12 February 2016 – Moling

By Frances Graham

I have had a busy week moling. The mole is one of the most common and widespread of mammals in the UK. They’re rarely seen as they spend most of their life in the tunnels which they dig, although we have all seen the mole hills – heaps of soil that the mole had rooted up when making its runs. However, moles don’t just cause a mess in the field, if they are in a meadow in summer they can cause a lot of damage. A meadow is a field where the grass is cut and made into hay or silage. The soil upturned by the moles contaminates the silage crop. This makes a problem for livestock through the winter, although it is sheep it affects more than cattle. The contaminated silage can give stock listeria which is very difficult to treat as it can cause brain damage to the sheep. If it is caught early enough some can survive but the sheep are never really fit for breeding from, so they have to be sold.

Mole catching seems to be getting a more time consuming job because since the ban of strychnine it is a lot harder to deal with the moles as they all have to be caught in mole traps. Strychnine was a poison which killed the moles. It worked six times over and because moles eat each other, then if you poisoned the moles one day it could kill them six times more.

A mole trap catches the mole and kills them humanely. After battling with the wind and the rain, it paid off today as I have managed to catch 12 moles. We are trying to have a mad session at catching them as they are making a mess and it is better with less moles about in the fields for when we start lambing.

I had a busy day setting traps yesterday. To set a mole trap I use half of an old pair of hand shears as I then only need one tool to both find the run and to cut the grass. Some people use a gardening trowel and a thin piece of wire to find the run. The moles work in a network of runs. They have different areas in the mole hills as some is feeding ground. Nearer the older mole hills the moles are moving faster as they are wanting to get to the fresher mole hills where their main feeding ground is. As they are looking for food nearer the fresh mole hills they are moving slower which makes them more wary. The moles can be caught near the fresh mole hills, but they are also more likely to fill the traps with soil because they are moving slower. There is a better chance of getting a mole the further back from the fresh hills you go as they will be moving faster.

Folk have various opinions and beliefs on how best to provide a solution to the troublesome mole. Some people have started giving moles marshmallows! Apparently it kills them, but I am not sure whether it really works.