We thought it might be useful to tell you a little more about moles. We believe that the more we can understand about their lives and behaviour the easier it is to catch them!
Moles are generally solitary animals, spending much of their time on their own, only coming together for mating. They defend their own territories aggressively, although they can share runs under hedges and fences where their territories overlap. This is why, when a mole is caught, another can quickly move into its vacated territory.
They have several layers of tunnels; deeper, semi-permanent ones used for breeding and by successive generations, and shallow short-lived surface ones used for hunting. It is these temporary hunting tunnels that cause most of the trouble as the mole excavates at a rate of about twenty metres a day, pushing up debris in the form of mole hills.
They can move along their tunnels surprisingly quickly – one metre a second – and, because its fur can lie at any angle, it can go backwards as well as forward through the tunnels. They are also good swimmers and, in times of flood, will swim to higher ground.
The adult mole weighs about 80 grammes and is 12-14cm in length, and its tail is 2-4cm long; it holds this semi-erect when it is working to brush the tunnel walls, picking up vibrations passed through the ground by worms and insects.
The mole consumes about its own body weight in food per day, working on a sleeping/working pattern of about four hours and, when there is plenty of food, they will bite the heads off worms and store them for later.
The female has one litter a year, usually of three or four, between February and June. The young are weaned at about one month and are pushed out to fend for themselves and establish their own territories shortly after. They become sexually active at the age of one year and live, on average, between two and five years.Since Roman times, man and mole have been in conflict and mole catchers have been using traps since then. One of the earliest ones was a clay pot, part filled with water in which an exhausted mole would eventually drown. These were used through the medieval period and right up to the 19th century in some areas. Smaller clay traps, made like drainpipes, were developed in the 1700s but, when mole catching became more of a commercial enterprise, a better and stronger trap made of elm was developed. During the Victorian era, the metal trap was developed.
In the 1800s, the art of trapping began to decline when poisoning became the method of choice as it was easier and required less equipment.
Worms were caught and soaked in strychnine and then inserted into the run. Whilst it was an efficient way of dealing with the moles, it was not considered humane and was banned in 2006. There was then a steady increase in mole activity and the mole catcher with his traps was in demand again, traditional methods being seen as one of the best ways to control moles…and so here we are today!