How to Catch Moles

Four Methods:Catching Moles AliveSetting a TrapDigging Up The MoleFlooding The Mole Tunnels

Moles are burrowing animals that construct tunnels underground. Due to their habit of digging into lawns and disrupting plant life in search of food, they are often considered pests. Traditional solutions to mole infestations such as the placement of moth balls or lye inside molehills are usually ineffective, while more expensive methods such as explosives or chemical compounds can prove dangerous and counter-productive. Learning how to catch moles, whether you want them dead or alive, is the best way to prevent burrowed tunnels in your yard.

Method 1
Catching Moles Alive

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    Set a bucket under a tunnel. You can spot a molehill by finding fresh piles of dirt around your property. The tunnels will extend out from the molehill, so feel around the grassy area surrounding the molehill for spots that are softer to the touch or step. When you find a path of a tunnel, dig a deep hole going through, and underneath the tunnel.[1] Dig deep enough under the tunnel to place a 2 to 5 gallon (7.6 to 19 liter) bucket under the tunnel runway.[2]
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    Cave in the sides of the tunnel way. Pack soil around the bucket, and block the mole runways on each side of the bucket.[3] This will cause the mole to continue digging and fall into the bucket as they break through the packed dirt.
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    Cover the dug out hole. Cover the top of the dug out portion of the tunnel with sod or a large board to prevent sunlight from shining through to the tunnel.[4][5] This will give the mole the sense that he is still digging underground even though the top of the tunnel has been disturbed and dug up.
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    Catch the mole in the bucket. Remove the plywood or sod and check the hole every day to see if the mole has fallen into the bucket. If the mole has fallen into the bucket, you have successfully caught the mole.[6]
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    Contact animal services. Contact your local animal services agency for advice on where to release the moles you catch. You may be able to release the moles in a forested area far from your property, but there may be lawful restraints on relocating a pest to another’s property without permission. It may also be inhumane to release a mole that has experienced severe stress from being captured alive, especially if the mole has a low chance of survival upon being released.[7]
    • When in doubt, contact local animal services, and they will likely have the best disposal alternative.

Method 2
Setting a Trap

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    Find mole tunnels. Look for a molehill.[8] A molehill will be indicated by fresh piles of dirt around your property. Tunnels will lead away from the molehill, so feel for grass areas extending away from the molehill that are softer to the touch or step. Moles like to dig their tunnels along structures like fences or other barriers, so look around any such structures in your yard to find their tunnels.[9]
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    Determine if the tunnel is active. Step on top of the tunnel to collapse it in one section on both sides. Dirt should be covering the tunnel way. Leave the collapsed tunnel for a day and then check to see if the collapsed dirt has been dug out again.[10] If it has, you know that that tunnel is active.
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    Expose a section of a tunnel. Use a gardening tool to carve out a section of the tunnel.[11] Before you place the trap in the exposed section, pack down the dirt at the bottom of the tunnel so the mole can’t dig underneath the trap.[12] You should also loosely cover the tunnel back up with dirt, so the mole will continue to dig through the loose dirt, and get captured by the trap.[13]
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    Set a trap. There are many kinds of mole catching traps out there. Most of the traps vary in the way they capture the mole, but nearly all are lethal. There are scissor jaw traps, harpoon traps, and choker loop traps just to name a few.[14] Read the trap instructions very carefully to figure out the best way to set the device. Change the settings on your chosen trap to make the trigger apparatus really sensitive.[15] Once you know how to open and set the trap, place the trap into the cut out section of tunnel.
    • For a scissor trap, place the jaws around loosely packed dirt in the middle of the tunnel. Leave the area between the jaws open and clear. The jaws should span across the runway of the tunnel and be pushed into the ground about 1 inch (2.5 cm) down.[16] Cock the trap according to the included instructions.
    • For a harpoon trap, set and straddle the trap over the runway of the mole tunnel with both legs of the trap pushed down into the ground on each side of the tunnel.[17] Gently push the legs of the trap into the ground, positioning the trigger pan (the square, flat piece of metal) just above the soil.[18] Pull up the setting tee to set the trap.
    • For a choker loop trap, use a garden tool to dig a hole into the tunnel from the top. Dig the hole a tad deeper than the actual depth of the tunnel, but the same width as the tunnel.[19] Place the loop into the tunnel so it follows the exact direction and angle of the tunnel. Pack the open area of the trap (in front of the loop) firmly with soil, so the mole will continue to dig through the tunnel and get caught in the trap.[20]
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    Cover the trap. Cover the trap with some sort of large bucket to protect children and pets from coming near the area.[21] The bucket will also help block out any light which will let the mole continue digging.
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    Remove the trap. Check on the trap every day to see if you have caught a mole. When the trap has finally been set off and has caught the mole, remove the trap and mole.[22] If you have not caught a mole after two days, try moving your trap to a new area.[23]
    • There are many reasons a trap can fail (changed burrowing habits, too much tunnel disturbance, improperly set trap), but you will have to find out through trial and error, and consider setting your trap in a new location.[24]
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    Dispose of the mole. Grab the mole with a plastic bag around you hand. Turn the bag inside out as you continue to hold onto the mole, and let the mole fall into the inside of the bag.[25] Tie the bag to seal it, and place the mole in with your garbage.

Method 3
Digging Up The Mole

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    Find a new tunnel or mound. A new tunnel or mound will most likely have a mole digging through rather frequently. You can spot newer mounds by finding fresh, piles of dirt on your property. Consequently, tunnels will lead away from the mound, so feel for softer grass areas extending away from the mound. Check on the tunnel or mound frequently during the early morning or evening to see if you notice any movement just underneath the surface of the soil.[26] Moles tend to do most of their digging during the early morning and evening, so this is the best time to look out for them.
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    Approach the tunnel or mound. Wait and watch the tunnel or mound to see movement as the mole digs through. When you see movements, approach the tunnel or mound very slowly so as not to alert the mole.[27]
    • Be sure you are wearing protective gloves before attempting this method. You will have to handle the mole with your hands, and don’t want the mole to bite you.
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    Spade the mole out of the ground. Strike a spade or shovel deep into the ground (about 6 to 8 inches or 15 to 20 centimeters deep) behind the mole.[28][29] Striking the spade or shovel behind the mole will prevent it from escaping as you try to remove them from the ground. When you have successfully spaded the mole out of the ground, quickly grab the mole with your hands and place it in a bucket for disposal later. Do not let the mole burrow it’s way back into the ground after you have spaded it from the dirt.
    • This can be a humane way to remove moles from your yard, but it can leave large holes and divots in your grass.[30]
    • However, there’s also the chance that you may accidentally miss the dirt surrounding the mole, and injure the animal.[31]
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    Contact animal services. Contact your local animal services agency for advice and instruction on where and how to release your captured moles. As mentioned before, there may be property restrictions along with humane and ethical disposal restrictions that can play a factor in the manner of disposing the moles.[32]

Method 4
Flooding The Mole Tunnels

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    Find the active molehill. Fresh piles of dirt on the side of the mound will indicate an active molehill. The opening in the mound will be the mouth to the tunnels that you flood with water. When you flood the tunnels, dirt will wash back through the tunnels and drive out the moles.[33]
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    Flood water into the molehill. Place the tip of your hose into the molehill mouth, and turn on the water. You don’t want the water to run too fast, because you don’t want the tunnels to fill up with water too quickly. You want to trick the mole into thinking that it is going to be flooded out of its tunnels, and have it escape some other way.[34]
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    Have a bucket ready to catch any escaping moles. You will have to be ready at other nearby molehills to grab the moles as they try to escape, and place them in a bucket for later disposal. A bucket provides a safe area to contain the mole and ensure that it doesn’t escape and dig back into your lawn.[35]
    • Be sure to wear protective gloves when handling moles; their sharp teeth can pierce through skin.
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    Contact animal services. Contact your local animal services agency for advice on where to release the moles you catch. You may be restricted in where you can dispose the mole, and the condition in which you are disposing the mole, so it’s best to receive specific instructions from nearby animal services.[36]


  • A series of molehills in a straight line is a good sign of a main tunnel, especially if these molehills appear over a series of days. Moles tend to take advantage of human construction, so main tunnels often run alongside roads, building foundations, or fences.
  • Don't set traps near molehills, only in the middle of tunnels. Moles often do not leave the same way they entered, but will remove obstructions from an active tunnel.
  • Early spring and early fall are good times to catch a mole, when they are most active. Warm days after rain are also ideal, as moles will be actively seeking worms and tunneling extensively.
  • Don't trap during cold or dry spells, because moles will often have burrowed deeper.
  • Harpoon traps are best for killing moles in shallow tunnels. Scissor traps are used for killing moles in deeper tunnels. Humane traps (ones that will catch a mole without killing it) can also be purchased or easily constructed with a board and a large bucket.


  • Always read and follow closely the instructions that come with traps. Both harpoon and scissor traps can cause serious injury if used incorrectly.
  • Always use gloves when handling a live or dead mole.

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Garden Pests and Weeds