Complete Guide to Garden Moles

  • By: CarlBroadbent
  • Time to read: 9 min.
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If you’re like most people, you probably think of garden moles as pests.

And while they can be a nuisance when they start digging up your lawn, garden moles actually play an important role in your garden.

You’ll soon learn everything there is to know about garden moles – including how to know if you have moles, benefits to keeping them, and how to get rid of them!

garden moles

What Are Garden Moles?

Moles are small, furry creatures that live in the ground. They are related to shrews and bats. Garden moles are different from other kinds of moles because they eat insects and worms, instead of rodents.

Garden moles have very sensitive noses and can smell their prey underground. They use their powerful front legs to dig tunnels in the earth. These tunnels help them find food and escape predators.

Garden moles do not bother people or pets, but they can damage gardens and lawns by digging up plants and soil.

They are able to move large amounts of earth very quickly, which can create uneven surfaces and holes in the ground. In some cases, garden moles can completely destroy a lawn in just a few days.

Moles are not creatures that live for very long. They only live for two to four years. This is likely due in part to the high levels of stress they experience from constantly having to dig their tunnels.

What Do Garden Moles Look Like

Garden moles are small mammals that have a brown coat of fur. They also have a long tail and small eyes and ears.

Garden moles typically grow to be about six inches in length and they usually weigh around two ounces. Garden moles live in underground tunnels and eat earthworms, insects, and other small animals.

garden mole

Other defining features of a garden mole are their noses and their hands.

They have pointed and snout-like noses, with a bright pink tip.

Their hands are hilarious and horrifying at the same time. They look like a child drew a glove with five fingers, but they don’t quite know how to draw thumbs so all the fingers look exactly the same.

If you take a closer look, a garden mole’s hand is fleshy with extremely long nails to help them dig.

Do Garden Moles Have Eyes?

The eyes of a garden mole are small and black. So small, in fact, that if you saw one, you would question if they actually had eyes.

They are not capable of seeing very well, as they are blind. Instead, they use their sense of touch and smell to navigate through the tunnels they create underground.

Garden moles rely heavily on their whiskers to feel their way around, and can be startled easily if something comes too close to them.

Do Garden Moles Have Ears?

Moles have very small ears that are not usually visible. While they do have hearing, it is not as acute as other mammals.

This means that moles are mostly deaf to high-pitched sounds. Instead, they rely on their sense of touch and smell to navigate their tunnels and find food.

How Do You Know You Have Moles?

If something is digging in your lawn, you might be pretty quick jumping to the conclusion you have moles, but it could be any other burrowing animal.

There are three tell-tale signs that will let you know you have garden moles living on your property.

Molehills

Molehills are piles of dirt at tunnel entrances. They are usually cone-shaped or dome-shaped, and can be as large as two feet wide and 9 inches tall.

Like, little excavators, garden moles remove the dirt from their tunnels and place it into one large pile. This is where the little critters get enough dirt to make a molehill that big.

Dead Grass

Dead grass in strange patterns across your yard is a tell-tale sign that you have garden moles tunneling in your yard.

As a garden mole tunnels, it damages the roots of your lawn, and you can see the tunnel layout as the grass dies.

Chunks of Dirt

Moles have special nails and fingers that help them dig. Instead of scraping a little bit of dirt at a time, their claws are designed to break off chunks of dirt that are moved to the mole hills.

Moles, Voles, Or Gophers

There are plenty of burrowing pests that can live in your garden. Identifying which pest you have will help you identify whether you should let them live in your garden, or if you should have them removed.

Garden moles are sometimes confused with voles or even gophers, so which one is living in your garden:

Voles

Dogwood in fern garden x
Dogwood in fern garden

Voles are much smaller than garden moles. They have a lighter color and look more like a mouse.

Voles also live in colonies. This means if you find one, you’re much more likely to find several on your property. If this is the case, you can rule out moles.

Gophers

Moles and gophers are different creatures. Gophers are rodents and live in underground burrows. They create mounds of soil as they tunnel around.

When gophers dig, they make mounds that are closer together, and the dirt they dig up is finer and not in chunks.

If the mounds are further than six feet apart, you have a mole and not a gopher.

This video shows you what each of them looks like, and how to identify them on their mounds.

Do Garden Moles Play Dead?

There’s some debate over whether or not garden moles play dead. Some people say they’ve seen them roll over and play dead when they’re scared, while others insist that this is just a myth.

The truth is, no one really knows for sure what moles do when they’re confronted with danger. However, there are a few things we can infer from their behavior.

Moles are very secretive animals and spend most of their time underground. When they’re above ground, they move quickly and rarely stop to rest.

This means that if a mole were to encounter a predator, it would probably be in a hurry to get away.

All of this suggests that moles are more likely to run away from danger than play dead. However, there’s no definitive answer on this question.

Are Garden Moles Dangerous?

Moles can be a nuisance in the garden, but are they dangerous? In short, moles are not considered to be dangerous to people.

They may cause some minor injuries if handled incorrectly, such as pinching or twisting of fingers, but these are not life-threatening.

Moles may also pose a danger to small pets that venture too close – particularly young animals which may not be able to defend themselves – but this is again relatively rare.

While it is advisable to keep children and pets away from molehills and tunnels just in case, moles generally do not present a serious threat.

However, moles can be harmful to plants. Their tunnels can collapse underground gardens and disrupt irrigation systems. The molehills they leave behind can also be unsightly and can damage lawns.

In extreme cases, the tunnels they create can even undermine building foundations and roads. So while moles themselves are not dangerous, their presence can certainly cause some problems.

Are Garden Moles Good for Your Garden?

Garden moles are beneficial for your lawn and garden, but they’re a little clumsy and their burrowing can damage plant roots.

Dying plants are going to give you the wrong idea about garden moles.

Think of garden moles as free lawn and garden aeration tools. As they burrow underground, they are making space for air, water, and nutrients to penetrate the ground deeper and allow for deeper root growth.

Garden moles eat earthworms, insects, and grubs. Some of these can be harmful to your plants, which gives garden moles another job as garden security.

How To Remove Garden Moles

Even though moles are good for your garden, the tunnels and molehills probably don’t fit the aesthetic you have for your backyard.

If you don’t like having garden moles in your lawn or garden, there are ways to remove them.

Remove Their Food Source

Garden moles are coming to your garden looking for one thing; food. If you have moles in your garden, you can get rid of them by getting rid of their source of food.

This forces them to move out to find a new food source.

You can get rid of insects and grubs by applying insecticide to your lawn and garden.

This is an easy and effective method for removing garden moles, but it can take some time before the grub populations drop enough for moles to want to relocate.

Use a Repellent

Find a repellent that uses castor oil. Castor oil repellents work because it irritates the skin of the mole and causes it to leave your property.

This is one of the easiest and safest ways to get garden moles to leave on their own.

You can make your own repellent at home using castor oil and dish soap. Create a concentrated solution by adding 3 parts castor oil to 1 part dish soap.

Mix four tablespoons of the concentrated mix into one gallon of water and apply it to garden mole tunnels.

The downside to this method is you need to reapply it often for it to be effective.

Use Fragrant Plants

Because a mole’s sense of smell is heightened, they strongly dislike scented plants. You can plant daffodils, marigolds, mint, garlic, or shallots to stop moles from thinking about entering your yard.

Use a Pest Trap

You can also use pest traps to catch garden moles and release them somewhere else. This requires more effort on your part since you’ll have to check the traps and remove them if you catch a mole.

Hire a Professional

You can also hire a professional in pest control. They are experts when it comes to removing all sorts of pests, and they will know exactly what to do to get rid of the garden moles living in your lawn and garden.

Natural Predators

The final method for getting rid of moles in your garden is through natural predators. There are a few animals that prey on moles, including snakes and owls.

If you can attract these predators to your garden, they will take care of the mole problem for you.

Do Moles Dig Up Lawns?

One of the most common myths is that moles dig up lawns. This is not true! Moles actually tunnel right underneath the surface, creating their own network of underground tunnels.

They rarely come to the surface, except when they are looking for food or a new place to live.

Typically, where there’s tunneling there will also be destruction. Tunneling damages the roots of your grass, and the grass will often die above a tunnel.

mole digging up lawns
Mole hills

If you let your grass dry out a little bit, the grass above tunnels will die first and you can see exactly where the tunnels are. You can use this information to cave in tunnels and place a repellent.

Moles do create molehills which is what most people associate with the presence of moles. They are small, cone-shaped mounds of dirt that can be found in yards and gardens.

Molehills are usually about two inches high and three inches wide at the base. The soil is often loose and crumbly, with a dark appearance from being churned up by the mole.

Do Moles Dig At Night?

Moles are not nocturnal animals and their most active period is during dawn and dusk when everything is still and quiet. This is when they do most of their digging and foraging for food.

Moles are also known to be very active on cloudy days or in the rain. During the day, they like to rest in their tunnels underground.

Fun Facts About Garden Moles

Still not convinced garden moles are interesting? Here are some strange and fun facts about them.

  • Garden moles aren’t rodents, even though they might look like one. They are actually insectivores, so they are closer to hedgehogs and bats than they are to mice.
  • Garden moles live for up to six years.
  • The gestation period of moles is 45 days.
  • Moles are very independent and live alone. Only 2 to 3 moles will live on each acre.
  • They’re pretty quick diggers and can dig up to 18 feet in just an hour.
  • Garden moles can breathe underground because they have twice the amount of blood in them as other mammals. This blood holds onto extra oxygen for the garden mole to use while they are underground.
  • Garden moles will store extra food in rooms in their tunnels.

Final Thoughts

Garden moles can be a gardener’s best friend or worst enemy, depending on how you look at them. They are responsible for aerating and fertilizing the soil with their tunnels, but they can also do a lot of damage to your plants and garden if they are not removed.

Hopefully, this post has given you some more insight so you can decide if you want to keep these little critters or find them a home somewhere else.