Moles and pocket gophers can be among the most destructive pests to home landscapes.The Barton County Extension Office in Great Bend gets many calls annually from homeowners with holes, tunnels and mounds on their property which disrupts mowing and plant growth. Recently, Charlie Lee, Kansas State University wildlife damage control specialist, came out on the afternoon of Saturday, Dec. 4, to the Jim And Marlies Stevens property southeast of Great Bend with Rick Snell, Barton County Extension agent. They demonstrated the proper trapping techniques and to discuss biology and other control methods for pocket gophers and moles.
Moles are small mammals that spend most of their lives in underground burrows. Moles have high energy requirements. They actively feed day and night at all times of the year. They feed on mature insects and snail larvae, spiders, small vertebrates, earthworms, and occasionally take small amounts of vegetation. Earthworms and white grubs are favorite foods.
Moles prefer loose, sandy loam soils and avoid heavy, dry clay soils. Mole activity in lawns or fields usually shows up as ridges of up heaved soil created where the runways were constructed as the animals moved about foraging for food. Some of these tunnels are used as travel lanes and may be abandoned immediately after being dug.
Mounds of soil called molehills may be brought to the surface of the ground as moles dig deep, permanent tunnels and nest cavities.
There several different traps on the market but trapping is the only consistent method for mole control.
On the other hand, toxicants or baits, as well as trapping may be used to control pocket gophers.
Alfalfa producers have known about pocket gophers’ effect on alfalfa plants for a long time. Some very early research at K-State was directed at problems relating to pocket gophers.
Pocket gophers weigh about one pound, live most of their lives underground and eat the roots of plants. Gophers dig burrows about three to six inches in diameter and about five to 10 inches deep. Depending on the time of the year, there may be from scven to 30 gophers per acre in areas of high population. They can do damage by chewing the roots of flowers and shrubs as well as the fresh up heaved soil they leave that smothers grass.