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You finally get your yard manicured to the point where you are selecting sites for your private putting green when an uninvited neighbor sneaks over and drills a few of his own holes in your front nine. This wouldn't be so bad but he persists in leaving his divots and roughing up the course with mounds of dirt that raise par to unacceptable levels.
You’ve got a MOLE!
The social life of moles is poorly understood. They tend to be solitary and very territorial. Frequently they will fight to the death defending territory but then share runs and burrows like prairie dogs.
The Townsends’ mole (our local variety) mates during February and March producing a litter of three to five young in six weeks. The young use the mothers burrows for about six months before setting out on their own.
An acre of grass will typically support one to three animals but wooded lots can support many more. Often animals that invade lawns are foraging from adjacent wooded lots.
Moles are nearly blind and hunt almost exclusively by sense of smell.
They feed in tunnels just below the surface of the soil and can extend these tunnels up to 100 feet in one day.
In spite of years of research no affordable, effective means of controlling moles has been found except trapping.
Moles primarily feed on insects. To date (in spite of claims to the contrary) no one has produced a bait that feels, moves and tastes like an insect.
Repellants fail because moles can detect them and dig around them. This can lead to more hills than if they were left alone.
Gasses fail because porous soil allows it to escape before it can reach levels high enough to injure the animal.
Concussion works but propane can’t be used within 50 feet of a building.
Killing the insects they feed on with pesticides isn't very effective either. This approach requires intensive repeated applications to the soil which isn't good for the environment or beneficial insects which help keep other pests in check. It also doesn't prevent the animals from checking the yard for food anyway.
Years of research have been invested in testing home remedies, poisons, repellants and pesticides and all have proven prohibitively expensive, less effective or more damaging to the environment than trapping.
When it comes to managing moles our options are extremely limited.
The law of unintended consequences dictates that whenever you create a rule to handle one problem it often has unanticipated negative results. Much like squeezing a balloon, pinching one spot just causes it to bulge out somewhere else.
Recently, State Rep. Joel Kretz made headlines when he exposed the unintended consequences of the trapping initiative (Initiative 713) passed in 2000. State employees were cited for trapping on the capitol grounds in violation of the initiative.
The intent of the initiative was not to eliminate trapping but to stop the use of certain types of “body gripping” traps considered inhumane and then only when used for recreation or fur trade.
Unfortunately, when it came to interpreting the intent and enforcing the initiative, the Dept of fish & wildlife (DFW) determined that it included all trapping including nuisance wildlife.
So, what does any of this have to do with moles?
Moles are native wildlife and as such under the jurisdiction of DFW.
Until it is changed, the law says we can only use “live” traps (which seldom if ever work). Traps must be checked every 24 hours. Captured animals may not be deprived of food or water and they must be released where they are caught or euthanized (killed). You may not relocate them without an environmental impact study and special permit.
You may however, drown them (humanely?) after catching them live.
Maybe the folks sent to Olympia should take a Mulligan on this one.■