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Tips for mole trappers

Robert Bystrom

Most experts agree that trapping is the most effective way to control moles. Unfortunately, there are dozens of people who have tried trapping and given up because they have not been successful.

Although trapping moles successfully isn't particularly difficult, it does require a general understanding of the mole's tunnel system and foraging activity. It also requires an appropriate trap, and the persistence needed to learn how to use it effectively. With patience and practice most trappers should be able to catch a mole in one out of three to five attempts. Even the experts are not successful every time, This discussion will be limited to the harpoon style trap because it is the easiest to set and most readily available. Information about other mole traps can be found at many sites on the Internet, such as "Moles and Their Controls" from the University of Nebraska.

Moles dig deep tunnels where they bear their young and retreat during very dry or cold weather. Conical piles of excavated soil often cap these deep 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. Trappers should ignore the conical piles (mole hills) and concentrate on the network of surface tunnels. Moles use and renew some of the surface tunnels repeatedly. Others may be used only once. Traps must be set in active tunnels. You can determine whether a tunnel is active by stepping on it to compress the soil. If it is active, and a good trapping site, the mole will raise the soil or turf again within 24 hours.

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 letting 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.



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