Moles, Voles, and Gophers: How to Get Rid of Them

If unusual holes, raised mounds, and strange runways have shown up in your yard, it’s likely you’ve been visited by burrowing rodents intent on transforming your perfectly manicured lawn into their personal underground headquarters. Moles, voles, and gophers are all similarly-sized mammals. Identifying which of these three aggravating creatures has invaded your yard may seem daunting, but it can be done in a single afternoon. 

These pests live their lives primarily hidden or underground, making themselves scarcely seen in the daylight. However, each of these animals has a unique impact on the landscape. Before taking any measures to control these intruders, learning to identify the differences in the burrows and mounds they form is crucial. Watching for each animal’s distinct stamp on your yard will determine just what sort of damage may be concealed underground. 

Voles

How can I spot a vole? 

Though their name rhymes with a fellow ground pest, the mole, these creatures share only a few characteristics. Voles, typically around half a foot long, lack the unmistakable pointed snout and enlarged feet of a mole and instead look comparable to a common mouse or shrew. While voles are known to burrow underground, they prefer to reside in low-lying vegetation. A vole inadvertently makes itself known to you by creating distinct, odd-looking runways and burrowing paths in the grass and soil of your yard. Their entrance holes are flat, not mound-shaped.

What are the signs of vole damage? 

Voles are herbivores, making them a voracious hazard to the roots, leaves, and stems of your plants. These animals tend to eat their way through grass & shallow roots, creating easy-to-spot highways at or below the surface of the ground. Voles also tend to dig their pathways near home foundations and underground systems. These mouse-like creatures can not only wipe out your plant life or gnaw at the bark on your trees and bushes, but they can also jeopardize underground sprinklers, pipes, and wiring.

Gophers

How can I spot a gopher? 

Gophers are one of the most common burrowing rodents across North America. Measuring at about eight to twelve inches long, these vegetarian animals have been known to pull entire plants, from root to stem, down into their feeding burrows. Gophers have large, exposed front teeth that enable them to loosen soil and gravel as they dig along root systems, chomping away at all your landscaping. These rodents reside primarily underground in their complicated tunnel systems, some of which stretch nearly six feet under the surface. Small mounds of dirt with fresh soil plugs, a gopher’s attempt at “sealing” the tunnel, are a sure indicator that they’ve been around enjoying, often literally, the fruits of your labor. 

What are the signs of gopher damage? 

Gophers also boast a plant-based palate, so your foliage is at risk when they dig their way into your yard. Because they are, on average, larger than moles or voles, they are capable of excavating at a much quicker rate over their lifetimes, with some gopher burrows stretching thousands of square feet underground. Gophers’ burrowing potential not only endangers the plants in the yard, but their digging can contribute to soil erosion, making it more difficult to create a successful garden altogether. Gophers are known to eat whole bulbs and entire rooted plants, as well as cause destruction to underground structures (read: pipes and wiring) in favor of digging their tunnels. Fan-shaped gopher mounds can often be found even in the middle of your flower beds, surrounded by chewed, dying, or even completely removed plants.

Moles

How can I spot a mole? 

Moles are medium-sized rodents at six to eight inches in length and are some of the most pervasive underground pests. Moles are known by their large feet and snouts, which they use to maneuver and dig underground. They have small, weak eyes. Moles are some of the easiest ground pests to detect, as they leave their typical mounds, or molehills, in their wake. Molehills differ from gopher mounds in that they are conically shaped, not unlike volcanoes, and tend to be accompanied by raised surface mounds caused by tunnels dug just underneath the ground. It may seem as though your mole problem popped up overnight, and that may very well be the case. A single mole can dig up to 18 feet of tunnel within one hour, expediting the underground destruction. 

What are the signs of mole damage? 

A common misconception about these tiny burrowers is that, like voles and gophers, they feast on plant material. In fact, moles are insectivores, preferring worms and insects over roots. Don’t breathe a sigh of relief just yet—moles are still burrowers that ravage the soil and root systems of your yard. In fact, if you find yourself in the unlucky position to have both moles and/or voles or gophers in your yard, these pests can start to share tunnels, causing twice as much deterioration or more. 

Ground Control

Certain that one or more of these animals is to blame for your yard’s deterioration? Take action using these simple steps before your yard becomes nothing more than a rodent smorgasbord. 

Repel 

Though it may be only a negligible comfort, voles, gophers, and moles tend to be selective about the location of their home base, and if they’ve chosen your yard, it indicates that you’ve got a garden utopia on your hands: superior soil quality, flourishing plants, and remarkably ideal landscape conditions. 

Need a powerful plan of attack? Make your yard less appealing. This doesn’t mean you have to skimp entirely on your plants. Cutting down on dense vegetation will discourage timid voles and placing mothballs, peppermint oil, hot sauce, or jalapeño peppers, or dryer sheets around and inside burrows will deter all three of these burrowing animals. Gardeners also have had luck using loud radios or supersonic repellents on smaller gopher and vole populations. To maximize your repellent efforts for all three pests, mix ¼ cup castor oil with a few sprays of liquid dish soap in one gallon of water & spray the concoction in burrows, near mounds, and by damaged plants. This humane repellent mixture, when inevitably ingested, will make them sick enough to steer clear.

Trap

Unrestricted admittance to your garden can be remedied by cutting these plant-destroyers off from their food source. Burying an exclusion fence deep enough to create a blockade, about 18-24 inches down, will send gophers and voles pivoting in the other direction and keep moles from continuing to dig up roots. Constructing underground metal garden crates, raising garden beds, and investing in mesh gopher baskets will further barricade your plants. 

Many safe and highly effective traps can also be set near fresh mounds in your yard, but be sure to check your local laws regarding rodent management, as many of these creatures need to be released in designated areas or dealt with by professionals. 

Attract

We don’t mean more pests. It’s no secret that moles, voles, and gophers are not at the top of the food chain, so attracting potential predators (that won’t also threaten your hard work) is a safe and effective course of action. Just the outdoor presence of pets such as dogs and cats is often enough to frighten ground pests and send them away. Placing a barn owl box or nest, an animal who preys on moles, gophers, and voles, will also discourage these creatures from settling in close to a perceived predator’s possible residence. 

If you’d like to make your message loud and clear, place used cat litter or dog feces in or around the burrows. The pests will detect the scents of the predatory animals and keep their distance.

Force

Sometimes the only way to get rid of moles, voles, and gophers is to send them a customized eviction notice. Homeowners have had luck with both flooding and fumigation methods with all three pests. Pouring water into burrows and causing flooding to their feeding and traveling tunnels will drive them to the surface. These animals will then fearfully dash elsewhere in search of safety. This method is most effective for minor to moderate ground pest infestations, as it may take some time for water to travel through the complicated tunnels made by multiple gophers, voles, and moles. Be warned, however—it’s not uncommon for these methods to drive the pests elsewhere in your yard. The most effective products and traps are available to professional pest control companies. If your ground pests persist, consider letting the pros take a look.

Tackling a mole, vole, or gopher invasion on your property can be a massive project. For additional support in implementing any of these at-home pest control methods, or for further assistance with a burrowing pest problem, feel free to give us a call. Keeping your home and garden pest-free is our #1 goal, and we are happy to extend a helping hand when it comes to your pest control efforts. 

 

 

Sources:
http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7433.html
https://wdfw.wa.gov/species-habitats/living/species-facts/pocket-gophers#
https://wdfw.wa.gov/species-habitats/living/species-facts/moles#
https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/north-carolina-agricultural-chemicals-manual/animal-damage-control
https://extension2.missouri.edu/G9440
https://cals.arizona.edu/yavapai/anr/hort/byg/archive/managingpocketgopherspart2.html
https://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/uhmg/downloads/home-remedies-OSU.pdf
https://www.volecontrol.com/vole-mole-gopher-info/voles-gophers-or-moles
https://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/how-to-tell-the-difference-between-moles-voles/