Catching moles

Molecatchers agree that the best place to trap moles is in their deep underground runs which lead to or from their feeding grounds. These can sometimes be found running beneath fence lines, and it is surprising how often you will find tunnels when probing there. Aside from the deeper runs, mole can also be caught red-handed amongst his hills – this is often the easiest way to come to grips with him, particularly in the spring when he ‘scoots’ just below the surface.

When you find that Molemole has moved in to a new area, take a long, narrow rod and begin to probe the soil near to his hills towards the direction of the nearest cover. When you find his run, the probe will sink suddenly into the soil, and it then becomes a matter of finding the direction of the run.

Once this has been established, the run can be carefully opened with a trowel, and debris can be cleared out with bare hands. As soon as you cut into the soil, rub some earth onto your finger tips to cover your smell, and if it is a new trap, wipe the trigger and jaws with a handful from the nearest hill. Mole has a fabulous sense of smell and he isn’t stupid. He  will cotton on to the fact that something is not right faster than you might think.

Once you have opened the run, work quickly. It is advisable to set the trap before opening the run so that it can be quickly installed and covered over again. If fresh air gets into the hole and mole is nearby, he might block off the run and stop using it. It is sometimes helpful to put a hat or glove over the hole if it needs to be open for more than a minute or so.

Position the trap neatly, and do not alter the run so that your trap will fit. Remove all pieces of grass or leaf which may have fallen in, and cover the trap with the sod you removed to find the run. Setting Fenn or scissor traps can be slightly more complicated, but just take care to block out all sunlight and draught.

Moles are normally solitary animals, but in April and May, they go into overdrive. If you catch mole during this period, the best thing to do is remove him and put the trap back in the ground. You may find that if you check it regularly, you can catch three or four in a night from one trap. If you use a tunnel trap, a mole might be in both ends.

Molecatching tips

#1 If you find that your trap has been “stuffed” (sprung but only filled with earth), try removing the soil from the run and feeling with your fingers to find out which end it was blocked from. Then reposition the trap a few inches in that direction.

#2 When you go to check a tunnel trap, lift it out of the ground and be sure that it has not been stuffed. Sometimes the soil just packs itself around the trigger mechanism and the trap does not fire.

#3 If you haven’t caught mole in a 48 hour period, try another place. Before you move, put a cigarette butt in the run and cover it over with turf. If and when mole comes back, he will raise a hill on that spot to let you know he’s there.

Setting a Fenn trap

Squeeze the handles together and allow the trigger plate to swing freely from its hinge. Turn the trigger plate so that it prevents the jaws from closing together, and the trap is set. The mechanism is fired by dislodging the trigger plate with a force moving in through the ‘jaws’ of the trap.The trigger plate must be positioned precisely in the centre of the trap. If it is too far to one side, you might miss mole coming from one direction or fail to achieve a clean kill on him from the other.

Fenn traps can work well on deep runs, but they are always best used when it is obvious which direction mole is travelling from. The trigger mechanism can be adjusted easily so that less pressure is required to fire them, and they are very lightweight and compact. Fenn traps are excellent mole catchers, but they take some time to lose their oily smell and must be “weathered” before use.

Mole Fenn trap

Setting a tunnel trap (also known as a barrel or “Duffus” trap)

Since this is essentially two traps in one, the parts must be set separately. Push one of the loops of wire against the force of the spring so that it projects through the slots cut for it in the trap’s “roof”. Take the ‘L-shaped’ wire and hook it over the top of the loop, tucking the angle of the ‘L’ under the small hook which projects from the ‘roof’ of the trap, by the spring’s coil. The loop will then be locked in place until the trigger wire is pushed by a force moving through the trap from the loop end. The process is then repeated at the other end, so that once set, the trap resembles a cylinder.

Tunnel traps are excellent for deep straight runs when you are not sure which direction mole will come from. They are also useful in the spring for catching more than one mole at once in shallow runs. However, their size means that they are not always suitable for use in rocky soil or amongst the roots of trees.

Mole Fenn trap

Setting a scissor trap

These traps are set in much the same way as a Fenn trap. Use one hand to bring the upper arms of the trap together, opening the jaws at the bottom. The trigger plate is suspended by a small chain, and should then be wedged between the jaws to prevent the trap from closing. The mechanism is fired in the same way as a Fenn trap; by a force moving through the trap and between the open jaws. (N.B. It is important to position the chain so that the trap will not catch on it when it fires. Catching the chain prevents the trap from closing fully and reduces the power of the spring. Also, since the handles are hollow, you are recommended to fill them with a fine soil when setting the trap so that air or light cannot enter the run).

Scissor traps cannot really be used for deep work, but they are very efficient during the spring time in shallow runs. These traps are simple to set and have the advantage of being visible above ground. Not only does this mean that you are less likely to lose them, but it also means that you can check if they have sprung without having to dig them up.

Mole Fenn trap