Lawn and Turf: Moles

Photo by: D. Pehling
Use IPM (Integrated Pest Management) for successful plant problem management.

There are three species of moles in the Pacific Northwest which are considered a problem in landscapes. The Townsend's mole (Scapanus townsendii) is the most common and is found throughout western Washington and Oregon. The Pacific or coast mole (S. orarius) can be found along the coast and in areas of southeastern Washington and northeastern Oregon. It prefers drier, better-drained soils than the Townsend's mole. The California or broadfooted mole (S. latimanus) occurs in south central Oregon. All moles have short, velvety fur (usually grayish to black). The tail is very short and nearly hairless; the snout is slender and pointed, contains small needle-like teeth, and is also nearly hairless. Ears and eyes are inconspicuous. The forearms are short and stout, with shovel-like hairless paws and stout claws on the tips of the toes. The forepaws are tipped outward for digging. Townsend's moles average around 8 inches long; Pacific and California moles are slightly smaller. Moles are rarely seen aboveground, but they occasionally emerge from their tunnels where they are vulnerable to predators such as owls, dogs, or coyotes. Underground, moles build two types of tunnels. Permanent tunnels are typically 3 to 12 inches below the surface (but sometimes up to 40 inches deep) and are used daily for moving around their territory and collecting food. Temporary surface tunnels are built beneath the soil surface up to about 4 inches deep, leaving a raised ridge of soil. These tunnels are likely only used once for collecting food. Excess soil excavated when making tunnels is pushed to the surface, leaving characteristic conical mounds. Moles are very active travelers and excavate large tunnel systems in their home territory. Most yards actually have very few moles, but when they are active it can seem that there are dozens digging and making mounds. Moles feed primarily on invertebrates, with earthworms comprising much of their diet. They also feed on other organisms such as grubs, slugs, snails, and various adult and larval insects. Occasionally they will feed on plant parts, especially grasses, but moles seldom cause significant damage to plants in the landscape. Plant damage in the landscape attributed to moles is often actually caused by voles, small rodents which may also use the tunnel systems constructed by moles.

Management Options

Select Non-chemical Management Options as Your First Choice!!
Revision Date:6/13/2014
None recommended

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Hortsense web site created by Carrie Foss, Pesticide Education, and Art Antonelli, Extension Entomology, WSU Puyallup
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