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Invasion: Moles

January 22nd, 2014 · 27 Comments

 

 

By Reporter Steven Smalley

Magnolians love their lawns, as demonstrated by the number of residences with a carpet of green commanding the front yard. The sound of lawn mowers dominates weekends as the price paid for keeping up with the neighbors. Yard maintenance is an onerous endeavor for many.

 

Now comes an outbreak, or infestation some might say, of a lawn lover’s worst nightmare – the dreaded mole. Mounds of dirt announce the presence of critters that dig like little Berthas just under the surface of our expensive landscaping, which are nearly impossible to eliminate without professional help. If you have hills, you have moles. Have a nice day showing them the door.

 

There are two camps in regard to these furry northwest natives – kill them all, or leave them alone. Each side has its proponents.

 

First, let’s get one thing straight, it’s not illegal to exterminate moles. Although since the year 2000, an initiative passed by a vote of the people of the State of Washington makes the use of body-gripping traps illegal. You can kill moles, you just can’t use this specific kind of device, according to Sgt. Kim Chandler, an enforcement officer with the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife.

 

Normally, Chandler’s job is to bust deer and elk poachers or law-breaking anglers fishing without a license. He stays busy. In the instances where neighbors call to report illegal trapping of moles, he makes a trip to the home of the offender and usually hands them a warning. Most of the time he says, homeowners don’t realize they are breaking the law, as these traps are sold in local stores. The main culprits are commercial businesses employing the most effective manner of eliminating moles, body-gripping traps. “I dearly love to catch those guys,” he says. “They’re the ones we’re really after.”

 

Okay, let’s say you have some grass. You maintain a wonderful yard, putting time and money into its care. Keeping things lush takes a copious amount of resources, particularly in the summer when city water bills, driven by sprinkler usage, are especially – some would say unreasonably – expensive.

 

“We have moles because we water,” reveals Kim Mehrer-Vaughn, whose Magnolia home boasts an expanse of trees, shrubs, and lawn. “Moles are a nuisance. We’ve tried the battery-operated noisemaker that you drive into the ground. Then the moles went into the neighbor’s yard,” she continues. “We have tried everything. We’ve spread castor oil on the yard. We’ve done the smoke bombs. That didn’t work at all.”

 

Mehrer-Vaughn attempted some of the numerous anecdotal remedies as well, including Juicy Fruit gum, to no avail. “I wish there were a way to get rid of them,” she says. “It just looks unkempt.”

 

Magnolia Voice contacted Dominion Pest Control Services (dompest.com) to find out how professionals legally control moles, and to get their recommendations for lowly homeowners. Their advice – don’t try it yourself. Anthony Wurst, president of Dominion, admitted his view sounded self-serving. “Ways to eradicate moles require a license to use the methods,” he explains. “Over-the-counter products don’t work as well.”

 

Wurst says his company uses a combination of two procedures to ensure success in eliminating moles from yards. First, a direct-baiting approach is employed by injecting “proprietary” material into tunnels near dirt mounds. This technique is followed by watering-in a repellent on the entire lawn to keep moles from returning. Again, it’s a product not available in stores.

 

Then there is the other side of the issue: Those who wish the native animals could be spared, to live undisturbed in their own natural habitat. The moles were here first, they say.

 

William Georgiadias and Carlos Iglesias, arriving in Magnolia from New York City, are the proud, first owners of a handsome new home near the Village. The contractor who developed the property planted sod as a major element of the landscaping. Now the moles have moved in.

 

“I didn’t know what they were at first. Coming from New York City, I had no experience with moles,” confesses Georgiadias. “I guess the animal has a right to have a home here. Because we have our pretty yard, perhaps it’s a conflict. Perhaps we should reconsider how we landscape.”

 

Iglesias had similar thinking. “Where I come from, I never experienced moles. So it’s something new for me. I don’t think we’re going to be able to stop moles. I think we’ll do something with the yard that is less affected by the presence of moles. I think about removing the grass and putting in something that better complements them,” he said.

 

In the final analysis, how best can moles be categorized? Are they vermin to be eliminated, or native creatures to be left in peace? Also, what can homeowners expect when these natural invaders are allowed run wild throughout park lands and other public areas? Does the city have any responsibility to keep the population in check to prevent them from scattering throughout the neighborhood?

 

The short answer is no, as evidenced by the undisturbed mole mounds south of the tennis courts at Magnolia Boulevard & West Howe Street. The Parks Department has a policy leave the moles alone, according to a Parks spokesperson. The city would need to hire a wildlife specialist to use live traps in order to remove the creatures. Not only would it be impractical, according to the spokesperson, but in the end, the moles are impossible to eradicate.

 

Kill them dead, or leave them be. It seems moles are here to stay. Good luck in any case.

 

 

 

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  • SeattleStudent

    Why don’t people stop watering their lawns? Grass doesn’t need to be green 100% of the time. If you don’t like the look of dormant grass, plant something else in your yard. Every time I walk by an unnaturally green lawn in Magnolia, I think about the irresponsibility involved. Stop watering, lower your bills and experience fewer moles; it’s a win-win.

    • your neighbor

      It begs to be said: Article is somewhat of a mountain out of a molehill. People who pay the crazy summer water bills to keep their grass green, and then work to cut (or hire someone to cut) their lawns…and then are distraught because they have issues (and expense) of killing natural creatures who live in that environment they created…suck it up and pay for all the above, or just put down cardboard or lawn fabric, blow in bark on top and put in shrubs. Looks just as “polished” if you are creative…or if you are not, hire the guy who cuts your lawn to do it. Use the money you save to go to Hawaii in February. Mole hills are like moss….just part of having a lawn in the PNW. Why fight nature?

      • KSD

        Why fight nature? Isn’t that what man does? Why even build a house or live in a neighborhood? Why don’t we just live in a tree branch lean-to in the woods? Oh, I know, because we are civilized! Crawl out from under your rock, Your Neighbor, and join the human race!

        • your neighbor

          Why such an angry reply? You could build a dome over your house and make it feel like Arizona, too. Why not plant a palm tree? Because you live in an area with a certain ecosystem that encourages or discourages what you are trying to do. People who built houses here a few years back and plastered them with stucco to make them look like it was SoCal wound up with mold rot underneath. So living in some form of harmony with nature is sure a lot easier than fighting it. Could you try to make your responses as polite as if you actually were facing the people you are talking to? I’m sure you have many valid things to say, but why so insulting when
          someone doesn’t agree with you?

          • ksd

            I could build a dome or do some of those other half-baron ideas that you suggested, but that would be stupid. Killing moles is’t.

    • gaveupsocialismincollege

      Stay in school and educate us all Seattle Student…you will change your tune when you have a job, house and kids…priorities change….we can all do as we please…get over it.

      • SeattleStudent

        Wow, I hope when I grow up I’ll be just as wise and civic minded as you. Actually, I do have a job and a house, and still care about something besides myself, so I guess my education must have been a bit different than yours. You’re right, we do all do as we please. but some of us try to consider the effects of our behavior on something beyond our precious, precious chemically treated lawns.

        • judy the gardener

          Bravo! First thing undereducated people do is start throwing stones when they can’t tackle a subject in any other way (perhaps an inability to express ideas or complex thought?)There is no relationship between being a student and not being knowledgeable about green alternatives in a private home…as you have expressed. Often quite the opposite. You are absolutely right…the lawn crowd is often the crowd that is uptight about everything in life. No one wants to see eyesores in front yards (I am ambivalent about the growing of foods on the areas near the street, giving how people don’t clean up after their dogs) but there are so many beautiful alternatives we landscapers know to “precious chemically treated lawns”. We just accept that the lawn crowd wants to keep paying for that flat expanse of green year after year after year.

  • Bizquik

    Try Castor Oil — it doesn’t hurt the ecological system AND it gets rid of moles!!

  • DSK

    The reason moles are attracted to green lawns is that is where all the grubs and bugs are. Naturally, if the lawn is dead, gurbs and bugs won’t be feeding on grass roots there. So, kill the grubs and you will get rid of the moles. I use a product that is sold in most Home Depot and Lowe’s stores that effectively kills most lawn pests. I have never had a problem with moles. If we let the moles be, Magnolia is going to look like a mine field. I say kill them or drive them away…maybe to Queen Anne or into the Sound!

    • judy the gardener

      Well that is fine…spend money and kill the ones you have, but more will come in and you’ll keep spending the money. I wonder if they aerate the soil in some way. Anyway, leaving the brown hills alone, they just melt back down into the soil anyway by summer. I cannot get it how you want to spend money on such a temporary fix, since those chemicals kill the insects that feed other beneficial wildlife you might value, never mind wildlife you might never value/ notice, but which benefit you in other ways. I guess we all have our passions…and getting rid of moles/pests is yours…but as you said, the rest of the park and other areas look like mine fields, and yet seem to soldier on year through year without collapse.

      • KSD

        If I want to spend $11 for a bag of grub killer that will last the entire season, then I think that is money well spent. Judy the gardener appears to know very little about gardening. A recent PBS series revealed that moles serve no useful purpose in nature. They actually erode the soil and eat beneficial insects like earthworms. Temporary fix? Is painting your house a ‘temporary fix’? After all, you just have to paint it again in another 8 years! I imagine that Judy is one of those neighbors in Magnolia that does absolutely nothing in her yard to control weeds, pests and deceases, and her yard probably looks more like an abandoned lot than a garden!

        • judy the gardender

          Ciscoe once asked me how I got a particular shrub to survive when transplanted, so you might be a bit wrong about my knowledge of gardening. My yard is spectacular all four seasons and I spend zero on weed control, zero on watering, and zero on pests. I know plants, dear KSD.

          • ksd

            I am certain that Ciscoe was just trying to be polite to get rid of you, as I am trying to be. I also have no doubt that you spend zero on your yard and that it reflects it.

          • judy the gardener

            I spent hundreds on the trees and shrubs….but putting in sod isn’t free either. It takes money to put in a good yard in the setup. I did not need to hire a landscaper, obviously. After watering quite a bit for the first year, the yard was self sufficient. Obviously I capture water in the winter to use in the driest part of summer. Over on Kitsap, where he was giving a talk at what was once one of the most beautiful public gardens in our area Ciscoe and I discussed how difficult it was to transplant a mature flowering hibiscus (which grew well near the water). I had a technique which worked, which surprised him.. I don’t need to use the blog to make something of myself I am not. Lawn people are lawn people, and should just pay the price for that flat expanse…but a tidy lawn is just so…boring.

          • KSD

            Hundreds on trees and shrubs and not hiring a good landscaper or landscape designer tells me all that I need to know about your yard. I imagine it looks like a hog-pog of plants that neither work well or gow well with each other. You might not need a blog to make something of yourself, but you certainly like to ‘name-drop’.

          • judy the gardener

            I have worked as a landscaper and am a professional artist. You are right though, I am a bit proud of his admiring my skill at one little thing. I’m sure you are the expert on all things plants. You’ve never seen the 9 houses I’ve landscaped (yes I am bragging), but they were not hodge-podges, which I believe is how it is said. Best of luck on your own gardening.

  • Thurman Thug

    a cat works

  • Magnolia mum

    I’ve had good luck (so far anyway) with sprinkling red pepper flakes into the holes and digging it in a bit. I’ve also heard that you can put cat turds (or dog) into them the same way but I haven’t tried that yet! The idea is that there is a major predator around, I guess to scare them away!

  • dude

    first of all you hippies need to shut up and stop telling me I cant have a green lawn. if I want to water my grass 8 hours a day then I will do that. I get disgusted when I walk past a brown lawn filled with weeds and dead grass. have some pride in yourself and clean up your lawn.
    regarding the mole issue, I successfully got rid of all moles in my yard last year. the only thing that seems to work is a product that resembles poisonous gummy worms. when you have a dirt hill, find the tunnel and stick the worm in. moles are blind but they wont be tricked into eating poison if it doesn’t smell and feel like its normal food, which is the reason that chewing gum doesn’t work. it took a few tries, but after planting these gummy worms in a few tunnels, the moles were gone. just make sure you plant them underground to keep pets from taking them.

    • judy the gardener

      Yes, by all means do everything you want to do to have a green lawn. You have a right to use your money any way you choose. Burn dollar bills if that does it for you. After all, it gives you control over something in your life. You cannot control many other things, but gosh darn it, you can pay the money and kill the moles and feel powerful. Tidy green lawns satisfy people who want to feel they have tidy “under control” lives. Hippies? What era are you coming from? If someone doesn’t want to flush money down the toilet for a green lawn they are a hippie? Kind of a compliment, of course.

      • dude

        judy the gardener. since you don’t seem to grasp the concept of return on investment, let me explain something to you. watering the grass and keeping a neat yard is not “burning dollar bills”. its a known fact that good landscaping increases a home’s value by 5-10% on average. spending a few hundred dollars a year to upkeep landscaping on a $1m house is a return of approx. $50-$100k. same thing can be said for washing your car, painting your house etc. its actually people like you that are flushing money. so I guess you are not all hippies, some of you are just stupid.

        • judy the gardener

          OK, lets both stop with the insults. I think there are more ways to make a million dollar house beautiful than with a boring green lawn. A walk along Magnolia Blvd will show you what a creative landscaper can do with shrubs and trees. I consider the landscaping I’ve done around my home (people stop and take pictures of my yard, or talk to me about how creative it is) to be a very important investment…and my home’s worth is greatly enhanced by over 100 trees and shrubs I’ve put in. What I think is silly (I won’t use a stronger word) is people who just have expanses of green flat lawn and spend so much money on something so dull. There are incredibly beautiful alternatives to lawns…but not everyone sees it that way. They prefer to water,cut,kill pests, repeat. I trim my plantings, and rarely have to water.

        • sam

          huh? return on investment? does mowing your lawn put money in your pocket while you live in that house? nope… I wouldn’t call it return on investment until you put that house on the market, because as far as I know you are spending money right now just to maintain your property. So you are flushing money just as much as those so called hippies (at least for now).

  • KSD

    I agreed with dude. I think people are using the price of water and the use of ‘chemicals’ as an excuse not to take care of their yards. They have natural and environmentally safe products on the market now that will take care of lawn diseases, pests and weeds. They have had these products for years! People seem to have gotten lazy. I hear neighbors complain because lawn work is ‘so difficult and time consuming’ and they are out on their hands and knees pulling dandelions! Yes, gardening IS difficult when you don’t use your brain and a $7 bottle or bag of weed killer! A millon dollar house and a dead lawn with weeds just doesn’t add up!

  • KSD

    Judy the Gardener seems to think that people who like lawns are advocating removing all other forms of landscaping and just installing a grass lawn. What she doesn’t realize, and she would if she had any type of landscaping background, is that a grass lawn can complement the shrubs, trees and flowers and doesn’t have to be a huge expanse so it wouldn’t be a huge expense. I have a very small yard and water no more than 7 minutes every other day throughout the summer months. Bottom line, mind your own business! We should be more concerned about whether or not a yard is being cared for. Moles, cost of water, unwilling to use pesticides and weed controls, etc., seem to be excuses rather than valid reasons for not caring for your yard.

    • judy the gardener

      Since you posted a response to everyone who posted an opinion different than yours, “mind your own business” cuts both ways. You are right…a small yard of grass is not any big deal. Caring for a yard is a way of being polite to one’s neighbors. Of more concern is your need to insult others to express your point of view. In real life I’m sure you don’t act that way. I already told you I’ve landscaped many, many houses…and there are stories to tell about each. You don’t accept other’s statements as true, but you expect others to accept yours. Just be a good neighbor and realize we all have different points of view and being insulting isn’t winning your cause any friends. Since you don’t accept the fact that I have years of experience in landscaping, I figure you don’t have a yard at all. Not true? Well then, be civil and assume people don’t go out of there way to lie here. Hope we don’t meet up again here.