Matching wits with moles
Pickle juice, pitchforks, beer? Forget it. Getting rid of these critters requires a trap.
By Joy Kraft / Enquirer staff writer
The Enquirer / Craig Ruttle
BEFORE YOU HIRE A TRAPPER
Trap them yourself, if you're not squeamish. But the traps are not as easy to use as mousetraps. Molecatchers (www.molecatchers.com) and SOS Mole Trappers (www.moletrapper.com) sell scissor-traps and video tapes. Some trappers will charge you a set price for a trap and a demonstration, useful with the Victor Out of Sight traps that can be tricky to set. The Easy-Set Mole Eliminator requires less muscle power to set, though trappers say it's less effective. It's sold at hardware stores and www.easymoletrap.com.
Ask for a free estimate.
Ask your lawn service for references.
Beware if you get a firm price without inspection of your property. A reliable trapper might give you a "guesstimate" on the phone but needs to see your property and location before he/she can tell what's needed.
Ask for references, close by if possible, and call references to check on the firm's work.
Per-mole pricing may sound cheaper, but trapping throughout the season may be more advisable, depending on your location. (Short-term per-mole trapping may be effective after newborn moles scatter in middle to late summer).
Check with the Better Business Bureau. Several local trappers are members.
Find out how often the traps will be checked. Most trappers will check weekly, or more often if necessary.
Kids and traps are usually not a problem because the traps go off underground, and most trappers mark traps with flags. But if you have kids or pets intent on digging at the traps, think twice before setting.
CONFESSIONS OF A MOLE HATER
As a Disney-Bambi child, I believed all God's creatures were beneficial and could be my friends - some kept at a greater distances than others.
Years later, however, when moles uprooted my carefully planted wood-side gardens, I learned to hate with a vengeance, regardless of the critters' aerating benefit to my clay-heavy soil.
I tried everything (instead of doing research that would have told me otherwise): Juicy Fruit gum, vibrating battery-powered posts stuck in the ground, pinwheels, pitchforks, grub-killer granules. I even spent a couple hundred dollars on applications by a pest-control company.
Then I turned to trapping and called Tom Schmidt, the Mole Man, who looked over my yard, gave me a quick lesson and sold me three scissor-type Victor Out of Sight traps that I found intimidating to set (for a limp-wristed lady like myself) but effective when set correctly, an iffy situation if you don't have the expertise of a pro with a kill list in the thousands.
Removing the dead furry bodies wasn't as horrible as I'd predicted. With apologies to Bambi, I rejoiced, even lending traps to besieged neighbors until, regretfully, I left them out in winter to rust.
Searching for replacements I tried the spike-style trap unsuccessfully, then discovered the Easy-Set Mole Eliminator by Wire-Tek, a scissor-type trap invented by Monfort Heights mole-hater Tom Holtgrefe. It still needs to be placed correctly - in the right position, in the right tunnel - but it sets much more easily. You just step on it to set the spring without pins or bending back steel parts.
It was been tried-and-true for me - right up to the day we moved from mole country to a condo.
Without regret, I left it behind for my old home's new owners.
WHAT'S WORKED FOR YOU?
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Moles. They're 6- to 8-inch carnivorous mammals, velvety to the touch (if you're not squeamish), equipped with impressive paddle-like forefeet and steam-shovel toenails that can tunnel through 18 feet of your lawn or garden in an hour.
The anti-hero of green thumbs and groundskeepers everywhere, moles are prolific propagators, fueled by eating 45-50 pounds of earthworms a year. And what you see on the surface - foraging tunnels - is just a hint of the critter network that can extend down as far as 16 feet.
Moles don't hibernate when temperatures fall. They just dig deeper. And if you live in or near the woods, they will be very bad neighbors, paying little mind to property lines or garden plots.
"In the woods, even with a trap, you are shoveling against the tide," says Joe Boggs, Ohio State University Hamilton County Extension agent. "You are living in the midst of the moles' natural habitat. It's like living in the Serengeti. You are going to get a lion every once in a while."
But before frustration has you loading up the big guns for a backyard safari, consider the silly - and ineffective - weapons that folks often employ against moles.
Some have stuffed holes with chewed Juicy Fruit, broken glass bits, wads of human hair, pickle juice, poisoned peanuts, red pepper and rose branches. Others have planted battery-powered vibrating posts and pinwheels in the tunnels, emptied gallons of water underground to flood them out and detonated smoke bombs.
"One woman told me at this year's Home & Garden Show that she poured beer down the hole and she swore it worked," says Craig Stevens of SOS Molebusters, a DIY or contract service.
"If that's true, I'd be driving around with a case of beer in the back of the truck instead of traps."
After one of his lectures in Columbus, a woman approached Tom Schmidt, the Mole Man, and "mentioned she was so frustrated that she used holy water from church. She said it worked as well as everything else," says Schmidt, who's been slaying moles since 1986.
"Folks use animal scat a lot, and another woman saved all her pickle juice throughout the year and poured that down the tunnel. It doesn't bother the mole. It just makes it messy for me," he says.
"Good traps are the only effective method," says Phil Scarbrough of Mole Eradication & Trapping in Montgomery. That won't bring instant results, though bodies will begin to pile up.
"Whether you set the traps yourself or use a service, it takes a long time. I'd say in six weeks you'll notice a discernable difference, but to get mole-free it may take six months."
Most trappers offer free estimates and long-term contracts, from late spring through Thanksgiving, with the cost based on the size of the lot and proximity to the woods. These can run from $350 up. Trappers come at least once a week, more if activity warrants it.
Some services will do short-term work that may solve the problem for homes that have no previous mole problem and aren't near the woods, Stevens says.
For DIY-ers, traps are found at hardware and lawn and garden stores and through molecatchers.com, themoleman.com and moletrapper.com.
But catching moles is not as easy as catching mice. The trap needs to be placed on an active tunnel and set the right way.
"It can be very effective, but there can be pitfalls by thinking 'I know how to use a mousetrap,' " says Boggs.
Most trappers use the scissors-type Victor Out of Sight trap, though it can be difficult to set and intimidating.
An easier-to-set scissors trap, the Easy Set by Wire Tek - invented by Monfort Heights mole-hater Tom Holtgrefe - has its fans, though the pros say it's not as sensitive as Victor's Out of Sight. "In some ways, the Easy Set is easier for homeowners" says Scarbrough. "It's less intimidating."
Traps cost about $20, and $40 will get two traps and a video.
Another type of trap, the Harpoon trap, has 8-12 dagger-like prongs. Nevertheless, "you have a better chance of winning the lottery" than catching moles with these," Scarbrough says.
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