey and owls.