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Moles and their Control
Moles are small mammals in the family Talpidae and the order Soricomorpha. They have stout, cylindrical bodies suited for burrowing, small ears that usually are not visible, stubby (but very strong) legs, large paws that are well-suited for digging and burrowing, and small or covered eyes. A mole's hand is unique among animals in that it has two thumbs.
Moles are believed to have very poor vision. They apparently can tell day from night, but that's about it. They're otherwise pretty much blind.
They do, however, have excellent senses of hearing, smell, and vibration. They use all three senses to find food: As soon as a mole detects that an earthworm or other small invertebrate has been unfortunate enough to fall into its burrow, it will run toward the animal and capture it.
Whether the trapped animal is eaten right away, however, is another question. A mole's saliva contains a chemical that can paralyze earthworms, allowing the moles to store them away -- alive, but motionless -- for later consumption. When it's time to eat, the mole will pull the selected earthworm through its clenched paw to remove the dirt and other matter out of the earthworm's gut.
Moles as Pests
Moles are not known to transmit disease, are non-aggressive, and seldom come in contact with humans or other animals due to their secretive habits. Their significance as pests is based completely on their burrowing.
Mole burrow networks can become quite extensive. Moles dig deep tunnels for traveling from place to place, and tunnels closer to the surface to catch food, especially earthworms and other soil-dwelling invertebrates. The more feeding tunnels the mole digs, the more food it's likely to catch; and because of their extremely high metabolic rates, moles require an enormous amount of food relative to their body mass.
Because of all this tunneling, it doesn't take long for a mole to destroy a lawn with unsightly burrows and molehills. Obviously, moles are an especially serious problem at golf courses, athletic fields, and other recreational areas, where mole burrow networks can cause sprained ankles and other injuries. But even on an ordinary residential or commercial lawn, mole tunnels are ugly.
Moles are also agricultural pests. Although they don't eat plant roots, they can damage them seriously enough to cause the death of the plant, especially if the moles are trying to get to bugs that are in the roots of the plants. In forage fields, mole burrows may cause injuries to livestock that trip over the molehills or get their legs stuck in the burrows.
Because moles live outdoors and burrow in the soil, there is no permanent way to get rid of them or seal them out. There are a lot of do-it-yourself solutions that people think work, but really don't. That's because moles are somewhat nomadic by nature. They move around and follow the food, which often happens right after someone has tried some DIY trick or another to get rid of them. But it's just coincidence when that happens. There are no known "mole repellents" that actually work. The moles will be back.
When moles do move in, the use of specialized mole traps is usually the most practical and efficient way to control them. Chemical control using products like Talpirid in the spring and fall can also help reduce moles populations, along with the damage that they cause.
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