A problem with moles in the garden

Tiffany Daneff / 14 January 2016

With increasing amounts of mole hills on her lawn and moles now burrowing under her flowerbed, Tiffany Daneff looks at ways of controlling the moles in her garden.

Every day Daisy, our working cocker spaniel, and I follow a strange route as we progress through the fields on our walks. To an outsider it might look as though we were pursuing some pagan ritual. Which, in a way, I suppose we are. We are checking molehills, moving from one to the next, joining the dots. 

Daisy’s after moles and I stand at what I reckon is far enough off not to alert the mole but near enough for my diminishing eyesight to be able to detect movement. I am longing to see the tip of an earthy pink snout, the broad digging paws, and the dark velvety coat of Moley.

Daisy stands, frozen with intense interest, eyes fixed on the hill waiting for a smell or a sound and, when luck strikes, she pounces. Twice now I have actually seen the earth in the hill crack with the movement of a mole underneath but Daisy is always on it too quickly for me to catch sight of the mole itself.

2015 saw an eruption of mini volcanos. It’s the warm and wet weather that encourages them. And not just in the fields. There’s been way too much mole action in the garden too, and I’m fed up. One hill I could cope with. Two, even. But now there are three - as well as plenty of signs that he/she/they are digging under the flower beds. Which is not good. Not least because once they begin to breed there could be loads more. So leaving well alone was not an option. I wanted the mole/s out.

Related: find out how to deter cats from your garden.

Mole deterrents

Deterrents fall into two categories: scent and sound. The problem with the latter is that we have a dog who will hate the high pitched emissions. That leaves finding things that moles don’t like the smell of and either sticking them into the tunnel or sprinkling them around the garden and watering them in.

I started by ordering some mole deterrent granules which cost about £7, sprinkled them over the lawn and the edge of the beds where the worst of the digging was going on, and, you know, even as I was doing this I shook my head. No way was this puny stand of mine going to stop anything in its tracks and certainly not a tough little mole with nostrils ringed with soil.

A friend who has lived round these parts a long time said she knew a mole catcher who swore by fox oil. Apparently he soaked a cloth with the oil and stuffed that down the hole. Now the pong of a fox is more like it. I wouldn’t want that stench in my tunnel, thank you. You’d never get rid of it. But, there again, might you not just start tunneling a little farther off? Before long I could end up with tunnels at the other end of the lawn. Which would be no help at all. Still, my interest was piqued.

I searched for fox oil online but all I could find in the mole deterring line, was fox urine, which seems to be popular for deterring all sorts of nuisance critters in America.

On one of the sites someone had commented that they favoured tipping cat poo into the tunnel. Someone else suggested old fashioned moth balls. So, in the name of research, I ordered some camphor moth balls which were made in China and arrived only three days later. The cat, I know, would have no trouble providing a sample or two. But then, I thought, the ruddy cat poos all over the flower beds, under the impression that this soft loam is teased and tickled to perfection solely for her benefit. So if there’s poo in the beds, why doesn’t the mole keep off them?

The other morning I went to examine the lawn and immediately spotted a new spoil heap so the mole/s is/are still very happy thank you, despite the deterrent granules. I flattened the hill again, replaced the wire cloche (to stop the dog digging) and went and stared at the packets of moth balls.

I stopped short of putting them down for the simple reason that I am worried that doing so will only encourage new tunneling. Reluctantly, I decided it was time to investigate other options. With warmer winters, moles have been breeding not just in spring, as they used, and maybe again in the autumn, but all year around. Which really is a worry. I decided I couldn’t put off doing anything any longer.

Mole traps

Humane traps sound like they must be humane. But the trouble with these is that, unless you are prepared to check them every ten minutes or so, you are effectively going to end up leaving the mole trapped in a tiny space which would be terrifying for it. 

I didn’t like the sound of those at all. I also didn’t like the look of the traditional metal traps which I remember from my childhood. One false move and they have your fingers off. So, very much not recommended, except for professionals. 

And then I came across the Beagle, which was designed by a hobby inventor who was so distraught by the damage caused by moles in his garden and so fed up with the existing trapping technology that he invented a new one.

The Beagle is designed to be used by ordinary gardeners. It has no finger trapping parts, simply a bright red plunger, that anyone can use as it requires no particular strength. I love moles and have waited two years in the hope that they might tunnel under the garden wall and back into the field where no one very much minds them at all. 

 The dog has tried digging them up. I have tried deterrents with no success. I have, I am afraid to say, run out of other credible options.

In short I ordered the Beagle along with a book that explains the workings of moles. I’ll let you know how I get on.

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