If you think you’ve had enough of moles destroying your garden, then further discussion will help you find ways to control nuisance wildlife on your property. In this guide, you’ll learn enough about various types of traps to give you a clear idea of how they work, what to look for, and how to set traps. We’ll also review the TOP 5 Best Mole Traps on the market to help you choose the right one for you.
I love animals. But I also love gardening. I deeply care about my raised beds of herbs and decorative flowers. Not long ago, though, I started seeing mole activity along the sides of my raised beds, inside them, and even out in the garden outside. Moles were making small tunnels, which went up under the raised beds making soft spots and the dirt just caved off.
Moles became super destructive: they would come under those new little herbs I planted and destroy their root system, pushed them up and out of the ground and generally just wreak havoc on the garden. So I started looking into ways on how to get rid of moles in the most humane way possible. In this guide, I’ll show you the best traps available and how to use trapping to your advantage.
Thanks to my background in biology, I know what moles are and how they operate. I’ll share some insights into mole activity with you herein below so it will be easier for you to understand how to use trapping effectively.
What You Will Learn from This Guide:
- Mole Biology – basics you should know before setting traps
- Types of traps
- How to set mole traps
- TOP 5 Best Mole Traps
- The effectiveness of mole traps
- How to trap moles effectively
If you think that moles are rodents, then you’re mistaken. Moles are tiny mammal creatures that feed on invertebrate prey, or simply, insects. Unfortunately, due to the fact that these species live underground, they are very difficult to study and there’s still little data available on their behavior. However, the facts that we do know are enough to understand the basic mole biology.
Contrary to popular belief, moles do not feed on plants, they might take leaves into their burrows for comfortable sleeping, but they won’t eat them.
Since moles live underground, they have long claws that enable them to “swim” through the soil.
Moles or gophers?
Moles can seldom be mistaken for gophers, shrews, or even mice. It becomes even more confusing when shrews and voles use mole burrows as their travel lanes. You need to learn how to distinguish moles from other species because gopher traps will not work for moles, and vice versa. Usually, the damage caused by gophers is far more severe than that of moles.
The basic difference between gopher and mole mounds are in their shapes: molehill will look like a circular mound, whereas the gopher’s mound will be a heart or fan-shaped with the hole to the tunnel plugged with soil.
Mole facts – crucial info to learn effective trapping
Moles have sensitive hearing, sense of touch, and a well-developed sense of smell. Thus, whenever you set the trap, wear rubber gloves or rub your hands with soil.
If you think you’ve caught all the moles in your garden, don’t be surprised when a new bunch of moles shows up after a short while: other moles may migrate to the abandoned tunnels.
In winter moles mate and breed leading to new infestations in spring, when the mole pups are ready to dig!
If your garden seems like a moles’ paradise, then it’s obviously because there’s plenty of food for a mole to gorge on, like earthworms, and grubs. Thus, one way to get rid of the moles is to make your property less habitable: reduce soil moisture, pack the soil with a garden roller, control the grub population to eliminate the mole’s primary food source.
Here’s a little side note, though, before you get too excited. Moles play important role in the soil management: they eat grubs, Japanese beetles, numerous other species that destroy the vegetation; they also work the soil and subsoil, which allows better soil aeration. So basically they have their job to do and actually help you grow your plants.
But yet again, the life’s not that simple and instead of help, they can damage by digging tunnels underneath. Before resorting to traps, though, I still recommend trying to prevent mole activity in your garden or catching moles alive and transferring them to the areas of your garden where you don’t mind their peaceful existence.
If you decided to go the hard way and kill the annoying creatures, then here’s good news for you: scientists unanimously agree that trapping is the most effective and preferred method of mole control.
Now let’s cover the type of traps and how to set them so they would work properly.
There are three basic types of traps: scissor-jawed (most famously known as Out O’Sight), harpoon, and choker loop (aka Nash). Each of these traps is different, but are based on the same spring mechanism: trigger-pan springs the trap as the mole tries to lift the portion of the soil in its burrow over which the trap is set.
This trap looks like scissors thus, the name. The scissor-like jaws close when the mole runs through the trap. Professionals often recommend this type of trap; it’s also been confirmed as the most effective mole trap in various field trials. Another advantage is that it’s relatively inexpensive and works in most soil types. However, setting it up can be difficult and requires some strength to the arm.
Harpoon trap has sharp spikes that kill the mole while driven into the ground by the spring. This type of trap has also been proven effective; however, smaller moles can escape. Perhaps, it’s the easiest trap to set, but might be applicable only in shallow systems.
As its name gives away, choker type traps have choker loops that tighten around the mole’s body. It’s the safest type of trap for the trapper. Others described above can break your fingers, this one, on the other hand, won’t do any harm. On the downside, its efficiency has not been proven in field trials, it’s hard to set properly, and often difficult to trigger.
All traps have different setting routines, so I advise you to read instructions carefully to prevent accidental injury and to ensure the trap is set appropriately.
- Identify an active tunnel (check the section How to trap moles effectively in this guide for instructions). There will be usually a network of tunnels slightly visible in your yard, so make sure you choose a relatively straight tunnel. Do not set the trap on the twisting surface ridges of the tunnels.
- Dig out a portion of the burrow to locate the tunnel, put the trap inside the hole and cover it with patches of soil so the mole won’t get suspicious.
- Set the trap with a hair trigger.
- Release the safety hook.
These are the basic steps for all mole traps. The harpoon traps have to be set directly over the tunnel runway with stakes straddling it on both sides. The trigger-pan should just touch the earth.
Let’s go through the process of setting up a scissor-jawed trap in detail, so you know the specifics and the mechanics of mole trapping:
- Set the trap with a hair trigger. Always use the safety hook; just flip it over and if you accidentally set it off, you won’t injure yourself.
- With your trawl make a hole about 6 inches wide, make it a perfect circle if you can, lift it out gently without disturbing the mole channel. Save any dirt for later.
- Find out where the trail is exactly running so that you place your trap accordingly.
- Build a small bridge from the excess dirt that raises up in the middle of the circle to meet the tong of the trap.
- After you built the bridge, dig the slots for the jaws and make sure there are no rocks or stones in-between that will prevent the trap from doing its job.
- Take the trap and gently place the jaws so they straddle the mole’s path and the tong (pad) is slightly above the bridge.
- Place the leaves over the tong mechanism, because when you put the dirt back on top, you don’t want the dirt to get in-between the metal bar and the tongs’ mechanism, or else the trap won’t shut properly.
- Take your dirt that you’ve cut out from before and rip it in half, then take one other half and rip in half again.
- Place the two pieces of soil on the trigger part that flips up, make sure it’s got a pathway to flip, place the whole other half on the other side of the trap to cover it, then take any excess dirt and fill in any light holes so the mole doesn’t understand what’s going on.
Now let’s cover TOP 5 Best Mole Traps to make choosing one easier.
Wire Tek Mole Eliminator – effective and easy to set
Wire Tek Mole Eliminator is somewhat a modern and sophisticated version of a classic scissor jawed trap.
It’s very easy to set up, all you have to do is locate the tunnel, place the trap wherever you think the tunnel is relatively straight, and step on the trap to open the jaws apart, rock it back and forth to open up the earth a little bit so the jaws have enough space for maneuvering. Push the trap further back into the ground with the trigger pad slightly touching the ground.
The trap’s made of steel. The stores obviously carry a plastic replica of this brand, do not buy that junk!
Victor Plunger Style Mole Trap – harpoon style and easy to set
Victor Plunger Style Mole Trap is a classic representation of a harpoon trap. The spears that Victor uses in the trap are weather resistant and the trap can be used in any type of soil. The device comes with illustrated instructions, so whenever in doubt, please refer to the manual. The Plunger should be placed into the tunnel with the tunnel portion beneath the trigger pan partially blocked. The trigger must rest on the blockage, so when the mole wants to reopen its tunnel, they will push up on the trigger, releasing the trap mechanism.
Victor Out O’Sight Mole Trap – the most effective trap
Victor Out O’Sight Mole Trap is another piece of a classic here, representation of the scissor-jawed type. I’ve provided complete and detailed instructions on how to best set this type of trap earlier above in this article (see section How to set mole traps), so I won’t go into setting details.
Victor trap is made of sturdy materials for strength and durability: the trap features malleable iron jaws. It also comes fully assembled and includes setting levers. It might be hard to set up, but follow the instructions provided by the manufacturers and this guide, and you’ll be one step closer to success.
CINCH Mole Trap Kit – a trap for real pros
CINCH Mole Trap Kit comes with two traps, flags, and instructions. The trap is 12 inches in length and is suitable for tunnels approximately 2 1/4 inches in diameter. The manufacturer asks to measure the diameter of the tunnel before buying their product, but I think this is just a very unpractical requirement. I suppose this trap is made for professional exterminators with years of experience and outstanding analytical skills. And yes, in fact, CINCH traps are used by the US Forest Service. The manufacturer though says the trap is easy, just place it in the mole run, and place the marker flag by the run to check up daily and see if the trap was triggered.
Aspectek Humane Tunnel Mole Trap – humane but not very effective
Aspectek Humane Tunnel Mole Trap is the humane live trap that’s used to catch moles alive and letting them go outside your property or somewhere inside it where they don’t do much damage. You have to locate the mole run again, bury the trap inside it and wait till the mole runs through it, which might not happen, because moles are extremely careful of their surroundings and especially wary of any metal or plastic objects.
The trap is equipped with two doors that only swing indoors so the mole won’t get out.
Unfortunately for you and fortunately for the mole, the trap is not effective. Moles easily dig under the plastic trap and get away without getting caught.
If you, however, would be lucky enough to catch a mole, check your state’s catch-and-release laws to find ways of humanely dispatching a mole without breaking the law.
|Name||Differentiating features||Effectiveness (1-10)|
|Wire Tek Mole Eliminator||
|Victor Plunger Style Mole Trap||
|Victor Out O’Sight Mole Trap||
|CINCH Mole Trap Kit||
|Aspectek Humane Tunnel Mole Trap||
- Cover the trap with dirt. Moles can get suspicious if they smell something is going on in their burrows. If its sensitive nose feels a foreign metal object inside its tunnel, it will most obviously revert its way back or dig a tunnel underneath the trap. Thus, cover the trap with dirt so the moles don’t get suspicious. But make sure to cover it in such a way so that you won’t obstruct spring mechanism and prevent the trap from snapping.
- Do not dig up! Moles are sensitive to uncharacteristic and unnatural activity in their burrows. Do not tear away large pieces of soil trying to locate a better spot for catching that annoying mole! They will immediately sense something is going on and retreat back to their burrows.
- Try to locate a regular tunnel route of a mole. If you see that the tunnel has been used by mice or other species, then it’s obviously an abandoned tunnel, because moles are extremely good at housekeeping and repair any holes in their tunnels as soon as they discover them. If you want to check if the tunnel is regularly used, then dig a small hole on the rigid surface of the tunnel or step on it. Check the next day if your hole has been repaired, and if it is, then that’s the tunnel where you would want to place those traps!
- Cover your digging after you set the trap inside the runway, so the mole won’t guess something’s going on.
When to set mole traps?
The moles are most active in spring and fall. I do not recommend using the traps in early spring, since this is the exact time moles breed and by catching a lactating mole mother you leave her little pups to suffer and starve themselves to death.
How many mole traps do i need?
At least two. You can reuse them every day if you like.
- If your main concern with moles is their destroying your pretty lawn, then get a garden roller and press the lawn to reconnect grassroots with soil. Garden roll can actually drive the moles away if they see the soil has become too tight.
- Mole’s primary food source is grubs. If you want your moles to go somewhere else to feed, then choose to control grub population first with chemicals. However, it might become inefficient if moles decide not to leave your area but search for more food instead.
- Always place traps on the straight runways, avoid meandering surface ridges.
- Always use rubber gloves so the moles won’t sense your human smell
Pros and Cons
- Trapping is the most effective method of catching moles
- Some of them are pretty effective if used properly
- Mole traps are quite expensive and can be much more expensive than the regular rat or mouse traps
- Moles are not stupid and can easily figure out if something’s going on, so trapping can become a real challenge
- Even if you catch a couple of moles here and there, new moles can come into your garden, if it still provides food and comfort, and occupy abandoned runways
Are mole traps legal?
In most states mole traps are legal if moles significantly damage your property. Check your state laws to be on the safe side. For example, mole traps that use a body-gripping or body piercing mechanism are not legal to catch animals in Washington State.
Are mole traps dangerous to pets?
The mole traps are primarily hid underground so they should not be dangerous to pets. However, if you’re nervous, you may cover the ground where the trap is set with anything else to prevent accidental exposure.
Will mole traps work on voles and gophers?
No. You will have to look for entirely different set of traps.
Do I need use bait for trapping moles?
No. This is not how mole trapping works. Mole traps work primarily on the mole’s instinct to dig the soil and the dirt and repair its passageways. Besides, moles are insectivores, so trapping them with peanut butter won’t work.
Can I shoot a mole with a shotgun?
Well, you certainly can try. But we advise to check with your local law enforcement authorities first to see if the firearms are permitted in your area and for this specific purpose.
Can I trap a mole trap with a water jug?
Yes, you can. Take a gallon jug and fill it with water. Then damp the jug into the ground hole and wait till it’s empty. If you’re lucky enough the mole will run into the jug trying to escape the “waterfall”.
Is there any mole trap that comes with bucket?
Well, no there is not. Some people use the bucket to cover the trap when it’s set into the mole tunnel to prevent light from coming in and scaring the mole away. I suggested you use soil patches to cover the trap instead.
Can you recommend best mole trap for sandy soil?
Moles prefer sandy soils, so the traps described above would work well. However, for best results I recommend using scissor-jawed type of traps.
Comparative chart of Mole Traps
While moles might be a nuisance, think of ways that might drive the moles away before resorting to traps. And if you decide to trap, then go for the most effective ones, since they not only kill the animal but will also do it very fast to prevent unnecessary suffering.