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.