Effective and Humane Ways to Get Rid of Moles (and Take Back Your Lawn)

If you see signs that moles are wreaking havoc on your lawn, save yourself a headache by learning how to get rid of moles from your yard using humane and safe methods.
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A mole pokes out of its burrow.
Photo: shutterstock.com

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Project Overview

  • First, homeowners will want to eliminate any food sources that are attracting moles to their yard.
  • Homeowners can use mole repellent, plant barriers, rock-filled trenches, or ultrasonic repellent devices to encourage moles to move on from their yard.
  • As a last resort, homeowners can try trapping the mole and relocating it, if that’s legal in their state.
  • The best way to deal with moles in a yard is to contact a wildlife control company to trap and relocate the moles.

Although you may scratch your head over what animal is digging holes in your yard, there’s no mistaking when that animal is a mole. Moles create hills and ruts in a yard that can separate roots from soil, killing grass and other vegetation.

Moles are dark-brown animals that are about 8 inches long at the largest and appear eyeless and earless. A star-nosed mole has a series of appendages resembling tentacles at the end of its snout. But despite their odd appearance and destructive tendencies, there are several benefits to having a mole in the yard. Moles can help aerate lawns and eat grubs and other unwanted garden pests. It’s worth considering these pros before spending too much time or money on mole control.

It’s possible to deter moles naturally using deterrents and barriers; alternatively, you can set out a series of mechanized traps. If neither of these approaches appeal, hiring a wildlife removal specialist may be your best bet. In general, it’s wise to take action at the first sign of a pest problem in the yard.

According to Thomas Ward, training specialist and biologist at Critter Control, “The longer you let a problem continue the [higher the] likelihood…of additional damage, just like with any problem. If your engine light comes on in your vehicle, you could probably drive it a little bit longer, but you increase the potential risk for something to happen. It’s kind of that way with [wildlife control] as well.” Read on to find out the best way to get rid of moles on your property.

Time required: 3 to 4 days
Difficulty: Intermediate
Estimated cost: $5 to $50, or $50 to $500 for professional removal

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Before You Begin…

If you walked outside to see dirt piles popping up around the lawn and immediately searched online for “How to get rid of moles in your yard,” you’re not alone. But before placing an order for one of the best mole repellents or best mole traps, consider whether this is absolutely necessary. Moles’ quick digging actually aerates your yard and circulates nutrients in the soil. Plus, a mole’s diet of grubs and other insects could help get rid of pests that would otherwise eat at the roots of your plants. If these benefits outweigh the cost of seeing a few mole hills here and there, you can save yourself the time and expense of getting rid of moles. However, if the lawn damage is becoming extensive or you don’t want to leave your lawn-care routine up to the moles, it’s worth taking the steps ahead to get rid of them.

It’s also a good idea to confirm that it is indeed moles that are taking up residence in the yard. Many people are confused about the difference between moles and voles because of their similar names and habits; however, voles bear a closer resemblance to mice and make shallow, narrow tunnels. Getting rid of voles has a different set of challenges. Gophers are another animal that tears up the yard with the added annoyance of chewing through your vegetable garden—they also won’t be any help in the pest control department. If you can’t figure out whether you need to get rid of gophers, moles, voles, or something else entirely, you may need to get in touch with a wildlife control specialist. These specialists are also experts at humane removal methods. According to Ward, “Just because we’re solving a wildlife problem doesn’t mean we have to hurt the animal. We’ll always look at options that don’t cause direct harm to the animal.”

Tips for Getting Rid of Moles

  • Make the yard inhospitable to moles using deterrents and repellents.
  • Use the food chain to your advantage and eliminate moles’ food sources.
  • Physically remove moles whenever possible.

Safety Considerations

  • Moles may carry fleas, ticks, and even rabies. Avoid directly handling live moles or carcasses whenever possible.
  • Use gloves, a mask, and eye protection when preparing and spreading repellents.
  • Follow directions carefully when setting traps to avoid pinching or smashing your fingers.
Need to get rid of moles in the yard?
Let a top-notch pro take care of the problem for you. Get free estimates from local experts.

STEP 1: Implement grub-control methods to eliminate the mole’s food source.

If there is a mole in your yard, that means that the yard is a plentiful food source for them. A mole’s diet primarily consists of bugs such as beetles, centipedes, worms, and especially grubs—a lot of them. Eliminating these food sources will encourage moles to seek refuge where food is more widely available. Grubs have their own adverse effect on a lawn, so getting rid of them can be doubly useful. Insecticides work well in a pinch, but there are more natural ways that are just as effective. One option is to sprinkle milky spore powder (which can be found online or at garden and home improvement stores) around grub-infested areas. Another method is to introduce grubs’ natural predators—beneficial nematodes eat grubs and can also be found at most garden stores. Putting up a bird feeder can draw birds into the yard who will feast on grubs and worms. Here’s a tip: if you live in the Southwest, you can use the same method to get rid of armadillos as they have a similar diet. If these options aren’t working, some of the best pest control companies such as Orkin or Terminix can also treat for grubs and beetles.

STEP 2: Apply a mole repellent on the mole’s burrow entrances.

One of the most common and effective mole and vole repellents is castor oil, which has an unpleasant taste and smell. Mixing three parts castor oil and one part dish soap with a gallon of water creates an effective repellent that can be sprayed on areas of mole activity. This is not only a repellent for moles; it’s also a good way to get rid of groundhogs, voles, and other rodents. Retailers have also caught on to using castor oil as a mole repellent and sell premade mole control products if you prefer not to mix your own. You may see coffee grounds listed as a repellent when researching how to get rid of moles and voles, but this has not been proven to be effective and can deplete the soil of nitrogen, doing more harm than good for your garden. If you do use coffee grounds, use them sparingly in areas where nothing is growing.

A mole is halfway through climbing out of its hole in a yard.
Photo: istockphoto.com

STEP 3: Create a barrier using plants.

If you’re interested in learning how to get rid of moles naturally, what could be more natural than using plants? Many plants that are beautiful and pleasant-smelling to people are downright repulsive to moles. Planting certain flowers around the border of a garden can keep moles away while sprucing up the lawn’s appearance. Daffodils are known to deter moles, as are marigolds, alliums, and other flowers that have strong scents. Garlic and shallots are also unpleasant to moles, so adding them to a vegetable garden can be another deterrent. Creating plant barriers is time-consuming and requires ongoing upkeep, but it can be a worthwhile project as it yields plenty of benefits beyond just discouraging moles.

STEP 4: Dig a trench around the yard and fill it with rocks to create a boundary and discourage moles.

If you don’t mind a bit of manual labor, one of the most effective home remedies for moles in the yard is a physical barrier. In order for it to be effective, you’ll need to dig a trench that is at least 2 feet deep with a width of 6 inches that extends around the entire perimeter of the yard. Once the trench is created, it can be lined with a layer of wire mesh or simply filled in with rocks. You can also cover it back up with dirt and plant grass on top so that it blends in with the rest of the lawn.

STEP 5: Install an ultrasonic mole or rodent repellent device.

When it comes to figuring out how to get rid of a mole, ultrasonic repellents can be both easy and convenient. They keep animals out of the garden by emitting high-pitched sounds that can’t be detected by humans but will drive away rodents, snakes, and even insects. Some of the best ultrasonic pest repellers even include strobe lights and will occasionally change frequency so that pests don’t become accustomed to the sound. The biggest benefit of this approach is that the devices are relatively affordable, and for the most part you can stick them in the yard and forget about them. They can also help you get rid of chipmunks, rats, mice, and insects in addition to moles. The main drawback is that they can be irritating to pets, although some models are tuned to a frequency that supposedly cannot be heard by dogs and cats.

Need to get rid of moles in the yard?
Let a top-notch pro take care of the problem for you. Get free estimates from local experts.

STEP 6: Keep up with mowing, but don’t overwater your lawn.

To discourage moles in the future, cut back on the watering in your lawn-care routine, and maybe even consider choosing a grass that can survive on less water. Moles prefer a softer, damper soil because it is easier for them to tunnel through. The drier soil will also attract fewer earthworms and thus minimize your chances of tempting a mole to move in and chow down. Many homeowners err on the side of overwatering, so the lawn will likely be able to stand a slight drought. As a rule of thumb, a lawn only needs about an inch of water a week.

STEP 7: Isolate and remove the mole from its burrow.

Here’s the prevailing wisdom on how to catch a mole and keep it alive. It turns out that mole pest control hasn’t changed much since Caddyshack, in which Bill Murray portrayed a hapless groundskeeper obsessed with getting rid of the moles terrorizing the local country-club golf course. First, use the back of a shovel to flatten out and pat down any molehills that you’ve noticed on your lawn or in your garden. Next, remove yourself to a vantage point elsewhere on the property, somewhere at a distance—and ideally downwind—from the patches of earth you’ve shoveled over. If a mole catches your scent in the air, or if your footsteps send vibrations into the ground, the mole isn’t likely to show itself. Wait patiently and be as still as you can be until you see a disturbance in the soil caused by the mole returning to repair the hill you’ve covered.

Carrying two shovels, rush to the disturbed area and plunge the shovels into the ground, one on either side of where you saw the ground move. The mole should now be trapped in the small section of its tunnel between your tools. Now that you’ve isolated the mole, dig it out from its tunnel, transfer it to a cardboard box or humane mole trap, and take it to a field far away from your property. Repeat the process until you’ve relocated all the offending moles. Some states have laws about where you can relocate nuisance wildlife, so be sure to do some research on this ahead of time.

STEP 8: Only consider a trap if there are no other options.

Trapping moles is a last resort when humane removal methods are ineffective. Trapping is not only somewhat labor-intensive, but it’s also going to bring you up close and personal with at least one mole. If you’re squeamish about such things, your best bet is to hire the job out to an experienced wildlife control professional in your area. If you’re used to dealing with animals and you’ve exhausted all of the humane removal options, then you’re ready to get to work. Purchase mole traps online or at your local home center. Mole-weary homeowners report success with spring-loaded snares like Victor gopher traps. Place yours directly into the mole’s tunnel, being sure to choose an active tunnel. If you’re not sure of a given tunnel’s status, cover over the nearest molehill. Wait a day or two, and if the molehill has been uncovered, that’s a pretty clear indication of activity.

Once you’ve set the mole trap, check it often. Also, remember that catching one mole doesn’t mean the problem is behind you. You’ll need to set the trap again and again, because additional moles may decide to occupy the initial mole’s pre-established tunnels. Indeed, several moles may need to be trapped before the tunnel goes dormant. Finally, know that it may not be legal in your state to set a trap that kills moles. Check with your local authorities or consult a local wildlife specialist to check in on the legalities with this method.

STEP 9: Contact a pest or wildlife control company to set up a humane trap and relocate the mole.

There is a reason wildlife control specialists exist—wild animals can be unpredictable, and as effective as the above steps may be, some cases are best left to a professional. If these methods aren’t working as expected or feel unmanageable, consider calling one of the best wildlife removal services for help. Not only will such a service be able to get the job done efficiently, but the employees will know the most humane and environmentally conscious approaches that won’t hurt the animal or damage your yard. Not everyone has the time or physical ability to plant mole-deterrent flowers, dig trenches, or physically remove an animal themselves. In this instance, it may be well worth the cost of wildlife removal to have someone else take care of this task for you. And while moles aren’t especially dangerous, there are always safety considerations to take into account when dealing with wildlife. “I always recommend caution when homeowners do something themselves, not because of lack of capability, but because you’re putting yourself at a bit more risk than you might want to be or not realizing the potential risk,” says Ward. “I would weigh the potential risks against calling a professional and letting them take care of it.”

The steps outlined above are some of the most tried-and-true DIY mole removal methods. With time and a bit of patience, you should have your yard back to yourself in no time. And if moles just don’t seem to be taking the hint, you can always look up “mole control near me” and your local wildlife removal company will be happy to help. But until you’re rid of the pesky critters, know that it can be OK and even beneficial to live with your underground neighbors for the time being. While you’re cohabiting, just follow a little bit of maintenance to be sure their shallow tunnels don’t completely disrupt the roots of your plants: Press any raised soil back into place with your foot, and water thoroughly so that the roots do not dry out.