two brown mice, facing each other, perched on top of dried opium seed pods, on dark green background
Curing the Gardening Phobia

Natural Way to Rid Your Yard of Moles?

As winter fades and the cold gives way here and there to a little warmth, many of you might be starting to think about the lawn.

The winter months can be a good time to think about how to address your mole or gopher problem. Are you making a plan? Investigating how to scare them off? I’ve done a lot of research for you and can provide you with some pros and cons to mull over with your spiced wine in front of the fireplace.

Can Pest Removal Companies Help?

A quick check on the internet leads you first to all the pest removal companies. They’re focused on killing the critters. And you might be surprised that I will be too. But first, let’s take a quick look at the good stuff moles do for your lawn.

  1. Moles improve soil health by aerating the soil.
  2. They’re insect eaters. So they rid the soil of a lot of bad bugs, without pesticides that are dangerous to your pets and children.
  3. Although they are blamed for damaging plants, they are not often the culprit. Mice and voles take advantage of their tunnels and chew on roots, seeds, and tubers.
  4. They stay out of sight. They’re completely underground creatures.

To get specifics about the kind of rodent you may be dealing with, see these websites for your part of the country:

U of I Extension: https://bit.ly/39jeBBh

Penn State Extension: https://extension.psu.edu/moles

IL Natural History Report: https://bit.ly/3drnNVx

U of Calif Guides: https://bit.ly/3w4D9Yp

CO State Extension: https://bit.ly/2PDOlKY

AL Co-op: https://bit.ly/3w6o3BK

So What Are the Solutions?

gray furry mole sitting atop deep brown dirt, with yellow, dried grass in background

Insecticides may be suggested by your pest control company, but you should be cautious about using them. They will kill the moles’ food source, but moles are opportunistic feeders. They will increase their digging to find new insects, ultimately causing you more problems.

Underground Fencing?

You might try underground fencing to protect small areas, such as vegetable gardens. This is a bit of a project. You’ll need 24-inch wide sheet metal. Cut it and form it into an L-shaped, 12-inch deep barrier. Then dig a trench around the garden and bury it to prevent the moles from tunnelling into that area. For complete instructions see the PennState Extension website: https://extension.psu.edu/moles

I don’t know about you, but this feels like too much of a project for me. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a weekend DIY, go for it!

Natural Deterrents?

You might also find recommendations for fox urine, human urine, cat feces, human hair, dog hair, kitty litter, and countless other “natural” deterrents—NONE of which works. I was disappointed that the hair solutions are old wives’ tales. I have found several scientific sites proclaiming that these don’t work—and that if they seem to work, the solution is only temporary.

In fact, even killing the moles (voles, gophers, field mice) are only temporary measures, since other rodents will move into the vacant tunnels.

So is there anything that will get rid of my moles?

A Recommendation with a Future

close up of yellow-eyed great horned owl, with green grass and leaves in background

The best recommendation that I can provide comes from a nationwide study that started in Pennsylvania and has moved into California. Their findings are now supporting work in Malaysia, Australia, and the UK.

In cooperation with UC Davis, the scientists set up a 3-year study to find out how many barn owls a 100-acre farming area could sustain.  They found that owls have a significant impact on the rodent population for vintners and other farmers. A large farm can sustain a nesting pair of barn owls every 5.5 acres.

This is also good news for homeowners.

What’s an Owl Box?

barn owl on perch in front of a barn owl box, with brown burst and text

If you’re having trouble with moles, voles, gophers, or other rodents in your yard, an owl box is the best solution. The UC Davis study found that placing the boxes on a tree facing east is the preferred location because it warms the box in the early morning hours. But if you can’t do that, no worries! Owls will take whatever is available.

Beware of advice that says owls don’t hunt tunneling rodents because they can’t see them—ignore it! The UC Davis study says otherwise. I called the Barn Owl Box Company and spoke to them about this objection. He seemed annoyed at the idea. He said, “They don’t need to see them! They hear them!” 

Wow! Makes sense…doesn’t it?

Flyin’ High with Authentic Owl Experiences

Inviting natural predators to your neighborhood brings multiple benefits besides getting rid of your moles.

  • Hearing a great horned owl in the middle of the night can be one of the most comforting sounds the planet offers.
  • Screech owls too have a very soft, melodious sound—kinda like a horse whinny. Ignore the name “screech.” It’s a misnomer.
  • Sitting quietly on your patio at dusk with your kids on an owl-watching “expedition” is surprisingly simple and rewarding family time.
  • If your kids are little enough to still be waking you up at the crack of dawn—take them outside bundled up in blankets, with hot chocolate. Challenge them to be real quiet. You just might catch an owl coming home from a night of hunting. I saw a barn owl returning to the nest at 7 AM one morning. Cool stuff. And it will give your kids great stories for Show ‘N Tell at school.

So, if you’re looking for authentic experiences—and you’ve got a backyard rodent problem—get an owl box. Testimonials from some websites claim that their boxes took less than a month to claim a bird renter.

This photo is an owl strike print from my backyard. You can see the trail of the small mammal running–and where it stopped, as the owl picked it up.

Where Can I Buy One?

Several companies now sell them. The home of the expert scientific study that I quoted above is the Barn Owl Box Company

https://www.barnowlbox.com/shop/

Despite their name, they have boxes for other owls as well. Boxes are plastic or wooden…can be nailed to a tree, or posted onto a pole. Take your pick.

[box with burst]

Or you can check out handmade boxes at Etsy:

https://etsy.me/2QBoYcY

One feature you might want to look for as you make your decision is an access panel. In case you want to rig up a camera to watch the baby owls grow.

Let us know what you decide. What box did you pick? Where did you mount it? What do the kids think about it?

We're in this together! Let us know what you think!