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An Illinois River Almanac

Jason Haupt's Energy and Environment Blog

Can you Dig it?


A day at the racetrack sounds like a lot of fun.  That is unless the racetrack is in your back yard.  Now that the weather has moved from rain to hot humid Illinois summers, the soil has begun to dry out.  This means that those wonderful racetracks have begun to appear in your yards.

There are two species that make these racetracks.  The first is the Eastern mole and the other is the vole.  Both species make tracks in your yard, but there are some significant differences in how they make them and how to deal with them.  In both cases, the use of ultrasonic, magnetic or other “scare” products is a waste of time and money.  As all research shows, they have no effect on pests.  In some cases, moles have been trapped within five feet of these devices.

The Eastern mole gets blamed for a lot of damage to gardens and flowerbeds, but they are only responsible for some of the damage.  Moles are insectivores and they feed on grubs and worms.  They spend the majority of their life below ground.  In fact, it is speculated that when they do venture above ground it may be by accident.  Because they are insectivores, they do not eat your root vegetables, but they will kill plants by separating the roots from the soil, though this is done by accident.  Moles have an insatiable appetite and they are constantly hunting for grubs and worms.  There are several options for removing moles from your yard.  One option is to remove the food source.  If you have grubs in your yard, removing the food source in many cases will cause the mole to either move on or starve.  Trapping is by far the most effective way of eliminating moles from your property.  Setting traps correctly is the key to effective trapping of moles.  Excellent information on trapping moles can be found on the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management (icwdm.org).  Poisoning moles is very difficult and has mixed results.  This is primarily due to the fact that most poisons are grain based, and as moles are insectivores, they do not eat grain.

Voles are responsible for a great deal of damage that is blamed on moles.  Voles are rodents that feed primarily on plants and seeds.  They cause shallow runs compared to the runs of moles, often just cutting the surface to create some protection from predators by screening them from view.  To control voles there are three courses to take.  The first is cutting the grass low to remove the screening effect that is offered by the combination of long grass and the runs.  Trapping should be the next step.  Standard mouse traps are very effective and can be used unbaited when placed along the visible run.  Cover them to reduce incidental capture of non-target species. The final step is poisoning. There are a number of products available.  An anticoagulant is a very effective option.  When using poison bait be sure to place the bait in the underground portions of the runs to reduce the potential of harming non-target species.  If you have pets, poisons are not an option to consider lightly, as your pets may ingest some of the poison causing sickness or death.  Voles have an explosive reproductive rate.  One pair of voles can produce between 30 and 50 young each year.  Because of this, an all-of-the-above approach is the most effective when dealing with voles.

For more information, please contact Jason Haupt (jdhaupt@Illinois.edu).

 



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