The UK mole population is estimated to be around 40 million, having experienced a boom in population following the foot and mouth outbreak when the mole catcher was unable to access agricultural properties to control them.
Moles predominately live in tunnels which they have excavated, rarely venturing onto the surface. Areas of multiple mole hills normally indicate their feeding grounds. The main food for moles is earth worms and grubs such as leather jackets, which fall into the tunnels the mole has created; the mole then travels the tunnels eating them as they go. It is thought that each mole requires around 200m of tunnel network to provide enough food to survive.
Moles typically breed in spring time which is usually indicated by an increase in mole hills. During their breeding season the male mole will venture into other territories emitting high pitch squeals looking for a mate. The gestation period of moles is normally between 4-6 weeks with each mole giving birth to between 2-6 pups.
Why control moles?
From a gardeners perspective, mole hills are unsightly and cause damage to garden equipment such as lawn mowers. Although their presence indicates excellent soil quality, undoubtedly helped by a large number of earth worms, they are not welcomed due to the mess they create. These small elusive creatures are well regarded for driving devout gardeners to despair with attempts to prevent damage.
From an agricultural perspective the consequences of having moles is a lot more serious. The mole hills caused by the excavation of feeding chambers contain bacteria called listeria. Listeriosis, caused by the listeria bacteria, is a disease which affects sheep, cattle and many other animals. Farmers cut grass to make hay & silage which they use in winter to feed sheep and cattle. If mole hills are present at the time of silage making, and soil from the mole hills is picked up and mixed with the grass, providing conditions are right, the bacteria can multiply within the silage over time and cause problems such as abortion of lambs, many sheep die each year from Listeriosis.
During the many years I have lived and worked in the countryside I have heard of many old wives tales for dealing with this creature. Remedies such as mole repellers and putting various chemicals in mole runs including bleach, Jeyes fluid and diesel, through to the extremely dangerous practice of pouring petrol into the runs and setting it alight. Do these remedies work? From experience the answer to that is no. What you will succeed in doing though is alerting the mole to potential danger making them harder to catch.
There are two main methods of controlling moles used in the UK, the use of traps and the use of the poisonous gas aluminium phosphide. Some pest control companies will use gas to control these animals, however I believe the most effective way of controlling these animals and the safest for the environment is the use of correctly positioned mole traps.
As a mole catcher I use three main types of trap depending on the task in hand. I use a state of the art GPS unit which allows me to mark the exact location of the traps before they are hidden from view. This minimises the risk of unwanted attention and allows gardeners to continue mowing their lawns etc. Following the successful removal of your mole problem the trap sites are filled in and the area left as it was found.