Mole Control | Get Rid of Moles in Lawn | Mole Traps 101

Mole - How to TrapThe use of ground mole traps is one of the most universally applicable and dependable methods of getting rid of moles. Several different kinds of ground mole traps are available at hardware stores, nurseries and the web. Keep in mind that the best ground mole traps differ from those for pocket gophers, as very few traps are effective for both ground mole control and gopher control.

The Reason We Find Yard Moles in Our Lawns

Traditionally, yard moles are woodland animals in nature. We so often find them colonizing and damaging our properties as a result of our expansion via real estate and farming onto their lands and natural habitats.

The Solution to Get Rid of Yard Moles in Lawn

Many experts and professionals deem ground mole trapping to be one of the most effective methods of ground mole control. The “trick or art” of trapping is to first understand the biology and behavior of ground moles. Understanding ground mole behavior helps property owners improve the efficiency of trapping because it enables you to more accurately develop a strategy on how to get rid of ground moles.

Yard Mole Biology and Behavior

Ground moles are active throughout the year and primarily feed on earthworms. Grubs and millipedes are also common foods known to be eaten by ground moles, but the core food of their diets are worms. As a result, if you are able to locate where the worms are likely to be found (moist and cool areas), then you are also likely to discover where the freshest ground mole tunnels are to be found. This is sort of like the “in order to make money, you must follow the money” theorem. Nonetheless, to stay on topic, ground moles can be trapped at any time of the year.

molemadnessFall and early spring are usually the most effective times for trapping ground moles. The logic is centered on the belief and fact that ground mole populations are normally lower, lawn/property damage is most visible, fewer tunnels are in use (due to the weather significantly increasing effectiveness) and new ground mole offspring have not yet been born during these times of the year.

NOTE: Ground moles are very dynamic insectivores and will adapt to changes in food supply and source as different insects become available in different places and at different times throughout the year. Ground moles will change tunnels and readily recolonize other existing or deserted tunnels. Also, be aware that ground moles may seem to vanish during extended cold or dry periods, but in reality they may have only gone deeper underground.

Why Ground Mole Traps are Effective

Yard moles primarily dig two types of tunnel systems or run ways:

  1. Deep tunnels that are more or less permanently used, and
  2. Networks of surface tunnels used for feeding.

Because these networks of surface tunnels are used for feeding, ground moles are compelled to keep these types of tunnels open.


To be effective, the trap must be set to catch the ground mole underground. The goal is to trap (kill) the ground mole when it travels through or attempts to reopen its main tunnels. As the ground mole clears the tunnel, it pushes up on the trigger pan, releasing the spring and is skewered or crushed by the trap. A frequently asked question is why would a ground mole attempt to reopen a tunnel that appears to be damaged? The answer to this question is because it is common for ground mole tunnels to cave-in, so consequently, ground moles tend to be undeterred by soil blocks in tunnels and often continue digging through them rather than around them.

NOTE: The snout of a ground mole is very sensitive and if it encounters a foreign object in the burrow (actually touches the trap), the ground mole is likely to plug off that portion of the ground mole tunnel and dig around or under the object. To prevent the ground mole from digging around the trap, traps should be set to straddle or encircle the tunnel or be suspended above it.

Mole Tunnel

The Key to Ground Mole Traps and Tunnel Selection

The key to ground mole trapping is to determine which runways are currently in use. As mentioned above, ground moles dig systems of deep tunnels that are more or less permanently used as well as networks of surface runs used for feeding. Some of these surface tunnels are only temporary, so they may not be the ideal locations to set good ground mole traps. Permanent or deeper tunnels will be the most productive since these tunnels may be used several times daily by the ground moles.

To identify main runways in your yard or property, look for constantly reopened tunnels that:

  1. follow more or less a straight course for some distance, or
  2. Appear to connect two mounds or feeding areas.

Raised Mole TunnelThe main runways of ground moles tend to follow fence rows, walkways, foundations and other types of man-made borders. Occasionally, main runways can be found along woody perimeters of a field or lawn. Also, deeper ground mole tunnels can be located by probing between or next to a fresh mound with a pointed stick, slender metal rod, or gopher probe. When the earth suddenly gives way, the probe has probably broken through the burrow.

Be sure to avoid twisting surface ridges and do not place traps on top of ground mole mounds or hills. Ground mole hills and these types of tunnels are often “probes” of a sort and are quickly constructed by ground moles at about 15 to 18 feet per hour. Consequently, such rambling or twisting surface ridge type tunnels and mounds may or may not ever be reused by the ground mole(s) again.

Determining if the Ground Mole Tunnel is Still Active

Active runs and ground mole tunnels can be determined by tamping (stepping) down sections of surface runways and ground mole mounds. Observe these areas daily and re-tamp any raised sections, making note of the areas of activity. Selecting a frequently used runway is very important to the success of your ground mole control efforts. If the ground mole tunnel or run is re-opened in 24 to 48 hours, you have likely discovered an active tunnel. Pat yourself on the back and move on to the next step of choosing a ground mole trap for your property.

Selecting a Lawn Mole Trap

There are several different types of ground mole traps available on the market. We at have chosen to highlight two of these. These are the harpoon and the scissor-jaw types of ground mole traps. Ground moles have sometimes been caught with certain pincer-type gopher traps set in ground mole runways, but these have not proven to be as effective as the harpoon or scissor-jaw types of traps. Trap manufacturers often provide detailed instructions, which should be followed carefully.

The brand names of the more preferred traps are: Victor® mole trap, Out O’ Sight®, and Nash® (choker loop) mole trap. The Victor® trap has sharp spikes that impale the ground mole when the spikes are driven into the ground by the spring. The Out O’ Sight® trap has scissor-like jaws that close firmly across the runway; one pair on either side of the trigger pan. The Nash® trap has a choker loop that tightens around the ground mole’s body. Others include the Easy-Set ground mole eliminator, Cinch ground mole trap, and the Death-Klutch gopher trap.

Ground mole traps are fairly expensive, so people often choose to buy only one. One trap may very well solve the problem, but increasing the number of traps used can impact the speed and overall success of the ground mole trapping program.

How to set a Scissor-Jaw Type Ground Mole Trap

Scissor-jaw traps are best when set in a ground mole’s main underground tunnel usually 8 to 12 inches below the surface. The Out-Of-Sight trap is a great ground mole trap that allows you to dig into an active tunnel to place the trap exactly in the ground moles path.

The following steps should be taken:

  1. Mole Scissor Trap DiagramUse a garden trowel or small shovel to remove a section of soil slightly larger than the width of the trap; roughly 6 inches. The ground mole run must be open and exposed on both ends of the trap. This is commonly referred to as a “through tunnel”.
  2. After the soil has been removed, create an obstruction of thoroughly packed soil that is as high as the trigger on the trap. This patch of dirt is what the trigger pan will rest on. Moist soil from the opened tunnel or from a nearby fresh mound can be squeezed together to build the plug.
  3. Set the trap and wedge it firmly into the opened ground mole burrow with the trigger placed snugly against the top of the soil plug.
  4. Engage the trap. Refer to the directions on the box.
  5. Scatter loose soil over the set trap and fill with dirt until it is level with the rest of the tunnel. This excludes light from the opened burrow and makes the ground mole less suspicious of the plugged tunnel.
  6. Release the safety catch, and the trap is completely set.

How to set a Harpoon Type Ground Mole Trap

Harpoon (spear) traps are set by crushing the tunnel with your feet or hands and arming a trap above the blockage. The goal is to harpoon the ground mole as it tries to re-open the closed tunnel that you created. Some illustrations of setting this trap can be misleading as they show an open tunnel below the trap. Be sure to always block the tunnel first.

Harpoon Type Mole TrapsThe following steps should be taken:

  1. Make a depression with your thumbs, hand or foot in the center of an active tunnel. The trigger pan will eventually sit 1/2 to 1 inch down in this depression or blockage.
  2. Position the trap over the depression with the legs of the trap straddling the tunnel. Push the trap into the soil until the trigger pan lays flat on top of the depression. Lift the trigger latch and push the trigger pan into the tunnel depression. The trigger latch should lay outside of the trigger pan lip.
  3. Hold the frame of the trap firmly with your left hand and pull up quickly on the setting tee. The latch will slide into position inside of the pan lip, holding the plate and spikes above the tunnel.

Additional Yard Mole Trap Notes:

  1. Many ground mole traps are commonly designed to discharge when the ground mole pushes up on the trigger. The ground mole does this by trying to squeeze beneath the blocked portion of the tunnel when attempting to reopen a ground mole run. Therefore, this portion should be directly below the trigger pan resulting in the mole trap always being triggered.
  2. Dead ground moles will not usually come out from the ground like a skewered animal. Before pulling a discharged spear trap, dig on both sides of the spears to see if there is a deceased ground mole beneath the spikes. Homeowners have often trapped a ground mole and not realized it.
  3. A common mistake is not to use enough traps. If you have three active tunnels in the yard, use three traps. 

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