Dateline: October 22, 2010*
I was getting ready to give my Irish setter a piece of my mind because there was digging at the fence….a no-no. It didn’t seem to be her usual “let’s bury the human” size hole, merely scratching along the surface. As I continued to walk along, I felt the earth move under my feet which is always a sign that my friends the moles are doing their thing. To me, moles are a good thing since I found out they eat ants…I really dislike ants (except for the ones that go marching two by two…hurrah, hurrah!)
I continued walking, looking under the bayberry for signs of the box turtle, another possible digging friend. I refreshed my memory of a year ago by looking at some pictures recently and realized that the turtle was around at this time of year. And sometime closer to our winter I found turtle eggs…alas they never hatched. Perhaps victims of the hard freeze.
I noticed a creature in the brush, obviously not moving. At first I thought it was a bird and looked suspiciously at my English setter. He’s caught a bird or two in his time….hey, he’s a bird dog, but it was always in the dog area, not back in the bird area. I got closer, plastic bag in hand, shoo’d away the Irish (who was looking for trouble) and got a closer look at a newly deceased mole (Scalopus aquaticus). A sad event, but nature taking its course. Now it may just be that the English setter got it, although he usually runs around with his “prizes”, but this one looked relatively unscathed, so my thought is that perhaps a hawk dropped it from the heavens. Plenty of those around my area.
I didn’t know a heck of a lot about moles, except they are a little on the ugly side, so I read a bit about them this past spring when they were quite evident at my place. I learned they are not rodents, but mammals, mostly insectivores, although may eat an occasional small animal. They live underground and based on most of what I found online, people are on a mission to try and kill them. Why? because they cause aesthetic damage to precious lawns. Give me a break!
Let’s be realistic, and come to terms with the fact that they can be quite beneficial to a beautiful wildlife garden. They aerate the soil for free, provide housing for some critters, entertainment for others (my friend’s dog can wag for hours at the end of a mole tunnel) and eat insects that probably are damaging the roots of your plants. According to University of Florida IFAS Extension ”moles eat mole crickets; beetle larvae (white grubs, wire worms, etc.); ants and ant brood; moth larvae and pupae (cutworms and armyworms); and slugs.” Sounds like the perfect houseguest to me. Further, they write: “The damage caused by moles is almost entirely cosmetic. Although moles are often falsely accused of eating the roots of grass and other plants, they actually feed on the insects causing the damage. The tunneling of moles may cause some physical damage to the root systems of ornamental or garden plants and may kill grass by drying out the roots, but this damage is usually minor.”
My question is, just when did it become acceptable to kill God’s creatures purely for aesthetic reasons?
In my crawl across the web I found one humane wildlife control and prevention company “The Skunk Whisper” (update for 2018: now called “The Wildlife Whisperer Wildlife Control”) who seems to have realistic prevention ideas (IMHO) including: “When landscaping your property you might consider choosing a native grass that is heat and drought tolerant, a grass that will not require so much moisture near the surface. The same principle applies to which plants and flowers you choose for your property. Landscaping that moves moisture deeper into the soil will not prevent moles but the damage done by the moles will be deeper down thus helping preserve the beauty of your lawn and flower beds.”
I have a few ideas of my own. Plant a few different wildflowers, sedges or ground covers instead of a monoculture of one alien grass that needs to be chopped at an unrealistic even height of 3.5 inches. The hills are less evident in a meadow of glorious life producing natives. Mole hills make the perfect area to drop native wildflower or ground cover seed. Just sprinkle the seed and tamp down a bit in the lovely aerated soil. The hill is gone and the seed has been easily sown. Your future reward will be a meadow of color, from flowers and butterflies and other pollinators which will hide that “ghastly” unkempt looking “mountain”.
Loret is a member of the Florida Native Plant Society who maintains a natural, beautiful wildlife garden in Central Florida.
*This is an update of a tale was originally published by Loret T. Setters on October 22, 2010 at the defunct national blog beautifulwildlifegarden[dot]com. Click the date to view reader comments.