Moles and gophers can cause significant damage to your lawn. If you spot mounds or tunnels in the ground, you’ll want to identify which pest created them so you can address the problem.
This guide will show how to get rid of moles and gophers in your yard before they do extensive damage.
How to Identify Moles
Moles are solitary, insect-eating animals that live underground and rarely come to the surface, usually only to find a mate. They burrow a foot deep into the soil, using their front paws to dig a network of underground tunnels.
How can you identify a mole? They are around seven inches long with pointed muzzles, tiny eyes and hairless snouts. Their eyes and ear canals are concealed by fur, and they don't have external ears. Their forefeet are very large and broad with webbed toes, but their hind feet are narrow with slender claws.
In their natural environment or in large, open rural areas, moles do not cause significant damage. It’s only when they make their way into your lawn and garden that they become a problem. Moles naturally aerate soil and eat the larvae of destructive insects. However, in your yard, they'll also destroy plant roots, bulbs and grass. The tell-tale sign that you have a mole infestation is not seeing the mole itself, but the presence of small, volcano-shaped mounds and raised ridges of dirt in your yard.
How to Identify Gophers
Gophers are herbivore rodents with four large incisor teeth. They’re larger than mice, but smaller than rats. While they’re often mistaken for moles, they don't have spade-like front paws as moles do. They form crescent-shaped mounds and plug the holes they use to enter and exit the ground. Gophers destroy everything from hydrangeas to trees by eating the plants’ roots. They also eat vegetables, especially carrots and potatoes. Unfortunately, they can also damage water lines and irrigation systems when digging.
Home Remedies to Get Rid of Moles and Gophers
The only way to get rid of moles and gophers is to remove them from your lawn. Sometimes this can mean trapping and killing them with mole and gopher bait, but this should be a last resort. Other, humane home remedies can help get rid of moles and gophers in your yard. However, the best way to get rid of these animals is to deter them from setting up in your lawn in the first place.
Eliminate The Food Source for Moles
Moles feed on soil-dwelling insects, especially grubs. You can eliminate this food source by using beneficial nematodes and milky spore to kill the grubs in your soil. The application of milky spore may take several seasons to become effective.
You can also use a more aggressive grub killer, such as an insecticide. Without food, moles will move on. However, this method is only partially effective. The moles eat earthworms along with other types of worms and insects. They may choose to feast on these instead of leaving your yard. Carefully follow the directions on any products you use.
Gophers eat vegetation, so grub killers will not get rid of them.
Use Repellents to Deter Moles and Gophers
Using castor oil is another method for how to get rid of moles and gophers in your yard. Castor oil will not kill them, but it will upset their digestive tracts. It will also make your lawn less appealing. For a homemade remedy, mix three parts castor oil and one part dish soap. Add four tablespoons of the mixture to a gallon of water. Soak the tunnels and entrances to evict the moles and soak the holes to evict gophers. Castor oil is one of the most effective home remedies to get rid of these animals. Skip the moth balls, tea tree oil and cayenne pepper for pest control; they are not effective.
You can also purchase repellent granules or liquid repellents to get rid of gophers and moles. Most granules can be applied directly from the bag or from a spreader. Read your product label and follow the instructions.
To use a liquid repellent, hook your garden hose onto the bottle and spray it into the tunnels or holes as the label directs. Liquid repellents usually contain castor oil and other ingredients that are absorbed into the soil. The tunnels and holes will become less appealing to the animals and make their food sources distasteful, so they’ll leave. These repellents typically last for several weeks. Most are safe to use around pets and on your lawn but, be safe, and read your product label to confirm.
Planting and Using Barriers to Deter Moles or Gophers
Certain kinds of plants in your yard can help deter moles. Moles dislike the smells from plants like daffodils, marigolds and anything from the allium family. This kind of plant barrier is typically safe for children and pets, plus it makes a lovely colorful addition to your yard.
To deter gophers, plant in raised beds. You can also make “gopher baskets” from netted material and put bulbs or young plants in them. This will allow the bulbs and plants to grow while keeping the gophers out.
Ready-made gopher and mole barriers are also available in the form of baskets that can be placed around plants to protect them from being eaten.
Dig a Trench and Line It
Controlling moles and gophers where they dig is a big part of getting rid of them. For moles, dig a trench roughly 6 inches wide and 2 feet deep. Then, fill the trench with rock or line it with wire mesh or hardware cloth that has holes no bigger than 3/4 inches wide. This will prevent moles from burrowing into your lawn or garden.
Deter gophers by digging a trench around your flower bed or vegetable garden and burying a wire mesh screen or hardware cloth in it. Again, make sure the holes in the wire mesh or hardware cloth are no bigger than 3/4 inches wide.
Scare Moles and Gophers Away
Getting rid of moles and gophers can be a hassle. However, they don’t like to live in areas where they are disturbed. A sonic spike inserted into the ground uses electronic pulses to create irritating sounds to drive these pests away. There are multiple ultrasonic pest control options to choose from.
Some pets will chase gophers away if the gophers see or hear them. Even the scent of a dog or cat’s fur or urine may drive a gopher away. However, gophers can carry fleas or ticks that transmit diseases, so check your pet carefully if it comes across a gopher and remove or treat for any parasites, following your veterinarian's instructions.
If you don’t own a pet, consider applying a predator scent to your yard, such as coyote urine. This is yet another humane way to drive the pests away, possibly for months. Read and follow the label directions before using the scent.
Trap and Release
Trapping and releasing moles is another way to control them in your lawn. First, make sure the mole tunnel is active by flattening the run, marking it and checking back in a day or two to see if the tunnel is raised again. If it is, set a mole trap nearby, preferably in early spring or fall, when moles are most active, or when you first notice the tunnels. Follow the product directions for the safe operation of the trap. Some humane traps will catch moles but not kill them. To use a humane trap, wear gloves and safety glasses and release the moles into a rural area at least five miles from your home.
To use a gopher trap, follow the directions to safely operate and set up the device. Bait it with fruits, plant roots or vegetables. Put the trap near the gopher entrance and place it inside. Disguise the trap with some dirt and check regularly to see if you’ve caught a gopher. Most gopher traps will kill the animals.
More Ways to Get Rid of Moles and Gophers
If other methods fail, you may opt for the most aggressive approach. The most effective way to control moles and gophers is with traps or poisons that result in the death of the creatures. If you use poisons or chemicals, be sure to follow the product directions carefully and keep pets and children at a safe distance. Chemical repellents and poisons are hazardous to pets and children in and around the treated area.
Moles and gophers can damage your lawn and garden. Control them humanely by eliminating their food source, spraying with liquid repellents, scattering repellent granules, using barriers and/or digging trenches lined with wire mesh or hardware cloth. Other humane ways to get rid of moles and gophers include using sonic devices and traps that allow you to catch and release the animals away from your home. Used as a last resort, poisons or chemicals will kill moles and gophers, although you must follow product directions carefully and avoid using them around pets and children.
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