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Pest Control/Tunnels with no mounds

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Hole
Hole  
We live in north Texas, and I've found some soft spots near driveway that would indicate subterranean tunnels, and I have found an occasional pushed up short tunnel in various areas around the yard right under the surface.  I have not found any mounds though.  I will occasionally find a smooth hole with no mound.  From what I've read, gophers and moles leave mounds and voles leave just a hole, but there are no visible paths or trails in the lawn from voles or mice.  There are also numerous soft spots and pushed up areas along areas of the privacy fence. What in the world is causing this damage?  Some evidence of moles and some evidence of voles, but nothing definitive.  I've included a photo of a small hole found near the fence.  I only noticed the soft spots after we received some rain yesterday.  Thanks in advance for any help.

Answer
Moles don't always mound. Mounds are the result of deep tunnels because they have to manually bring the soil to the surface. Pocket gophers ALWAYS leave mounds.

You didn't give any measurements of the hole. Details on hole identification can be found at the first link of the following information. You haven't mentioned any ground squirrels or rats but I would be sure you can rule them out.

Getting rid of moles

Before anything make sure the problem you are complaining of is moles and not pocket gophers or voles.  If unsure visit http://icwdm.org/Inspection/Outdoor.aspx for tips on identifying the damage.

If voles visit  http://www.ianrpubs.unl.edu/sendIt/g887.pdf   
If pocket gophers visit http://www.ianrpubs.unl.edu/sendIt/g1509.pdf  
If moles visit http://www.ianrpubs.unl.edu/sendIt/g1538.pdf  

Moles eat insects and worms. Their damage to plants is inadvertent and only occurs if they separate the roots of the plant from the surrounding soil. They donít eat a significant amount of plant material. However, voles eat plants and will work above and below ground. Voles donít make soil mounds but can dig small dime sized holes that disappear under the soil (this is true of the Pine Vole). Pocket gophers eat plants and make numerous boils on the surface of the ground and live primarily in the Midwest to the west in N. America. Moles are twice the size of mice and rarely if ever come to the surface. Voles are the size of mice. Voles will use a tunnel dug by a mole. Make sure you know what the problem is. By the way, if you have moles you donít have many of them. On average, you will have 3 to 4 moles per acre. But remember they can dig 100 feet per day depending on soil conditions.

First, don't bother with chewing gum, thumpers, crushed glass, kitty litter, sonic devices, mothballs etc. There is little to no concrete evidence that they work. Gas bombs tend not to work because the tunnels are too long and the moles are too fast. It is like trying to push smoke through a 30 foot straw, very hard (mole tunnel networks are much larger than 30 feet). People who think they work often don't know that during dry periods moles move deep into the soil so they won't provide visible damage until rain or watering of the lawn. If you aren't sure if the tunnels are still being used, roll down the tunnels and wait to see if they reappear. The piles of dirt are indicative of deep tunnels as opposed to surface tunnels. You need to trap these with scissor traps or No-mole traps next spring after the ground softens. Surface tunnels can be trapped with harpoon, scissor, Nash or Nomol traps. Traps can be obtained at various vendors. Again you can find them at http://icwdm.org . Some people suggest that pets be used to control moles, I have my doubts. Certainly cats and dogs kill some but I question they would ever be efficient enough to satisfy the landowner.

Grub control can work provided that there isnít enough alternative food to justify the moleís energy expenditure.  Remember, moles eat worms and other insects. So donít be surprised if you have a grub free lawn and still have moles.

There is a new pesticide on the market called Kaput but there are questions concerning its efficacy. By that it is meant that some would like to see dead moles autopsied to determine if they were killed by the poison. The only registered repellent on the market is called Mole-Med It essentially uses Castor bean oil to allegedly drive the mole away. The evidence for this product is also debated.  I don't know if castor oil kills worms which are the primary food source for moles. There is no scientific evidence that any plant, chewing gum or thumping device will keep moles away.  Talpirid by Bell Labs is another story. I understand it is a general use pesticide so individuals may be able to use the product on their own land. Early user reports appear promising. The one downside of Talpirid is the gummy worm look makes it attractive to kids who may decide to eat it. Also the label requires that one returns to the placement site after several days and remove worms not eaten.

Nevertheless, I am a firm believer in trapping unfortunately, several states have banned the traps that work such as WA, and MA.  2. Use proper equipment such as harpoon, Nash or scissors traps or Nomolģ traps. Traps cause minimal damage to your lawn and certainly not as much as a mole will. Nevertheless if you are worried about the traps damaging your lawn use harpoon traps. All the damage they do is poke holes into the grass. Nomol traps are the safest if you worry about pets etc. Third, get proper training, visit http://icwdm.org .  Many people mistakenly think that trapping is not effective because they tried it and it didn't work. What those cynics need to realize is that the trap is only as good as the trapper who uses it. Training and proper instruction is critical to success. Learn mole biology. The primary diet for moles is NOT grubs (although moles eat them, grubs are not their primary food. Their primary diet is earthworms. So even if you get rid of grubs you may still have moles who are seeking worms. Can removal of grubs work? Yes if you don't have enough worms to justify the mole's digging. However, I have heard that grubs are becoming resistant to some of the pesticides and/or that homeowners are not following the directions of the poison.  You can see my bias against unnecessary poisons. If you choose to use poisons contact your local garden supply. They should know what is effective in your area. The beauty of trapping is that it works, is safe and is poison free. As for prevention, the only thing guaranteed to work is to pave your lawn which is certainly not cost effective or environmentally sound. Finally, make sure trapping is legal in your state. Unfortunately, states like Washington and Massachusetts have listened to animal rights protest industry groups and banned mole trapping through the ballot box.

We are always looking for images (if you can safely take them) of wildlife damage to help us in our educational mission. To learn how to take good pictures visit http://www.icwdm.org/Photos/shootingphotos.aspx    We prefer high resolution, (3 mg or higher). Send to svantassel2@unl.edu  

Please include permission to use the images and where and when the photos were taken. Month/year is fine as is county or city and state.

Disclaimer: As with any activity, remember that animal damage control comes with its own risks and problems which can include but are not limited to legalities, health threats, and personal liabilities. Be sure to follow all state laws governing wildlife and make sure you have a thorough understanding on how to resolve the animal damage complaint. My advice is only as good as your understanding of me and my understanding of your situation. If you have any questions be sure to write back

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Stephen Vantassel

Expertise

I was a professional animal damage controller. If you are having problems with squirrels, raccoons, beavers, moles, voles, etc. damaging your property, I can help give you information to resolve that damage. I was an assistant editor for Wildlife Control Technology magazine and have published numerous articles as well as two books in this field.

Experience

Former assistant editor for Wildlife Control Technology; Master's degree in Hebrew Bible (yes I am licensed minister), Past New England Director for the National Wildlife Control Operator's Association. I have published two books, The Wildlife Removal Handbook (rev. ed) and the Wildlife Damage Inspection Handbook, and numerous articles. Perhaps a highlight was making the cover of Wildlife Control Technology. I have debated a noted animal rights activist in my own state of Massachusetts on radio and TV. http://icwdm.org

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