moles #176182 - Ask Extension

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moles #176182

Asked April 21, 2014, 11:38 AM EDT

Hi-we live on 4.5 acres of land in oregon city. I belive we have either moles or gophers because of the dirt hills all over the yard. Is there an effective, non lethal way to get them to move on? Are they doing damage to the yard or are the beneficial in anyway? Thanks!

Clackamas County Oregon

Expert Response

You can identify moles and gophers by examining those dirt hills. However, you'll want to examine the very freshest mound - The mounds are formed when animals push loose dirt  out of their underground tunnels, so when they quit pushing, some of the loose dirt starts to cave back into their tunnel. Gophers and moles push dirt out somewhat differently, so the slightly caved-in "plugs" show up in distinguishable places on the dirt mound. Gopher plugs will be to one side of a slightly fan-shaped dirt hill, whereas the plug in a mole hill will be right in the middle.
Because of the size of the area, exclusionary (below-ground) fences might be prohibitively expensive. If you have key areas within the yard you want to protect though, such as garden beds, fencing could still be an option. Over large areas however, lethal trapping or poisoning is the most common approach. Note that these two species have VERY different ways of making a living, which has implications for your choices of traps and/or poison baits. In either case, you'll want to be very careful to limit exposure of non-targets (e.g., pets, children) to these powerful traps and poisons, as well as to bodies of expired animals that have ingested poison.
All of the tunneling animals provide some neat ecosystem services such as soil aeration, water penetration, and nutrient mixing within soil. They also provide important food for many other medium-sized hunters ranging from terrestrial (such as fox) to aerial (such as hawks and owls). Moles are actually insectivores whose main interest in your yard centers on soil insects and worms! (However Oregon's largest-bodied mole species, the Thompson's, does require a broader diet to reach their energy requirements and so they can be guilty of eating below-ground plant parts such as roots and bulbs.)
For more info, see these dated but still useful brochures on
gophers -  http://icwdm.org/handbook/rodents/ro_b17.pdf
& moles - http://icwdm.org/handbook/mammals/mam_d51.pdf
Please let me know if I can be of further assistance,
Dana


Dana Sanchez Replied April 22, 2014, 4:32 PM EDT

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