The not so humble Mole (Talpa Europaea) and how to catch him
Despite a wealth of research, there are still many gaps in our knowledge about the European Mole, one of our commonest mammals and the despair of many a gardener. Nobody has yet succeeded in breeding them in captivity, and there aren’t any in Ireland.
It was long believed that the animal was blind but had acute hearing. In fact it’s tiny (1mm diameter) eyes can certainly distinguish light from dark, and its’ sense of hearing is very limited. Its’ most sensitive organ is its’ snout, which is covered with thousands of tiny, raised, nipple-like papillae. It has long hairs (called vibrissae) on its’ face, similar to those of a cat, and it’s these two sets of organs that give it an acute sense of awareness and help it to detect obstacles before running into them. It is easy to suppose, when looking at a multitudinous mass of molehills, – good alliteration? – that an army of moles is at work in that area. In fact the mole is a solitary animal, the two sexes only coming together, briefly, to mate in February or March. Each animal’s range extends up to 300 yards.
Most feeding is done in existing burrows, which act as pit-fall traps. Worms, slugs and various insects fall into these and are quickly devoured. Surface runs (which don’t have molehills) are mainly made during warmer months when food is easier to obtain. The cooler the weather, the deeper the mole tunnels in search of food. As a descendant of the Jacobites I should be raising a glass to the ‘little gentleman in black velvet’, who was reputedly responsible for King William III’s horse stumbling and throwing him to his death in 1702. I must, however, confess to continually cursing poor Moley, who for years has wreaked havoc in my garden and cocked a snook at endless traps. Until recently, that is, for I believe we have finally discovered an infallible secret weapon, which is none other than a dead mole.
Let me explain. Moles, like shrews, hate their own species. Fights occur between males, between females and between sexes. They guard their territories most aggressively, and any intruder will be immediately attacked.
First, therefore, catch a mole and keep it in your deepfreeze. As soon as a fresh molehill appears and before you set the trap, rub the (defrosted) dead mole along the floor of the tunnel. You will be amazed how quickly it works. And huge donations, please, from grateful gardeners to the Daws Hall Trust…