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By January 27, 2018 0 Comments Read More →

The Secret Life of Moles

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People often think about moles in seasonal terms; when spring arrives molehills start to pop up all over the fields and occasionally in gardens, causing a bit of nuisance until the end of summer, but then, come autumn, the moles seem to retreat back underground to hibernate for the winter. So, mole-catching has to be just a seasonal thing then, doesn’t it? Well, no, that’s not how it is; despite popular belief moles do not hibernate, they do not come and go with the seasons, and they certainly do not stop for anything.

Two new molehills in the garden on winter snow

 

THE MYTH OF MOLES

One of the first things people often ask me before calling me out for a visit to their farm, garden, or paddock is if moles really are quite as cute and cuddly as they are presented on TV. Well, they most certainly are not…

In fact, their virtual blindness is probably the one thing that Hollywood has got right, but in the pitch-black world they inhabit this is really no great disadvantage. Moles more than make up for their weak eyesight with extra-sharp hearing and motion-sensitive hairs on their chin. So, whilst moles might not be able to see at all well, they can easily guide themselves around beneath a prized lawn and do plenty of damage, especially when you look at their claws. An extra thumb enables moles to dig at a ferocious rate, excavating tunnels at a remarkable 4m an hour; with that capacity they can easily cover a large field with tunnels in less than a day. Moles are not cute, they are not helpful, and they are definitely not harmless, either.

A mole’s claws make it a ferocious digger.

CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER

There are really two common reasons why I’m called out to deal with mole infestations: unsightly molehills, which are largely cosmetic; and the danger they can cause. Most people still turn to a mole-catcher when their beautiful flower beds have been upturned and they cannot catch the culprit themselves, or when their pristine lawns become infiltrated by a molehill and they simply cannot stand to have those big, unsightly mounds of earth ruining their pride and joy. What most people don’t realise, however, is the very real danger moles can cause, and by the time there are multiple molehills it’s often too late.

Because of the incredible rate at which moles can dig out their subterranean tunnels, it doesn’t take long for there to be a whole network of big, long, empty spaces underneath the ground. When you see molehills, the tunnels are very close to the surface, which means they can easily collapse, and this is where the problems happen. Cave-ins are very dangerous, and an uncaught mole can lead to:

*           Horses, cows and other farm animals breaking their legs in fields as the ground collapses beneath them.

*           Pets, children and adults twisting legs or falling over and seriously injuring themselves after tripping on a molehill, or stumbling down an unseen hole.

*           Contaminated soil and silage, with listeria bacteria brought to the surface, which infects livestock.

*           Other rodents and pests moving into the tunnels and bringing with them a whole range of diseases.

*           Disturbed land that can damage farm machinery with churned up stones, ruin the roots of crops and plants, and disrupt nesting areas for lots of other wildlife.

THE ART OF MOLE-CATCHING

If you have seen the destruction a mole can cause, you’ll know why they need to be caught, but that’s often easier said than done. I have been to houses and seen people standing in gardens, whacking away at molehills with a shovel, like something out of a cartoon, and on more than one occasion, too. Needless to say this rarely achieves anything, other than warning off the culprit for a day or two. It actually takes both patience and skill to outwit a mole, as they are surprisingly quick and clever.

Some solutions may seem scientific, but are they actually effective?

When I visit a property or grounds that are infested with a mole ‒ or moles ‒ the first thing I do is perform a full assessment of the area in order to understand the exact scale of the problem, identifying the tunnel systems and locating all the key areas of mole movement. This is absolutely vital for checking dangerous areas, too. Once that is done I can determine the best kind of traps for the situation. This often depends on the location and the size of the tunnels, as well as factors such as protecting any pets in the garden whilst still being able to catch the mole.

All the traps that a professional mole-catcher uses need to be humane and in line with the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996. I use spring-loaded Talpex, Claw and Fenn traps, to name a few, that instantly catch and kill moles, and this is really the only effective and legal method for catching them today, as:

*           Flushing them out is ineffective, as moles can swim.

*           Poison is illegal and causes damage to all wildlife in the area and to local pets.

*           Fumigating simply chases moles away, leaving the opportunity for them to return or even more dangerous pests to inhabit the tunnels.

*           Fire is dangerous and could potentially destroy a whole lawn or field.

*           And, of course, catching and keeping them alive simply means the problem still exists.

A SEASONAL CHALLENGE

Moles are extremely territorial, so even if they were released elsewhere, the chances are that they will eventually find their way back and continue to be destructive in your garden, field or grounds. It is also very common for another mole to move into an existing tunnel system once a previous inhabitant has been captured and removed.

For a mole-catcher there is no end of season ‒ moles are active throughout the year and feed around the clock, working and sleeping in 4-hour shift patterns. Their breeding season traditionally begins in February and runs through to July, but during periods of warmer weather it’s not rare to find baby moles as late as September, and that means half a year with multiple moles running around and causing trouble. And as for the wet weather, well moles even love that too. They can swim without any problems, and softer ground just means easier digging and more food.

CONSTANT VIGILANCE

There are certainly moles to be caught in every season of the year, and regardless of the weather ‒ a fact all too often overlooked in this profession. Much of my time is spent on prevention and aftercare; no job is over when a mole has been caught, because another could move in, or others might be hiding in additional tunnels further underground. Consequently, it’s important to focus just as much on aftercare, patrolling any previously infested areas, setting up regular traps, and checking back on them on frequent occasions. In the mole-catching profession the hunt is very rarely over after a single success.

MOLE FACTS

*           A mole will feed on insects, centipedes, and even mice and shrews, but its preferred diet is earthworms, and its saliva contains a toxin which is particularly effective at paralysing them.

*           A mole’s fur is typically dark grey, but white, light grey, taupe, tan and black fur have all been reported.

*           A mole’s eyes are just 1mm in diameter and buried under fur. Contrary to popular opinion they can recognise movement and distinguish between light and dark.

*           Moles are believed to have exceptionally good low-frequency hearing.

*           It was once believed that moles ate their own body weight every 24 hours, but this is not accurate; they will eat just half their body weight in this period.

*           A mole will typically live for 3‒5 years – as long as they stay out of Mr Mole Man’s way.

Further Information

This article has been written by Mr Moleman, AKA Jason, who specialises in pest control and mole-catching.

Telephone 07802453359 | email: info@mrmoleman.co.uk | www.mrmoleman.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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