Here’s how to get rid of them
The warm winter has meant more activity from the moles and voles, and our yard is riddled with evidence that they are in full occupation!
These pesky little subterranean critters can wreak havoc on your yard, and chances are, if you have a healthy, happy lawn or garden, these critters will think so too and move right in. Which critter you have can be easily identified by the indicator you’ll see on the surface.
Moles are brown or gray mammals and live almost exclusively underground. You will rarely spot one on the surface, but you will know that you have moles by the mounds of dirt you see piled up all over your yard. While they pose no threat to gardeners, they can destroy a lawn with their mounds.
Since moles eat earthworms and grubs and since they are voracious eaters, their day consists of a never-ending search for food as they dig tunnels on this quest. Some gardeners actually view moles as beneficial since their activity loosens compacted soil and helps control the grub population in the area.
If the tunnels in your yard appear to be raised, you have moles. If they are not, you might have pocket gophers. Close cousins of the moles, you can tell them apart because moles have small teeth and very small eyes. Pocket gophers have very large teeth and eyes that are easy to spot.
Voles are small, mouse-like rodents. You know you have voles by the network of 2-inch-wide tunnels visible from the surface. They do not burrow deeply as moles do, which is why their tunnels are easy to spot. These nocturnal critters feed on plant material such as grasses, vegetables, bulbs, roots and the bark of your trees during winter, which can be devastating to your plants and landscape. They are fond of fruit trees, so if you have an orchard, check it often for signs of these visitors. Voles have a short life span of about 16 months but make up for it by being prolific breeders. They can produce up to 30 offspring annually and will do so in short, three-week intervals.
If you have either of these furry friends in your garden, you’ll want to control them quickly.
Traps are the quickest and surest way to eliminate your guests because you’ll be able to see them in the trap. Before setting traps, be sure that you have located an active tunnel. You can do this by covering the area with loose soil. If it is cleared away within a few days, then you can set your trap. In the case of voles, tamp the tunnels down and then watch to see which ones reemerge within a few days.
Natural predators like cats can be quite effective. Since cats love to hunt and are often proud to show off their prey, populations are often controlled by letting the family pet out to do what they do best. You can also encourage other natural predators such as owls and hawks by providing perching areas right in the middle of your infested field. The birds will love it, and your problems could well disappear quickly.
Repellents also might help move them from your yard. Castor oil is sometimes effective, or you can purchase commercial repellents such as Repels-All. The trick to using repellents is to use them consistently and often, because once the smell is gone, the critters often move back in. Neem oil can work too. Since this organic control works to eliminate the grubs that are their food source, if you get rid of the grubs, you get rid of the moles.
If none of these work, try putting down a barrier. Wire cloth, mesh, chicken wire or fencing can be good deterrents.
Although no one likes to use them, poisons may be necessary as a last resort. Some people have also had success by simply flooding the tunnels with water and sending the message that your yard isn’t a friendly home.
No matter which method you choose to control these unwanted guests, you’ll want to eliminate them quickly to protect your garden and landscaping this spring.
Gail Vanik can be reached at 970-565-8274 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.