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University of Minnesota Extension

How to get rid of moles in your yard

Quick facts

  • Most experts agree that trapping is the most effective way to control moles in a garden.
  • Although trapping moles is not difficult, it does require a general understanding of the mole's tunnel system and learning how to use the right trap effectively.
  • With patience and practice, most people should be able to catch moles successfully.
  • The harpoon style trap is the easiest to set and most readily available.

Finding an active mole tunnel

Moles dig deep tunnels where they bear their young and retreat during very dry or cold weather. Conical piles (molehills) of excavated soil often cap these deep tunnels. 

  • Ignore the molehills and concentrate on the network of surface tunnels. 
  • The deep tunnels connect to a constantly expanding and changing network of feeding tunnels located just below the surface of the soil or turf. 
  • Moles use and renew some of the surface tunnels repeatedly. Others may be used only once. 
  • Traps must be set in active tunnels. 
  • Determine whether a tunnel is active by stepping on it to compress the soil.
    • If it is active, the mole will raise the soil or turf again within 24 hours.

Setting the trap

When you have found an active tunnel:

  1. Compress the soil over the tunnel.
  2. Place the legs of the trap over the compressed area so they straddle the tunnel and push them deeply and firmly into the ground. If the soil is too soft to firmly anchor the legs of the trap, look for a better location.
  3. Hold the trap in place and pull the harpoon spring several times. Let the tines snap smartly into place until you are sure the mechanism is working smoothly and no pebbles, roots or other debris are blocking the tines.
  4. Press the trap's trip pan into the compressed area and make sure that it touches the soil surface. You may have to push it down very firmly to get it to engage properly with the trap set lever.
  5. Pull the harpoon spring again, this time far enough to engage the pan and trap set lever.
  6. Check again to be sure the legs of the trap are firmly anchored in the soil and the trip pan is touching the surface of the compressed area.

Check the trap frequently, at least every 24 hours, to see if it has been sprung. If it has been sprung, dig with your fingers or a trowel along the tines to see whether a mole has been trapped. Occasionally a trapped mole will still be alive and it will be necessary to dispatch it.

Reviewed in 2019

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