Identifying Mole Damage in Your Lawn and Garden

Have you encountered mysterious mounds of dirt scattering across your lawn lately? Are you struggling to identify the critters responsible for such damage? Fret not, as you might have a mole problem at hand. These small, subterranean creatures can wreak havoc on your lawn and garden. However, before you jump into battling the mole invasion, it’s critical to differentiate their damage from other pests. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll help you distinguish mole damage from other critter damage and equip you with the proper knowledge to prevent mole infestations. Let’s get started!

What are moles?

Have you ever noticed strange, tunnel-like formations in your yard? Maybe you’ve even come across raised mounds of soil without any obvious cause. These could be signs of a mole infestation, which can cause significant damage to your lawn and garden. Moles are small, furry creatures with sharp claws that allow them to dig complex tunnels beneath the ground. In this article, we’ll explore what moles are and how you can distinguish their damage from other pests. If you’re unsure whether you have a mole problem or want to know how to prevent it altogether, read on. And if you’re interested in identifying mole tunnels and mounds in your yard or learning about mole activity in your garden, be sure to check out our related articles Identifying Mole Tunnels and Mounds in Your Yard and Mole Activity in Your Garden.

Signs of mole damage

One of the first steps in distinguishing mole damage from damage caused by other pests is to be able to recognize the signs of mole activity. Here are some signs to look out for:

  • Raised ridges: Mole tunnels can cause raised ridges across the surface of the ground. These ridges can be particularly noticeable in freshly-tilled soil or after a rain when the soil is soft.
  • Surface tunnels: In addition to the ridges, moles may create shallow “surface tunnels” that run just below the surface of the soil.
  • Holes: Mole holes are typically located at the ends of tunnels and can be identified by their circular shape and dimensions of about 1-2 inches in diameter.
  • Damaged plants: While moles themselves do not eat plant roots or bulbs, their tunneling can disturb the soil enough to uproot vegetation or cause it to dry out, leading to plant death or decline.
  • Lawn damage: Since moles tunnel under the ground, their activity can cause extensive damage to lawns if left unchecked. Signs of moles on lawns include raised tunnels or ridges, thin or missing grass, and soil mounds that resemble mini volcanoes.

Note: If you suspect that you have a mole problem, it’s important to act quickly. Delaying treatment can cause the problem to worsen and spread to other areas of your lawn or garden. For detailed information on moles and their damage to lawns, see our article on moles damage to lawn. Additionally, for information on how to detect mole larvae and adult moles in soil, see our article on detecting mole larvae and adult moles in soil.

Distinguishing Mole Damage from Other Pest Damage

Distinguishing Mole Damage From Other Pest Damage
One of the biggest challenges in dealing with mole infestations is identifying and distinguishing their damage from that caused by other pests. This can be a perplexing task for homeowners, as many different animals can wreak havoc on lawns and gardens. However, by paying close attention to the unique characteristics of mole damage, it is possible to differentiate it from the damage caused by other pests. In this section, we will explore the common signs of mole damage and compare them to damage caused by other animals so that you can accurately identify which pest is plaguing your property.


Gophers are often mistaken for moles due to their similar subterranean lifestyles, but the damage they cause is quite different. Gophers are known for creating large, mounded burrow systems, while moles typically create surface tunnels. Here is a table outlining the differences between gopher damage and mole damage:

Gophers Moles
Damage Type Mounds of soil and debris Surface tunnels
Plant Damage Chew through roots and stems, completely destroying plants Feed on insects, grubs, and earthworms, which can cause some root damage
Range Cover wide areas and create extensive burrow systems Stay in one general area and create surface tunnels
Behavior Highly territorial and aggressive towards other gophers Primarily solitary and do not interact with other moles

One key difference between gophers and moles is the type of damage they cause to plants. Gophers are known to chew through roots and stems, which can completely destroy plants, while moles primarily feed on insects, grubs, and earthworms, which can cause some root damage. Additionally, gophers are highly territorial and will aggressively defend their burrow systems from other gophers, while moles are primarily solitary and do not interact with other moles.

If you notice mounds of soil and debris in your lawn or garden, and have plants that are completely destroyed, it is likely that you have a gopher infestation rather than a mole infestation. In this case, it is best to use traps or contact a pest control professional to remove the gophers and repair any damage they have caused.


Voles are another common pest that can sometimes be mistaken for moles. While both cause damage to lawns and gardens, there are a few key differences that can help you distinguish between the two.

Physical Characteristics:
Voles can be distinguished from moles by their physical characteristics. Voles are small rodents that are typically brown or gray in color with a shorter tail compared to their body size. They have small ears and eyes, and their bodies are more rounded compared to moles, which have long and slender bodies.

Voles tend to create well-defined runways along the surface of your lawn or garden while they search for food. These runways are typically 1-2 inches wide and may include small burrow holes where voles enter and exit. In contrast, moles create raised ridges or molehills in their tunnels and don’t leave visible runways.

Food Sources:
While both moles and voles are insectivores, voles also feed on plant roots and leaves. This means that they may cause more widespread damage to your lawn and garden compared to moles.

Control and Prevention:
Like moles, voles can be controlled through a combination of exclusion, habitat modification, and trapping. To keep voles out, consider setting up barriers such as mesh fences or planting deterrent plants. Additionally, maintaining a healthy lawn and garden with proper irrigation and plant care can limit their food sources and reduce the likelihood of infestations.

Here’s an html table summarizing the differences between moles and voles:

Moles Voles
Physical Characteristics Long, slender bodies with large, paddle-shaped front paws. Small eyes and ears. Shorter, rounder bodies with small eyes and ears. Shorter tails compared to body size.
Damage Create raised ridges or molehills in tunnels. Don’t leave visible runways. Create well-defined runways on surface of lawn or garden. Create small burrow holes.
Food Sources Insects and their larvae. Insects, as well as plant roots and leaves.
Control and Prevention Exclusion, habitat modification, trapping. Exclusion, habitat modification, trapping.


Skunks are another type of animal that can cause confusion when trying to differentiate their damage from that of moles. Skunks are not known for digging tunnels, but they do dig small holes in search of food. These holes are typically shallower and wider than those of moles, and they are often found in a scattered pattern rather than a straight line. Additionally, skunks leave behind distinctive claw marks near the openings of their holes, which indicates that they were digging with their front paws.

However, skunks are omnivores and will often dig up burrowing insects as well as small vertebrates such as mice or voles. This means that in areas where there are a lot of burrowing insects, skunk damage can easily resemble that of moles. The key difference is that skunks will leave behind a scattered pattern of holes rather than the continuous line of mole tunnels. Additionally, skunk damage may be less destructive, as their holes are not as deep or extensive as those of moles.

To further distinguish between skunk damage and mole damage, it is helpful to take note of any odors present. Skunks are notoriously known for their strong, pungent odor, and their presence can often be detected by their scent. If there is a strong odor present, it is likely that skunks are the culprits behind the damage.

Here is an HTML table summarizing the differences between skunk damage and mole damage:

Skunk Damage Mole Damage
Shallow, scattered holes Continuous line of tunnels
Wider holes Narrower tunnels
Claw marks near openings of holes No claw marks present
Less destructive Can cause extensive damage
Odor may be present No odor present

By identifying these differences, it is possible to distinguish between the damage caused by skunks and that caused by moles. Knowing this distinction is key to effectively addressing the problem and preventing further damage from occurring.


Raccoons are known for their love of digging in lawns and gardens, which can often be confused with mole damage. However, raccoon damage differs from mole damage in several ways.

| | Raccoon Damage | Mole Damage |
| Appearance | Shallow holes and torn-up turf | Tunneling and raised ridges |
| Location | Random patches throughout the lawn or garden | Linear patterns of raised earth |
| Plant Damage | Small holes dug around plants | Root damage from tunneling |
| Other Signs | Scattered droppings and footprints | Molehills and visible tunnels |

If you suspect raccoons are the cause of the damage in your lawn or garden, look for other signs such as scattered droppings and footprints. To prevent raccoons from digging in your yard, try using strong barriers such as wire mesh or electric fences. Additionally, removing potential food sources such as pet food and bird feeders can deter raccoons from visiting in the first place.

Pocket gophers

Pocket gophers are another common pest that are sometimes confused with moles due to their underground activity. However, there are key differences between the damage caused by pocket gophers and moles that can help you distinguish between the two.

Appearance and behavior: Pocket gophers are medium-sized rodents with fur-lined cheek pouches, which they use to carry food. They have large front teeth and powerful digging claws that they use to create extensive underground burrow systems. Unlike moles, pocket gophers create mounds of soil above their burrow entrances, which are shaped like crescents with a plugged hole off to one side.

Diet: Pocket gophers feed primarily on plant roots and tubers, which can cause significant damage to lawns and gardens.

Damage: Pocket gopher damage typically appears as crescent-shaped mounds and tunnels that are raised above the surface of the soil, similar to mole tunnels. However, pocket gopher mounds will have a visible entrance, unlike those of moles. In addition to tunneling, pocket gophers will also eat the roots and bulbs of plants, which can cause wilting and discoloration.

Prevention and control: Like moles, pocket gophers prefer moist, fertile soil and are attracted to areas with lush vegetation. However, there are several steps you can take to prevent and control pocket gopher infestations:

Prevention Tips Control Methods
Plant less attractive vegetation Set traps to kill or capture gophers
Limit watering of lawn and garden areas Use repellents to discourage gophers from entering the area
Remove nearby food sources like birdseed or fallen fruit Use bait to kill gophers, but be careful to follow label instructions carefully to avoid harming other animals or pets
Install underground fencing or barriers Use a professional pest control service for larger infestations or for gophers in difficult-to-reach areas

By taking these steps and identifying the differences between mole and pocket gopher damage, you can effectively prevent and control these common pests and protect your lawn and garden from damage.


When it comes to differentiating mole damage from other pests, rats are also a contender. Rats are burrowing rodents that are commonly found in urban areas. They can cause significant damage to property and carry diseases that can be harmful to humans and pets. Here are some ways to distinguish between mole damage and rat damage, as well as some tips for preventing rat infestations.

Signs of Rat Damage How it Differs from Mole Damage
Small burrow holes Rat burrows are typically smaller in diameter than mole burrows
Foul odor Rats have a distinct, unpleasant odor that can be detected in areas where they are present
Chewed wires and wood Rats are known to chew on electrical wires and wooden structures, which can cause damage and create fire hazards
Droppings Rat droppings are typically smaller than mole droppings and can be found in areas where rats are active

Preventing Rat Infestations

To prevent rat infestations, it is important to eliminate attractants and block potential entry points. Here are some tips:

  • Keep food in sealed containers and dispose of garbage regularly
  • Eliminate clutter and vegetation near buildings
  • Seal cracks and holes in walls and foundations
  • Eliminate sources of standing water
  • Maintain a clean and dry environment
  • Use traps or professional pest control services if necessary

By following these tips, you can protect your property from both moles and rats, as well as other pests that can cause damage and pose health risks.

Ground squirrels

Ground squirrels may be mistaken for mole damage due to the similar appearance of their holes in the ground. However, there are some key differences that can help identify ground squirrel activity.

| Ground Squirrels | Moles |
| ————- | ————- |
| Holes filled with soil | Holes without soil |
| Entrance holes are wider than exit holes | Entrance and exit holes are the same size |
| Usually in groups and can be seen above ground | Usually solitary and rarely seen above ground |
| Feed on vegetation and can cause damage to crops | Feed on insects and earthworms |

If you suspect that ground squirrels are the culprit, you may notice other signs such as burrowing in flower beds or vegetable gardens. Prevention tactics for ground squirrel infestations include installing barriers such as fencing or repellent plants, using natural predators, and trapping and removing the squirrels. It is important to note that trapping and removal should be done humanely and according to local laws and regulations.


Shrews are another pest that is often mistaken for moles. These small, furry creatures also tunnel underground like moles, but their tunnels are much smaller in diameter. They are primarily insectivores and consume various insects, earthworms, and other small invertebrates.

To differentiate shrew damage from mole damage, look for smaller, shallower tunnels (usually less than 1 inch in diameter). Shrews also tend to leave behind more scattered and irregularly-shaped soil mounds, as they are not as efficient at excavating soil as moles.

However, shrews can also cause significant damage to plant roots and bulbs. They may also damage tree bark and gnaw on wooden objects, so it’s important to take action if shrews are present in your yard.

Here’s a comparison table of mole and shrew damage:

Moles Shrews
Tunnel diameter 1-2 inches Less than 1 inch
Tunnel depth 6-8 inches 1-2 inches
Soil mounds Regularly-shaped Scattered and irregular
Plant damage Minimal Significant
Food source Earthworms and grubs Insects and small invertebrates

If you suspect shrew damage in your yard, you can try trapping and removing them. However, it’s important to note that shrews are protected in some areas, so check your local regulations before attempting to remove them. You can also discourage shrews by removing their food sources and creating barriers to keep them out of your yard.


Some homeowners may mistake earthworms for mole damage in their lawns. While earthworms can cause some minor disruption to the soil, they are actually beneficial for soil health since they aerate the soil and provide nutrients.

Signs of earthworm activity may include small holes or ridges in the soil, as well as small mounds of castings on the surface. These castings can be differentiated from molehills since they are smaller and not as regularly shaped.

It is important to note that earthworm activity is not harmful and is actually a sign of a healthy lawn. If homeowners notice excess earthworm activity, they can simply rake away the castings and enjoy the benefits of having these helpful creatures in their soil.

While earthworms may cause some minor disruption to the soil, they are actually a beneficial component of a healthy lawn. Homeowners should not mistake their activity for mole damage and can simply manage any excess castings by raking them away.

Preventing Mole Infestations

As homeowners, we all strive for a beautiful and well-maintained lawn. However, mole infestations can wreak havoc on even the most carefully tended lawns. These burrowing creatures can cause unsightly damage to the grass and flower beds, making it necessary to take preventative measures. By implementing a combination of natural methods and physical barriers, you can deter moles from taking up residence in your yard and keep your lawn looking lush and healthy. Let’s explore some effective strategies for mole prevention.

Reducing lawn irrigation

One effective way to prevent mole infestations is by reducing lawn irrigation. Moles are attracted to moist soil conditions, and overwatering your lawn or garden can create the perfect environment for them to thrive. However, reducing irrigation can be a delicate balance, as plants still require water to grow and thrive.

To implement this technique, it is important to understand the water requirements of different plants in your lawn or garden. Some plants require more water than others, and adjusting your watering schedule accordingly can help you strike a balance between keeping your plants healthy and deterring moles.

One way to track your lawn’s moisture levels is through a soil moisture meter, which will give you a better idea of when to water and when to hold off. You can also adjust your watering schedule based on weather patterns and the time of year. During periods of rain or high humidity, you may need to water less frequently to avoid overwatering.

By carefully reducing your lawn irrigation, you can help create a less hospitable environment for moles, thereby reducing the likelihood of an infestation.

Maintaining healthy soil

One important aspect of preventing and managing mole infestations is maintaining healthy soil. Below are some tips to help you improve the quality of your soil and make it less attractive to moles:

  • Amending the soil: Adding organic matter to your soil, such as compost or manure, can help improve its overall health and structure. This can make it more difficult for moles to tunnel through, as well as making it easier for plants to grow strong and healthy roots.
  • Regulating pH levels: Moles are more likely to thrive in soils with a pH level between 6.0 and 7.5. Testing your soil and adjusting its pH levels as needed can help make it less hospitable to moles.
  • Reducing soil compaction: Compacted soil can create an ideal environment for moles, as it is easier for them to tunnel through. Aerating your soil, either through mechanical means or by adding organic matter, can help reduce compaction and make it more difficult for moles to move through it.
  • Minimizing waterlogging: Excessive moisture in the soil can make it easier for moles to tunnel through. Ensuring proper drainage, whether through natural means or by adding drainage systems, can help minimize waterlogging and make your soil less attractive to moles.
  • Adding beneficial microorganisms: Certain microorganisms, such as mycorrhizal fungi, can help improve soil health and make it more difficult for moles to tunnel through. Adding these microorganisms to your soil can help create a less favorable environment for moles.

By implementing these soil maintenance strategies, you can improve the quality of the soil in your yard and decrease the likelihood of mole infestations.

Removing grubs and other insects

One effective way to prevent mole infestations is by removing grubs and other insects from your lawn. This is because moles feed on insects like grubs, earthworms, and other soil-dwelling bugs. By reducing the number of insects in your lawn, you can make it less attractive to moles.

Here are some ways to remove grubs and other insects from your lawn:

  • Apply beneficial nematodes: These are microscopic worms that attack and kill grubs in the soil.
  • Use insecticide: There are insecticides specifically designed to control grubs and other soil-dwelling insects. Be sure to read the labels carefully and follow the instructions.
  • Encourage natural predators: Some birds, like robins, and animals, like skunks, feed on insects in the lawn. By attracting these predators to your lawn, you can reduce the number of insects.
  • Maintain healthy soil: Healthy soil with good drainage and a balanced pH can discourage grub infestations.

By taking these steps to remove grubs and other insects, you can make your lawn less appealing to moles, and reduce the likelihood of mole damage.

Setting up barriers

Mole infestations can wreak havoc on your garden and lawn, but there are several preventative measures you can take to keep them at bay. One effective method is setting up barriers to prevent moles from entering your lawn. Here are some examples of barriers you can use:

Barriers Description
Hardware cloth This is a metal mesh that can be placed around the perimeter of your lawn. It should be buried at least 12 inches deep to prevent moles from digging underneath it.
Plastic netting This is a form of plastic mesh that can be placed on the soil’s surface. It can be easily removed and reused as needed.
Chicken wire This is a type of fencing that can be used to create a barrier around your lawn. However, it is not as effective as other options because moles can chew through it.
Sonic repellents These are noise-emitting devices that create vibrations through the soil. They are said to deter moles from entering your lawn, but their effectiveness is debated.

It’s important to note that while setting up barriers can be effective, it’s not a foolproof method. Moles are skilled diggers and may find ways around or under the barrier. It’s best to use multiple preventative measures in conjunction with one another to keep your lawn mole-free.

Planting deterrent plants

One effective way to prevent mole infestations is by planting deterrent plants. These are plants that moles dislike and prefer to avoid. Here is a list of some deterrent plants you can consider planting in your lawn or garden:

  • Daffodils: These bright yellow flowers not only add color to your garden but also repel moles with their strong fragrance.
  • Alliums: These plants, including onions, garlic, and chives, contain high levels of sulfur that moles find off-putting.
  • Fritillarias: These flowering plants release a scent that moles dislike and are also toxic to them if ingested.
  • Crown imperials: These tall, showy plants release a pungent odor that keeps moles away.
  • Mole plant: As the name suggests, this plant is specifically designed to repel moles. Its strong odor and bitter taste make it unappealing to moles.
  • Marigolds: These common garden plants have a strong scent that is unpleasant to moles and are also known to repel other pests like aphids and mosquitoes.
  • Fennel: This fragrant herb has a strong odor that moles dislike and can also be used in cooking.
  • Castor bean: This plant contains ricin, a toxic protein that repels moles and other pests but should be handled with care due to its toxicity.

By planting these deterrent plants, you can create a natural barrier that can help prevent moles from infesting your lawn or garden. However, it’s important to note that these plants may not completely eliminate mole infestations and should be used in conjunction with other preventative measures.

Using natural predators

One way to control mole infestations is by utilizing the natural predators of moles to keep their population in check. This method is both effective and environmentally friendly, as it does not involve harmful chemicals or traps. Here are some natural predators of moles that you can introduce to your garden:

Garter snakes Garter snakes are an excellent natural predator of moles, as they are skilled at maneuvering through dense vegetation and soil. Consider adding a few garter snakes to your garden to help reduce the mole population.
Owls Owls are nocturnal birds that feed on a variety of small mammals, including moles. By attracting owls to your garden through the use of nesting boxes or perches, you can effectively reduce the mole population.
Hawks Similar to owls, hawks are skilled predators of small mammals and can be effective at reducing the mole population in your garden. Consider building a hawk nesting platform or perching pole to attract them to your garden.
Foxes Foxes are natural predators of moles and can help keep their population in check. However, introducing foxes to your garden may not be feasible or advisable, as they are capable of causing damage and may pose a danger to small pets or children.

Keep in mind that introducing natural predators to your garden may not completely eliminate your mole problem, but it can help reduce their population and prevent further damage to your lawn and garden. It’s important to also implement other preventative measures, such as reducing lawn irrigation and maintaining healthy soil, to keep moles from returning.

Trapping and removing moles

When other methods fail to keep the moles away, trapping and removing them might be the only solution. However, it’s important to remember that trapping and removing moles should be done humanely. Here are some common methods for trapping and removing moles:

Method Description
Mole traps Mole traps are designed specifically to capture the pests. They can be either lethal or humane. Lethal traps will kill the mole, while humane traps will allow you to release the mole in another location.
Mole repellent There are mole repellent products available that use natural ingredients to drive moles away from your yard. However, these products are not always effective and may need to be reapplied.
Professional extermination In extreme cases, it may be necessary to call in a professional exterminator to rid your yard of moles. They have access to stronger chemicals and equipment that are not available to homeowners.

Before attempting to trap and remove moles, it’s important to identify the type of mole infestation in your yard to use the most effective methods. It is also important to read and understand local laws and regulations regarding trapping and removing wildlife in your area.


In conclusion, it’s important to be able to differentiate mole damage from other pest damage in order to effectively treat and prevent mole infestations. Identifying the signs of mole damage, such as raised ridges and mounds, can help you determine if moles are the culprit or if another pest is to blame. Some common pests that can be confused with moles include gophers, voles, skunks, raccoons, pocket gophers, rats, ground squirrels, shrews, and earthworms.

Preventing mole infestations can also help reduce the amount of damage they cause to your lawn and garden. This can include reducing lawn irrigation, maintaining healthy soil, removing grubs and other insects, setting up barriers, planting deterrent plants, using natural predators, and trapping and removing moles.

It’s important to take action as soon as you notice signs of mole damage in order to prevent further damage and infestations. By following these tips and properly identifying the cause of damage, you can effectively control mole infestations and keep your lawn and garden healthy.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can moles cause damage to plants?

No, moles are insectivores and do not feed on plants. However, their burrowing activities can indirectly affect plant growth by damaging roots.

Are moles dangerous?

No, moles are not dangerous to humans or pets. They mostly keep to themselves and do not pose a threat.

How do I know if the damage in my lawn is caused by moles?

The most characteristic sign of mole damage is the presence of raised ridges or mounds of dirt on the surface of the ground.

Can moles be controlled without harming them?

Yes, there are several non-lethal methods of controlling a mole infestation, including the use of natural predators and installing barriers in the soil.

Can moles coexist peacefully with other garden pests?

It is not uncommon for moles to share their burrows with other small animals like shrews or voles, but they do not necessarily feed on each other.

What is the best time of year to trap and remove moles?

Moles are most active during the spring and fall, so these are the best seasons for trapping and removal.

Is it necessary to remove moles from my lawn?

No, while their burrowing activities can be unsightly, moles are not harmful to humans or pets and do not have a significant impact on the ecosystem.

Can moles chew through metal barriers?

No, moles do not have the ability to chew through metal or other hard materials.

Do moles have predators?

Yes, moles are natural prey for birds of prey, such as hawks and owls, as well as larger carnivores like foxes and coyotes.

What is the lifespan of a mole?

Moles have a relatively short lifespan, typically living for around 2-3 years in the wild.