Hairy-Tailed Mole (a.k.a. Brewer’s Mole) (Parascalops breweri)
Hairy-tailed moles are odd-looking creatures, with almost invisible eyes and proportionally massive forepaws. They use those forepaws to wreak their havoc on your lawn, creating networks of raised tunnels punctuated with dirt piles. To deal with them effectively, either on your own or when hiring a professional pest control company, arm yourself with basic information on their habits. These creatures can be very difficult to catch in a trap.
We have a page dedicated to the different types of mole traps here
Basic Facts About Hairy-Tailed Moles
Hairy-tailed moles are found primarily in southern Ontario and Quebec, Canada, the northeastern United States, and south to the Great Smoky Mountains region. You’ll find it where the soil is relatively dry and loose and easy to move: in deciduous woodlands, old fields, hedgerows (fence lines), golf courses and suburban lawns. It has blackish-brown fur, and is about 6 inches long, including a bristly-haired 1-inch tail. Its nose is long, narrow, and pointed. Hairy-tailed moles will sometimes hunt for insects above ground, most often at night.
Hairy-tailed moles are sometimes mixed up with shrews; but shrews are smaller at 3-5 inches, where most moles are 5-7 inches long or more. Moles have shovel-like forepaws, while shrews’ feet are more mouselike.
Hairy-tailed moles produce one litter of 4-5 pups in April-May. Any trapping should ideally occur before the pregnant female mole gives birth. In late summer, you’ll see more moles aboveground as juveniles leave the nest.
Dogs and cats, foxes, and owls are some of the animals that prey on moles. If poison baits are left out for the moles (and we don’t recommend this), there’s a risk that these predators can also be poisoned if they prey upon a mole that’s eaten the bait but not yet died. Most of these poisons do have antidotes, but why put your pet through that kind of trauma?
Hairy-tailed mole surface tunnels are often only used one time in search of food; after the food source is exhausted, the mole will abandon the tunnel and excavate a new one. They can undermine plant roots, indirectly causing damage or death. Rodents will use mole tunnels later on to attack plants from underground. Sometimes the damage caused by moles to lawns is mostly visual, and the problem can be solved by simply removing the molehills as they appear.
The Good Thing about Hairy-Tailed Moles
Yes, really -- the presence of hairy-tailed moles does have an advantage. They have a voracious appetite for insects, including destructive insects such as cutworms and Japanese beetles; daily food consumption can equal 50-100% of the animal’s weight. They prefer earthworms, but will eat slugs, snails, centipedes, larval and adult insects, and ants.
Before You Start: Identify Your Suspects
Since moles, gophers and voles all leave runways in lawn and garden areas, they are often confused with each other. Because these pests are rarely seen, it makes more sense to base identification on the signs they leave behind. Proper pest identification is the first step in control.
Look closely at your piles of dirt. Hairy-tailed mole mounds are volcano-like in appearance, while pocket gopher mounds are horseshoe-shaped. Voles, meanwhile, leave no mounds at all behind. Instead, voles construct well-defined, visible runways at or near the surface, about two inches wide. Vole runways result from the voles eating the grass blades, as well as from the constant traffic of numerous little feet over the same path.
Chemical Approaches & Home Remedies to Control Moles
If you decide to try a chemical approach, be sure that you’re aiming at the right target. Going after lawn grubs and insects won’t impact mole activity much, given that the hairy-tailed mole’s primary food is earthworms. In fact, many chemicals and home remedies (including castor oil derivatives and grub controls) are not only ineffective when dealing with hairy-tailed moles, but they allow moles time to establish and become real problems.
All those glowing testimonials for these products can be explained by understanding moles’ behavior. On large properties, mole activity frequently moves from one part of the lawn to another. If disturbed, moles may temporarily leave an area but will usually return when you least expect it. Even without disturbance mole activity may last only a week or two in a particular area. This here-today, gone-tomorrow behavior is probably the root of most of the misconceptions that make some home remedies and pesticides appear credible.
Trapping Hairy-Tailed Moles
Traps, set either by the property owner or by a pest control company, are the best option. If you want to go it alone, realize that kill traps leave you with the problem of cleanup and proper disposal. Live traps leave the homeowner with the problem of how to deal with the live mole after it’s caught. In many states, animal relocation is prohibited (with good reason), so please check with your state natural resources or fish and wildlife department beforehand.
Moles will have their litters in early spring; trapping beforehand can eliminate pregnant females, nipping in the bud what could be a potentially bigger problem later on.
Where you place the trap is critical to your success in trapping. You’ll want to place your mole trap near active mole feeding tunnels. Here’s how to tell if a feeding tunnel is active:
Using your hand or a trowel, flatten sections of the moles’ raised ridges of soil. Mark these sections with something bright (perhaps some old ribbon that you can tie to a stick to make a little flag), so it will be easy to relocate them later. Check back within 12 to 24 hours to inspect the ridges you’ve flattened. If the ridges of soil are pushed back up, you’ll know that this is an active tunnel. This is where you’ll place your trap.
Cut out the turf over the active tunnel, and remove the soil right down to where the moles have beaten their path. While their vision is poor, however, moles are sensitive to the touch. This means you can't leave any loose soil in the path leading up to the trap, or the moles will detect it and back off. Set the trap according to directions and be sure to check your traps at least once a day.
If you decide you want to leave all this work to the pros, you want the animal control company to be completely knowledgeable of all relevant laws and regulations regarding trapping, removal, relocation of live animals, and whether any of the pest animals have protected or endangered status. You want them to hold all applicable state and local licenses, and they should be completely happy to show you documentation of this. Ditto for insurance. They should be experienced in dealing with the animal of concern. If you look to the left, there’s a list of local contacts for you to call for quick, efficient, and professional animal control services.