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It is often the gardener who does more damage to his (or her) garden than the mole. Sometimes he will flatten the molehills with the back of a spade and create unsightly bare patches of soil.
If however he scoops up each molehill soon after it appears, with the spade, he will find that most of the grass underneath is intact. If some of the turf has been pushed up, it can be pushed back down. If there is a small hole through which the soil has been pushed up, this can be filled with a little soil that will soon grass over.
The molehills are created when the mole is digging tunnels, and he (or she) is digging the tunnels for earthworms to enter. They are his main source of food. When he has dug enough tunnels to provide him with sufficient food, he should stop digging tunnels and creating molehills. For most of the time, the gardener will be unaware of the mole's existence.
Occasionally the mole might need to repair a tunnel and push up another molehill, but it will not take long for the gardener to scoop up the molehill and reveal the grass underneath.
If the gardener flattens the molehills with a spade, or inserts sticks or traps into the molehills or the tunnels, he will damage the tunnels. The mole will have to dig more tunnels to repair or replace them, and so create more molehills. A vicious circle develops.
If the mole is caught in a trap, the tunnel system will remain, and it is likely that it will be found by another mole who will use it as his own. The gardener is back where he started.
Dr Kenneth Mellanby CBE (1908–1993) advocated the method of learning to live with the mole in his book 'The Mole', published by William Collins in 1971. Dr Mellanby was an ecologist and entomologist, and the first Director of Monks Wood Experimental Station, near Huntingdon.
Dr Mellanby says in his book that if the soil is rich in earthworms, a large enough system of runs to collect food will soon be constructed, and then the production of molehills will, at least temporarily, cease. Some individuals, he says, are fortunate enough to find an unoccupied burrow in their youth and may never need to do any more digging than to repair and maintain the system. He adds that in clay soils a settled population is often there without the householder knowing.
28 October 2007
I've just found on your website a letter I wrote to BBC Farming Today earlier this year. Thank you for giving it publicity on a site that seems to be dominated by Daleks (Exterminate exterminate ).
If moles are messing up your lawn, one way of dealing with it without harming the mole is to lay wire mesh about two inches beneath the surface. This takes about fifteen minutes per square yard. Admittedly only practicable for small lawns, but on big lawns a few molehills don't matter anyway.
Dr Michael Scuffil
Übersetzer/Lektor -- Translator/Editor
12 October 2007
Moles don't they have a right to live?
I have moles in my garden and yes my grass looks unsightly, but I don't want to kill them Why would I? They are burrowing for food to survive! I won't die just because my lawn isn't nice and flat - and I'm sure the moles were there long before I was! I'm going to try humane ways of encouraging them to relocate and if that doesn't work - then I guess I'll have to live with it big deal!
18 August 2007
Molecatching at Woodhouse Eaves, Leicestershire
I would be very grateful if you could help me with information, or provide a telephone/e-mail contact, with a local historian at Woodhouse Eaves/Charnwood Forest, Leicestershire, re the practice of mole catching in the area after the First World War.
My father, Herbert Hampson, was born in 1901 and for one season, I believe some time between 1919 and 1922, worked as a professional molecatcher in Charnwood Forest. He went for a job at the local labour exchange at Belper, Derbyshire, and was offered one of two posts: butler/groom at a local big house, or molecatcher in Charnwood Forest. Being a countryman, he chose the latter.
He told me that he was employed by a man whose son was working as a molecatcher at Peak Forest, North Derbyshire. At that time, mole-skin trousers and waistcoats were very much in fashion, and a single pelt could fetch the premium price of 2s. 6d. (12.5p).
My father's employer arranged for him to be billeted at a farmhouse somewhere near Woodhouse Eaves. He had a photograph of himself stood outside the farmhouse front door with a double-barrelled shotgun under his arm, and wearing britches and leggings. Sadly this picture has disappeared. But I do remember the door was overshadowed by ivy growing densely across the wall.
My father approached local farmers and offered his services to clear their land of moles. From what he said, there appeared to be heavy infestations in the area. As well as keeping all the moles caught for the valuable pelts, he charged the farmers 2d. per mole killed.
He was still using his old traps nearly 40 years later to catch moles in our garden. They were the traditional semi-circular wooden barrel design with curved wire spring triggered by a small forked peg. I remember he had the professional's disdain for placing the trap in the mole hill, insisting that it must be placed some distance away in the "run."
While in Charnwood Forest he came across an abandoned quarry from which very hard stone for the making of wet stones for sharpening knives, chisels etc. had been produced. I think this was called Mount Sorrel stone, after the location in the Forest.
He only worked one season (presumably summer time?) as a mole catcher. He then became apprenticed as a motor mechanic. I suspect that one reason he did not continue to trap moles was that the price for the pelts declined as natural mole skin clothes went out of fashion.
I would be very grateful if you could suggest any way that I might be able to identify the farmhouse at Woodhouse Eaves, and trace descendants of the farmers my father may have worked for or locals he may have met.
28 May 2007
Barrel traps working well
I set 5 scissor and 5 barrel traps last Thursday. The barrel traps caught 6 moles in three days. So far the scissor traps haven't caught any. Very impressed with the barrel. Easier to set than some scissor traps I've had in the past. The barrel part makes it easier to cover the hole without soil falling in. Highly recommended.
31 March 2007
Some interesting reading here! I am just about to join the fray, having bought 10 acres of mole infested grassland. The battle is on, just bought 6 very basic looking metal mole traps and set them today. Just thought I would mention though that talking to my other half about the problem he just remembered that his dad used to connect a pipe up to an exhaust source such as a rotavator or car and gas them. He seems to think that this was successful as his dad continued to use the method over the years. I may try it myself if I turn out to be a useless trapper! Pity we can't sell the skins! I could do with the income!
P.S. (3 April 2007) Just to let you know I've caught two so far! Is this beginner's luck or does anyone want tips! If I have any more success I'm going into business to save up for my worm farm. Should I charge per mole?
15 January 2007
I live in Oxfordshire England and have just caught a white mole.
See photographs of an albino mole.
11 December 2006
My name is Sam Rogers – I am working for RDF West in Bristol, on a new series for BBC3 – that looks at the lives of people under the stress of being infested with pests, whether that be a cockroach, rat or mouse infestation. We are looking at some more left-field areas – one of those areas is a mole problem.
If any of you out there would like to feature in our BBC3 series and put an end to your mole problem, please get in touch with me ASAP.
3 November 2006
The mole exploder works a treat, I blew one up just before I left and on inspecting the trap on my return I had 'tauped' another. Usually this time of the year after 10 days away I return to 40/50 mole hills this time none! Hurrah! This device is apparently illegal in the UK, why? It is no more powerful than a firework?
See Richard Knott's message of 28 October 2006.
28 October 2006
Geoff Smith, all is not lost! I appear to have found something that works against the moles. I too have suffered the same consequences of owning an oasis surrounded by farmland in France. I have tried all of your remedies and even resorted to watering a section of lawn to finally dig one blighter out. The garden fork is too labour intensive and quite destructive, my tally is only seven dug out in two years.
Whilst shopping in Mr. Bricolage in Limoges the other day I saw an explosive trap for moles. I had tried one before without great success. This product however differed and came with the boast "money back in 30 days if not satisfied." It was around 60 Euros so this boast was the deciding factor of the proposed purchase. The device consists of a switch connected to batteries which is on a spike and is placed next to the hole entrance. The mound is cleared away and the hole opened by pushing your finger in. An explosive cartridge is pushed into the hole and connected to the switch. A plunger type rod is poked a little way into the open hole and then attached to the switch arm.
It is a fact that when Mr./Mrs. Mole finds the hole is open he/she pushes some more earth up to close it. This pushes the plunger up which connects the switch, sends the current to the charge and sets off the explosive. The makers state that if on inspection the charge has gone off and the earth was pushed up then the mole is dead. Recently I had been suffering 6-9 mole hills per night, after setting and having inspected the trap and found that it had indeed been set off guess what no mole hills that morning! I left it set over a raised run with a double charge one either side of a section that I had trodden down leaving the plunger and switch set above it.
That was last week, I am returning to the house on the 3rd November and will keep you posted. The device is well made and with a bit of WD40 on the electrics should last OK. I think this could be the long term solution.
Geoff Smith sent a message to the Moles and Molecatchers Guest Book on 2 October 2006.
26 October 2006
Mole Control DVD
I operate a nuisance wildlife control business in the US, and would be interested in purchasing one of the DVDs. I find it helpful to learn about the methods used by different trappers, as it is often helpful to learn the tips and tricks used by them. If you could let me know the cost for the DVD plus shipping, and possible payment methods. Thanks for any assistance.
2 October 2006
Don't know if anyone can help. We have a Cottage in Brittany France not far from the Ferryport at Roscoff. We have with the Cottage a Garden and Lawn which is now ruined plus a small field with a few trees which is (was) grassed and now unfortunately resembles a Lunar Landscape. We are surrounded by Farmed Fields so our little plot is like an Oasis for Moles, they have completely destroyed our Garden and Field. The Boundary is in the Main an Earth Bank in which we are told the Moles nest.
I have tried all Known Methods apart from the Exploding Cartridge :-
Plus many others that I forget.
I have even stood for hours with fork in hand to stab them. Now either as the wife says I am totally useless at Mole Catching or the French Moles are too Damned Clever for me (perhaps both). Needless to say this has been going on for several years. Can someone have pity on a guy going out of his mind.
29 September 2006
A wonderful, entertaining and informative website. Congratulations for all the hard work.
23 September 2006
Fifth Generation Molecatcher
Thank you for your inclusion of my grandfather Arthur Randell's book "Fenland Molecatcher". Although living now in the USA I still use the skills taught to me by my grandfather to good effect in actively catching gophers who cause as much damage as moles.
From 'Fenland Molecatcher' by Arthur Randell, published by Routledge and Kegan Paul in 1970:
I have a small grandson, Fraser Marshall, who lives in Peterborough and who likes nothing better than to come over to Waldersea to be with me whenever possible. He is not seven years old yet but already is very keen on helping me to set traps, and on one Sunday recently he caught his very first mole. I had shown him a good run near a tunnel and he asked if he could put down a trap on his own. I showed him just where to set it and then watched him cut out a piece of soil, lay the trap and cover it with moulds to prevent any light or air getting in. About half an hour later he came running up to me with the trap and a mole inside it, shouting excitedly as he ran, 'I got him! I got him!'
It was as proud a moment for me as it was for him, and it took me back to the day when I caught my own first mole more than sixty years ago.
11 September 2006
The little blighter(s)
On returning from a 2 week holiday initially I thought my dog had destroyed part of the lawn - no mole hills but the turf severely displaced and soil everywhere. However last night I saw the earth moving and quickly realised that it must be a mole as I could actually see the path/tunnel being dug.
I am not sure if it appeared above ground or not but I had several attempts in spearing it with my garden fork as it was clearly close to the surface.
All attempts have failed - is this method worth pursuing? I am thinking of heavily watering the area concerned to get faster, deeper and more deadly penetration with said fork
Any advice gratefully received.
The half-barrel trap seems to be the most effective and humane means of trapping moles. Some garden centres sell them.
23 August 2006
I am not trying to be funny. How does a male mole and a female mole find each other when they are ready to mate? Sure, a person can say it is in their DNA or their instinct but that is no answer. A mole seems to spend almost all its life underground and it is blind. What does the female do when she is ready and how does the male actually know that? Moles are a successful species so evolution must have solved the problem, but again that is no answer. Do they live together underground and if they do how do they find each other in the first place? Or do they live alone then go out to find each other? Or does the female put out a scent from underground that the male detects from underground so that he tunnels toward her until they find each other mate then go about their lives? Or is it known? If not then some doctor of molology ought to study it.
I am a 76 year old man and interested in many things. My main present interest is in shrews but moles have come to my attention, too.
William B. Keith
The mole normally lives a solitary life. At the end of February and beginning of March the males and females develop physically. The male will travel a considerable distance to find a female, which will accept a male mole's advances for about twenty-four hours. After mating, the male searches for another female, and after the short mating season, the moles return to their usual territorial behaviour.
25 May 2006
Hanging Moles on Fences
Hello from Ontario Canada! I found a photograph today of a farmer's fence in Cumbria which was covered with little mole carcasses. Is this a common occurrence, and if so, what is the tradition behind it? Are the pelts being dried or just displayed?
Molecatchers have nearly always been paid according to the number of moles they catch. They hang up the moles to show how many they have caught and how much they should be paid.
14 April 2006
Have been wearing out my eyeballs looking for the "English Scissor Mole Trap". The one site lists them, but is not selling them at this time due to inferior quality of the Chinese makes which have proven unsatisfactory. Just can't locate a site to purchase two good ones for shipment to USA. Can you advise me of some other source?
The Trap Man (http://trapman.co.uk/) sells mole traps.
13 April 2006
Mole or Pocket Gopher?
Hello, I enjoyed your site. I found it looking for a remedy to my mole problem, if a mole problem it is. I'm in southern California where I have a small garden orchard. Because it's dry I must irrigate and moisture under the trees attracts the diggers. My cherry tree is nearly circled with holes.
I have seen a mole here but also have seen a pocket gopher. I don't know which one is attacking me. Any advice how to identify and what to try?
There are some traps which are used for both moles and gophers. Watering the trees will have attracted the worms and the worms will have attracted the mole or moles.
6 February 2006
I have been told of an effective way to get rid of moles in France. It is a battery operated machine which you push into the hole in a mole hill. When the mole comes to mend the damaged hill and touches a wire hanging into the hole it explodes and thereby kills the mole. Any idea what this is called in France, and who makes it and where it can be purchased?
It is understandable that someone might wish to take revenge in such a dramatic way, but the French Mole Blaster is illegal in the United Kingdom.
29 January 2006
What is the best way to stop this little darling from ruining my patch of flowers and bulbs? I have seen your website but I still don't know what the best way is to do it. Every morning is a nightmare as still more of those hills appear on the border. Please help me.
As you suggest, the culprit is probably just one mole. The most effective way to remove it would probably be to contact your local molecatcher.
13 January 2006
Hi there, just had a good look at your very interesting site. In my spare time I catch moles on my own land and for local farmers. I use the scissor-type trap which I have found very successful. To date I have caught over 200 moles (lost count after 135-ish).
In early December I caught an albino mole on my land which is currently being 'stuffed' which will take pride of place on the mantelpiece.
I am currently looking for a good quality scissor trap as recently I have had ten break due to the springs (metal strip type) failing. Any advice on who manufactures them would be appreciated.
All the best,
See photographs of an albino mole.
6 January 2006
I have an ongoing problem with moles, due to having a large garden next to agricultural grazing land.
I have had some success with a four-prong garden fork, this is more being in the right place at the right time. It seems to be a bigger problem in autumn and winter.
If you see the molehill moving, obviously the mole is directly below. You creep up very quietly and I mean very quietly or the mole will hear you and push off, sharply push the fork into the hill using one foot to push it down (don't just thrust it in as you may hit your foot), tip the fork back to reveal whether or not you have been successful.
You will miss sometimes but if you get the mole, death is instant and in my opinion as humane as any trap.
24 November 2005
My cat has just brought in a tiny mole. I got it off him but don’t know what to do with it. I’ve got it in a small box at the moment on a sock. Please get back to me as soon as possible.
The mole should be returned to the soil as soon as possible. It needed to feed and would not survive long without food. It should be returned to where it was taken from. Anywhere else might be another mole’s area, where it would die from attack, or an area where there was not enough food for it to survive. Diana Seaton followed this advice and returned the mole to the soil, although she wasn't sure where it had come from.
2 September 2005
Explosive French Mole Catchers
Hi, I am plagued by moles and my young daughter and myself have had many sprained ankles from mole holes. A programme on television the other evening showed an Englishman living in France using some sort of explosive device to get rid of the moles. I have tried everything on the market from traps to noise repellants, to simple things like using chilli pepper to fence paint in the holes, but to no avail. Are these explosive devices available in the U.K. or is there an Internet site where they could be purchased? Please help.
The mole or moles are obviously troublesome and persistent. However the use of explosives is not legal in the U.K., nor humane.
13 August 2005
Just heard about your exploits and lifestyle change on the programme this morning. Have caught a few moles in the garden in the past. Reckon you need between three and five traps to catch one mole, or perhaps I am still an amateur!
This message refers to Brian Alderton, whose story was told on the BBC Radio 4 programme 'Home Truths' on Saturday 13 August 2005.
2 April 2005
Hi, I came across your Molecatcher page and found it fascinating. My great-great-grandfather, Levi Kisby, was a molecatcher in north Cambridgeshire at the end of the nineteenth century. He drowned while catching plovers in October 1914 - I assume (from the information on your page) that because this was not the molecatching season he may have been diversifying!!!
And yes, I agree that 'molecatcher' was a nice change to the usual 'ag lab', haha.
30 January 2005
Came across your site - thought it was very interesting. I am a moletrapper in Cleveland Ohio USA and always enjoy learning more about my fellow trappers.
2 January 2005
The moles seem to have forgiven us for some of the harsh things the Dumville ancestors did to them. In fact they have acknowledged the more benign attitude of the present generation in a most satisfying way.
We have two big compost containers at the bottom of the garden, which turn our kitchen and garden waste into splendid rich compost for the flower beds. I emptied one of them a few weeks ago, spread its contents on the garden and began to fill the second one.
Imagine my surprise when I looked in the empty one a day or two later and found that someone had given us a sizeable contribution of rich brown compost a foot or two deep, neatly compressed at the bottom. It couldn't have come from David our gardener or a neighbour. None of them had been near the containers for weeks.
And then the penny dropped. Our compost containers are situated on top of an ancient compost pit which we inherited when we bought the house. I stopped using it a few years ago when I found it difficult to climb down three or four feet to dig out its contents each year.
The old compost pit is obviously Mole Heaven now, full of juicy worms which thrive on both old and new compost - and provide a rich harvest for our mole benefactor. I still don't know, though, how he managed to produce such a tidy offering.
14 December 2004
Just trawling the net in search of a company that can supply me worms in quantity for the purpose of strychnine treatments. Any info would be a great help.
Mixing worms with strychnine and placing them in the mole runs causes a cruel and painful death. The mole suffers a fierce convulsion and dies by haemorrhages in the lungs which lead to asphyxia. The strychnine can also poison birds and other animals. A correctly-used trap is more humane.
Farncombe Boat House
7 November 2004
How deep do they go?
I live on a long thin slice of land approximately 40-50 metres wide, effectively a long thin island with the river on one side and canal on the other. It is cut in half by a fairly busy rat run road and recently some disused buildings have been pulled down and a large building project has been started.
Would it be fair to assume that my sudden mole invasion may have been caused by the huge amount of excavating and deep footings that are being created by the developers? How deep do the "little devils" dig? I'm assuming they go under the river as I haven't seen any taking alternative methods... perhaps meeting up with "Ratty" for a jolly boating trip! (I run a boathouse hiring out rowboats, punts and canoes, and holiday narrowboats. We have a tea room and yes ... we HAD a tealawn up until the invasion.) It's all far too "Wind in the Willows" now!
24 May 2004
Research into moles
During the course of my investigation of my family history, I also did quite a study of moles and the history and superstitions surrounding molecatching. Very few people have actually seen a mole as it is very rare for them to come out on to the surface. Their life history is unique. For instance, they are anti-social. Each mole lives in its own set of tunnels and if it met another mole there would almost certainly be a fight. If two captured moles are put in a cage one will eat the other. Their hearing, smell and eyesight are probably not very good but the whiskers on the nose are very sensitive and are used for guidance.
Many superstitions are associated with moles. One is if molehills encircle a house then a death will occur. If a person has a purse with a mole's tail as a tassle, then he will have good luck, and there are many more. Strychnine has begun to supersede the old fashioned trap as a method of molecatching but care must be taken as it is a dangerous chemical. It is usually injected into worms and placed in the tunnels, but care must be taken that no animals come into contact with it. The European mole, talpa europea, is found nearly everywhere in Europe, but is notably missing from some countries: Ireland, Norway, Spain, Italy, parts of Yugoslavia and the Mediterranean Islands. Surprisingly it can be found on some of the smallest Scottish Islands.
Molecatchers are a dying breed but their work is now usually done by pest control firms who combine it with rat, mice and other animal removals. The town council will usually do it for you, at a price. The days are gone when every village had its molecatcher, a respected member of the community.
25 December 2003
I am in France where we have no literature about moles and mole catching (however we have moles in our parks and gardens). Please let me know what book to buy to learn about moles and mole catching so that I know what trap to use and the best way to install it in mole tunnel.
Many thanks in advance.