Southern Living

 

This friendly gopher prepares to eat your face. Smile! Photo: sf baywalk.

From the looks of Grumpy's mail, Groundhog Day ought to be renamed Mole & Gopher Day. These animal agents of Satan aren't waiting for spring to start tunneling through lawns and gardens and turning them into sponge cake. They're partying now. So how can you, the average outraged homeowner, deal with them?

Mole or Gopher? The first thing you need to figure out is whether the problem is caused by a mole or gopher. The signs of these pests are similar -- winding tunnel-shaped mounds of dirt pushed up to the surface of lawns and gardens that collapse when you step on them. But there are important differences.

A mole is about the size of a mouse with dark, silky fur (heard of mole skin?), large front paws for digging, and an elongated snout. It eats earthworms and grubs (not plants or roots) and is not a rodent. A gopher, on the other hand, is a squirrel-size rodent with large claws on the front feet, enormous front teeth for gnawing, and pouches on the sides of its mouth for storing food. Gophers eat roots and plants and can wipe out a garden. All things being equal, you're much better off having moles than gophers.

Don't think that just because your yard is crisscrossed with mounded tunnels that you've been invaded by a mole or gopher army. These critters are lone gunmen -- they work solo. But their voracious appetites mean they're constantly foraging, so one critter can dig a lot of tunnels.

What To Do -- Control With Extreme Prejudice First of all, forget about using poisons and repellents. In Grumpy's experience, they just don't work. They're wimpy, oooh-I-don't-want-to-see-it-happen solutions, anyway. And nuking the lawn insecticides to kill grubs is a bad idea. They could kill earthworms too and earthworms are GOOD for lawns and gardens, remember?

No, what you need is one of two manly-man solutions.

Solution #1 -- A mole or gopher trap. You can get one at Lowe's, Home Depot, or online from Gopher Goner and Cinch Traps.

You place the trap at a strategic point above an active tunnel. When the critter bumps into it, it executes him with extreme prejudice. How can you tell if a tunnel is active? Well, locate a straight section of tunnel and use your foot to collapse it in one small spot. Then wait a day or two, come back, and inspect the spot. If the collapse is repaired, you have an active tunnel. That's where you place your trap.

Solution #2 -- turn annoying critters into a delicious meal! Ever wonder what mole sauce really is? Grumpy did too, until he discovered this demonstration on the internet.

 

Mole sauce. Now that's good eatin'! Photo: Olivier Bruchez.

Wow, that looks delicious. If I had to guess, I'd say the foundation for this dish is a good Madeira wine. And free-range, organic moles, of course.

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