Identifying Mole Damage in Your Lawn

As a homeowner and a lover of green lawns, nothing can be more perplexing than noticing your beloved lawn to be riddled with tunnels and mounds. There are several culprits that can cause damage to your lawn, but the most common and notorious are moles. These elusive subterranean creatures can cause extensive damage that can lead to dead patches, wilting grass and degraded roots. However, before jumping into the panic mode and calling pest control, it’s important to understand the distinguishing signs of mole damage versus other lawn pests. In this article, we will guide you through a detailed step-by-step process to help you identify mole damage accurately and show you ways to prevent and control moles.

Identifying Mole Damage

Identifying Mole Damage
Identifying lawn pests can be tricky, and it’s important to accurately determine which pest is causing damage to your yard. There are several common culprits, but mole damage is often mistaken for damage caused by other pests. Understanding the unique characteristics of mole damage can help you differentiate the damage from that caused by other pests. In this section, we’ll discuss how to identify mole damage and what to look out for. To learn about mole burrow identification, visit this page.

Mounds and Tunnels

Mole damage to lawns is often characterized by the appearance of mounds and tunnels. Moles dig tunnels as they search for food, and these tunnels can be either subsurface or visible on the surface. The appearance of mole tunnels and mounds can often be confused with the damage caused by other pests, making it important to identify the specific characteristics of mole damage.

Tunnel Appearance

Moles typically dig tunnels that contain several exit and entry points. These tunnels can be up to a foot deep but are usually just a few inches below the surface. The ridges of mole tunnels can elevate the soil beneath them, creating a raised appearance on the surface of the lawn or garden. The ridges are typically straight and often run in a diagonal or zig-zag pattern. These ridges can easily be damaged by lawnmowers, creating soil-filled ruts in the lawn.

Mound Appearance

Moles use the dirt they dig up from their tunnels to create mounds, which are often shaped like a volcano. The mounds are created when the mole pushes soil to the surface creating a visible cone-like shape. Mole mounds can vary in size and shape, but they are typically two to three inches tall and six to eight inches wide. These mounds can be found throughout the lawn or garden and can cause unsightly damage to the overall appearance of the landscape.

Identifying these specific characteristics of mole tunnels and mounds can help distinguish between mole damage and other lawn pests. For more information, see our article on mole damage to lawn health and mole damage to garden and flower beds.

Wilting or Dying Grass

When moles burrow through your lawn, they can cause damage to the grass roots. This can lead to wilting or dying grass in your yard. You may first notice these signs in areas where the soil is particularly soft and easy for the moles to tunnel through. In some cases, the grass in these areas may start to turn yellow or brown, indicating that it is not receiving enough water or nutrients from the roots. Over time, these areas may also become thinner and more patchy, making it difficult to maintain a lush and healthy lawn.

It is important to note that other lawn pests, such as voles and gophers, may also cause similar damage to your grass roots. However, the trick to identifying mole damage is to look for the distinctive mounds and tunnels that they create on the surface of your lawn, as well as their unique digging patterns. This will help you to correctly diagnose the root cause of your lawn problems and take appropriate action to address it.

To learn more about how to prevent and control mole damage, be sure to check out our article on mole damage prevention tips. Additionally, if you are concerned that the moles may have damaged any underground utilities in your yard, such as gas or water pipes, be sure to read our article on mole damage to underground utilities.

Root Damage

One of the most destructive aspects of mole damage is root damage. Moles create tunnels underground as they search for food, and these tunnels can cause root systems to become disconnected and uprooted. This can result in patches of grass dying, which can be very concerning for homeowners.

Signs of Root Damage Description
Dead or dying patches of grass When a mole severs the roots of grass, it can cause the grass to die. These patches of dead or dying grass are often irregular in shape and can spread over time if left untreated.
Loose soil or “heaving” As moles tunnel underground, they can create air pockets in the soil which can cause it to become loose or “heave”. This can result in root systems becoming unanchored and causing further damage to the grass.
Depression or sinking spots When a mole creates tunnels underground, the soil above can become unstable and sink or create a depression in the lawn. This can cause root systems to become damaged and dislodged.

If left untreated, mole root damage can have long-term effects on the health of a lawn. It is important to take action as soon as signs of damage occur in order to prevent further damage and promote healthy grass growth.

To learn more about repairing lawn damage caused by moles, click here.

Other Lawn Pests

Other Lawn Pests
As you observe your lawn, you may notice damage that is not caused by moles. While moles are a common pest that can cause significant harm to your lawn, other pests can wreak havoc as well. It’s important to be able to distinguish between mole damage and damage caused by other lawn pests, such as gophers, voles, or ground squirrels. Each of these pests has its own unique set of behaviors and identifiers. By learning what to look for, you can identify the pest and implement the most effective control methods. In the following sections, we’ll explore the characteristics of these other lawn pests and provide tips for prevention and control.


Gophers are another type of lawn pest that can be easily confused with moles. They are small rodents that burrow underground, creating extensive systems of tunnels and mounds that can damage the appearance and health of your lawn. Unlike moles, gophers do not create raised mounds of soil but instead leave behind crescent-shaped or horseshoe-shaped mounds with a visible plug. Gophers are also known for their ability to gnaw on plants, including the roots of your lawn, causing significant damage that can be difficult to repair.

To identify gopher damage, look out for crescent-shaped or horseshoe-shaped mounds with a visible plug of soil. You may also notice wilting or dying grass and plants, as well as tunnels and holes in the ground. Check for teeth marks on the bark of trees and shrubs, as this is a common sign of gopher activity.

Preventing and controlling gophers requires a combination of natural and chemical methods. One effective natural method is using castor oil-based repellents, which can be applied directly to the soil. Another option is planting gopher-resistant plants, such as those with a strong scent or taste that the rodents dislike. Chemical treatments, including baits and fumigants, are also available, but should only be used as a last resort due to their potential harm to the environment and other wildlife.

It’s important to note that gophers can also attract other predators, such as snakes, owls, and hawks, which can help keep their population in check. However, if you have a severe gopher infestation or the damage is extensive, it’s best to consult with a professional pest control company for advice and assistance.

Identifying and distinguishing between mole and gopher damage requires careful observation and knowledge of the different signs and behaviors of each pest. By taking preventative measures and using appropriate control methods, you can effectively manage these and other lawn pests and maintain a healthy, vibrant lawn. If you want to learn more about the causes and effects of mole damage to roots, check out our detailed article on causes and effects of mole damage to roots.


Voles are another type of pest that can frequently be mistaken for moles. These small rodents are known for creating “runways” along the surface of the lawn, and also for their tendency to create small burrows in which to nest. They are most active during the early morning and late evening, and typically feed on plant roots, bulbs, and tubers.

Identifying Vole Damage:

  • Runways along the surface of the lawn
  • Small burrows in the ground
  • Chewed bark or roots around trees and shrubs
  • Wilting or dying grass

Unlike moles, voles are herbivores and primarily feed on plants rather than insects. As such, their damage will often manifest as chewed bark or roots around trees and shrubs, as well as wilted or dying grass. It’s important to note that voles can cause significant damage to plants and other vegetation, and may need to be dealt with using similar methods to moles.

If you suspect that voles may be the cause of damage to your lawn or garden, it’s important to take steps to prevent and control them before the problem gets out of hand. This may involve using repellents, traps, or other methods of vole control. For more information on these methods, check out our article on mole control, which includes information on vole-specific control methods as well. Keep in mind that while vole control can be challenging, it is possible to eliminate these pests and restore your lawn to its former glory. If you’re unsure whether you’re dealing with voles, moles, or some other type of pest damage, it’s always a good idea to consult with a professional pest control expert who can help you identify the problem and recommend the best course of action.

Distinguishing between mole and vole damage can be tricky, but with careful observation, it is possible to identify the source of the problem and take steps to correct it. Whether you’re dealing with moles, voles, or some other type of lawn pest, the key is to act quickly and decisively to prevent further damage and restore your lawn to its full potential. For more information on dealing with moles specifically, be sure to read our article on the benefits and drawbacks of mole traps.

Ground Squirrels

Ground squirrels are burrowing rodents that can cause damage to lawns and gardens. They are typically smaller than moles or gophers but can still cause significant damage. Here are some key differences between ground squirrel damage and mole damage:

Distinguishing Feature Description
Mounds and Tunnels Ground squirrels do not typically create mounds or tunnels in lawns like moles or gophers. Instead, they burrow into the soil and create small holes where they enter and exit.
Wilting or Dying Grass Ground squirrels do not feed on the roots of plants like moles do. However, they may still cause damage by digging up bulbs and eating plants, which can cause wilting or dying grass.
Location Ground squirrels are more likely to be found in open areas like fields or meadows, rather than in residential lawns. They may also be more active during the day, while moles and gophers are nocturnal.

If you suspect ground squirrel damage in your lawn or garden, there are a few steps you can take to control their population. One option is to install a fence around the perimeter of your property to keep them out. Another option is to use humane traps to capture and release the squirrels elsewhere. Finally, you can try using repellents such as predator urine or garlic to make your lawn less appealing to ground squirrels. Whatever method you choose, it is important to act quickly to prevent further damage to your lawn or garden.

Preventing and Controlling Moles

As you’ve learned how to distinguish between mole damage and other lawn pests, it’s time to prevent and control these pesky creatures from causing further destruction to your beloved lawn. There are various methods to deter moles from tunneling and creating unsightly mounds on your lawn. Some methods involve using natural remedies while others employ chemical treatments. It’s important to choose the most suitable approach for your situation, taking into consideration the severity of the problem and any potential harm to the environment or other animals. Let’s explore some of the most effective ways to prevent and control moles.

Natural Methods

There are a variety of natural methods that are available to help control moles in your lawn. Here are some effective ways to deter them:

  • Castor Oil: Moles hate castor oil, and one way to deter them is to create a castor oil solution to sprinkle around the areas where they like to burrow.
  • Cayenne Pepper: Like castor oil, moles also dislike cayenne pepper. Sprinkling cayenne pepper around your lawn can help to deter them from tunneling in your yard.
  • Coffee Grounds: Used coffee grounds are a great natural fertilizer for your lawn, but they can also be an effective deterrent for moles. Simply sprinkle them around the areas where the moles are tunneling, and they will stay away.
  • Mothballs: Another natural method to deter moles is by using mothballs. Simply place them around your lawn and the strong scent will keep moles away.
  • Plant Daffodils: Moles don’t like the smell of daffodils, so planting them in areas where moles often tunnel can deter them from nesting nearby.
  • Remove Their Food Source: Moles feed on grubs and insects in your lawn, so removing their food source can discourage them from tunneling. Use organic pest control methods to get rid of grubs in your lawn.
  • Eliminate Overwatering: Overwatering your lawn can create the perfect environment for moles, as it allows them to tunnel more easily. Water your lawn only when necessary to reduce their activity.

Natural methods are a good first line of defense against moles, as they are safe for both the environment and for pets and children. However, if natural methods do not help, you may need to consider using chemical treatments.

Chemical Treatments

When it comes to controlling moles in your lawn, using chemical treatments is an option that you may consider. These treatments involve using pesticides, either granules or liquids, that are designed to kill moles. However, it’s important to note that these chemicals can be harmful to humans, pets, and other wildlife, so it’s crucial to follow the instructions carefully and take measures to protect yourself and the environment.

There are several types of chemical treatments available on the market, including those that contain zinc phosphide, bromethalin, and talpirid. Zinc phosphide is a poisonous substance that reacts with stomach acid to produce phosphine, a gas that is lethal to moles. Bromethalin targets the nervous system of the mole, causing paralysis and eventually death. Talpirid is a newer and more targeted pesticide that mimics the mole’s natural food source, earthworms, and is often used in bait stations.

Before using any chemical treatment, it’s important to properly identify the source of the damage to ensure that you’re targeting moles and not other pests. Additionally, you should wear protective gear, such as gloves and a mask, when applying the pesticide and follow the instructions on the label carefully. Be sure to keep children and pets away from the treated area until the pesticide has fully dissipated.

Here is a table summarizing some common chemical treatments for moles:

Pesticide Type Description
Zinc phosphide Granular Produces gas that is lethal to moles.
Bromethalin Liquid or bait Targets nervous system of the mole.
Talpirid Bait Mimics mole’s natural food source.

Remember, chemical treatments should only be used as a last resort and with caution due to their potential harm to the environment and other living creatures. It’s important to explore natural methods and prevention techniques before resorting to chemical treatments.


In conclusion, understanding the differences between mole damage and damage caused by other lawn pests is crucial for effectively addressing the issue. Identifying the signs of mole damage such as mounds and tunnels, wilting or dying grass, and root damage is the first step in determining the problem. It is important to consider other lawn pests such as gophers, voles, and ground squirrels, as their damage can often be mistaken for mole damage.

Once the issue has been properly identified, there are several methods that can be employed to prevent and control moles. Natural methods such as planting certain types of plants or using homemade repellents can be effective, though they require consistent effort and may not always provide immediate results. Chemical treatments can also be used, such as mole-specific poisons or gas cartridges, but should be used with caution due to the potential risks they pose to other animals and the environment.

Ultimately, it is important to consider the long-term effects of any method used to control moles or other lawn pests. Taking steps to prevent damage in the first place, such as regular lawn maintenance and identifying and addressing any potential pest issues early on, is key to maintaining a healthy and vibrant lawn. By understanding the signs of mole damage and taking proactive measures to prevent and control it, homeowners can enjoy a beautiful and well-maintained lawn for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I tell if I have a mole problem?

You may notice mounds and tunnels in your lawn or wilting and dying grass. These are common signs of mole damage.

Are moles the only lawn pests that create tunnels and mounds?

No, gophers, voles, and ground squirrels can also create similar damage.

What is the difference between mole damage and gopher damage?

Gophers create deeper tunnels and larger mounds than moles. They also eat the roots of plants, while moles primarily eat insects.

Do voles cause the same type of damage as moles?

No, voles primarily eat grass and other plants, so their damage is characterized by gnawing on the base of plants and leaving runways in lawns.

Can ground squirrels damage my lawn?

Yes, like gophers, ground squirrels will eat the roots of plants, causing them to wilt and die. They also create holes and mounds in lawns.

How do I prevent moles from damaging my lawn?

You can try natural methods like planting daffodils or using castor oil repellents, or use chemical treatments like baits or poison gas.

What are some natural mole repellents?

Daffodils, castor oil, and garlic are common natural mole repellents.

Are chemical treatments safe for pets and children?

No, you should always follow the instructions carefully and keep pets and children away from treated areas.

How long does it take to get rid of a mole problem?

It can take several weeks to completely eliminate a mole problem, depending on the method used.

How can I prevent future mole problems?

You can prevent future mole problems by keeping your lawn well-maintained and free of grubs, which are a primary food source for moles.