Moles Can Make a Mess of Your Yard

By Chris Williams on September 14, 2015.

How can I tell if I have moles in my yard? We keep finding strange bumps and holes, and raised areas in different places in the lawn. Seems like new ones every day. We’ve never seen anything that looks like a mouse or a mole.

T. V., Dunbarton, NH

Usually you won’t see the mole that is tunneling in your yard. Moles spend all of their time underground. Since they feed primarily on earthworms, grubs, and other soil insects, there’s no need to hunt food above ground. They use their large front claws to create tunnels that are usually just under the surface. Moles are most active in spring and fall when the soil is moist and easy to dig, and worms are near the surface.


Moles Have a Tunnel for Every Purpose

A mole’s shallow feeder tunnel is used for hunting and looks like a long, squiggly ridge that is about 2 inches across. When the mole has eaten all the worms and insects in this tunnel, it is abandoned, and another one is started. One indication of an abandoned feeder tunnel is dead grass above as a result of root disturbance. Abandoned tunnels sometimes collapse in spots due to erosion, leaving random holes that can be mistaken for burrow openings.

Moles also have shallow travel tunnels or runways that also look like a ridge on the surface of the ground. These tunnels are long and straight and often follow along an edge such as a fence or driveway. Moles have a third type of burrow tunnel that is much deeper, 6 to 24 inches below ground. Here they raise their young and spend the winter.

Another sign of moles is the presence of molehills, small cone-shaped piles of soil that are a few inches high and can be several inches wide. Molehills are most often seen in the late fall when moles are digging deeper tunnels for the winter. Since the mole can’t just toss the soil out of this deep tunnel, it carries it to the surface and deposits it nearby. Molehills can also appear in summer if the soil is very dry and moles have to dig deeper to find earthworms.


Moles and Voles Are Often Confused

From your description, another possibility is voles. Voles are mouse-like rodents (see Moles or Voles?) They live in ground burrows and travel in above-ground trails through vegetation. Voles will also travel underground through old mole tunnels to feed on plant roots.

If you have a mole, you almost certainly have only one since moles are very territorial and often fight when their territories overlap. But since one single mole can tunnel more than 100 feet in a day, having only one is little comfort.

Digging in your yard may even be skunks, (see Skunks’ Digging Can Damage Lawns). No matter what creature is getting the proper identification and developing a comprehensive plan. 



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