Voles and Moles and Who Knows What?!
I have just over half an acre of land and not a blade of turf grass, but I've been working hard to fill the space with perennials and natives. I'm adjacent to a large tract of unmanaged city land and an unmanaged elderly neighbor's yard, so weed and critter control have always been problems. I've had a problem with voles for several years and am doing my best to keep them out of at least my small vegetable garden with fine-mesh hardware cloth, but I've realized I now also have a problem with (I think) moles since I'm finding raised soil trails throughout my garden and all over the city's property. I'm also seeing chipmunks... that I love... so maybe they're the mischief-makers? There are no mounds that I associate with moles, so is that really what they are? And whatever they are, some of my plants are suffering from having their roots just hanging loose in the trails. We also have hawks, owls, and an American Eagle and I've heard I shouldn't try to poison the critters since that could harm the birds. I'm leery of kill-traps since I haven't found any that wouldn't kill the chipmunks. Are there any other solutions or do I just need to resign myself to losing a few plants now and then?
Hennepin County Minnesota
Thank you for contacting Ask an Expert.
If you are finding raised soil trails and your plants are suffering from having their roots just hanging loose in the trails but are not eaten, I think you are right: you have moles. Perhaps the entry points are located in the adjoining properties or among your other native plantings.
Moles are carnivores and most likely moved in because your yard has a healthy population of soil-dwelling insects. Kill-traps are the most recommended solution for mole control, though it would need to be repeated annually as new moles move into the territory each spring. Another suggested control methods is to kill off those insects — like white grubs — with a chemical solution in mid-to-late summer. Moles will not eat the dead insects and so will likely not affect hunting raptors. However, that will affect which insects , primarily scarab beetles like June bugs or Japanese beetles, and what other animals will visit your landscape.
If you have specific plants or garden beds that you want to protect, you can bury metal fencing (hardware cloth) 12-inches deep with an outward-pointing flare at the bottom (deepest) part.
Hope this helps.