Voter-OK’d trap ban led to increase in mole population

December 15, 2008

By Jim Feehan

Moles have always presented a local problem, as witnessed in 2005 by the sign at a home in the 200 block of Northeast Crescent Drive.Photo by Jon Savelle.

Moles, those scourges that create unsightly, volcano-like mounds, can create widespread damage at parks and school grounds. Want an example? Check out the playfield at Issaquah Valley Elementary School.

The number of moles in Issaquah hasn’t increased (or decreased) in recent years, but killing them got a lot harder, thanks to a citizen-sponsored initiative passed by Washington voters in 2000, said Al Erickson, Issaquah parks and recreation manager.

Initiative 713 banned steel-jawed, leg-hold traps, neck snares and other body-gripping traps to capture any mammal for recreation or commerce in fur. The measure passed with 54 percent of the vote.

“It kills me to see those mole hills, knowing that we can’t trap them,” Erickson said.

The most effective of those, he said, is a “scissor trap” set underground along a mole’s primary route. Prior to passage of the initiative, park staff killed 40 to 50 moles annually with the traps, he said.

Tibbetts Valley Park, Veterans Memorial Park, Rainier Boulevard and the upper cemetery are some of the areas plagued by moles, he said.Moles are well-adapted for a life of digging. Webbed toes support strong claws and their palms turn outward. The paddle-like forelimbs move laterally, enabling moles to move in a swim-like fashion through the soil.

A fully-grown mole is 4 to 6 inches long and weighs 3 to 5 ounces. Moles have a voracious appetite and can eat 70 percent to 100 percent of their weight daily. They feed while burrowing just below the surface of the ground, where their preferred foods of insects and earthworms are abundant. The habit of feeding just below the surface leaves raised ridges in lawns or flowerbeds.

Moles live alone, but burrowed systems of several moles may connect. Burrowing occurs year-round, peaking during warm, wet months. When making feeding tunnels near the surface, moles may burrow up to one foot per minute.

Besides wreaking havoc with lawns, moles are, well, ugly. They’re nearly blind with no neck and a pink snout.

Trapping is the most effective means for controlling moles, Erickson said. Since it is illegal in this state to trap them, Issaquah has turned to a product that resembles a gummy worm laced with pesticide.

“It’s mildly effective, but not as effective as a trap,” Erickson said.

Keith Simmonds, the maintenance and facilities director for the Issaquah School District, said this year is particularly bad for moles, but he has no idea why.

“We just mow over the dirt mounds and the little critters move out eventually,” he said. “We will not use any sort of poison or traps on our properties.”

Issaquah has sandy soil that’s not too rocky. The molehills at school properties may be more noticeable because of lack of mowing during the winter months, he said.

Many home remedies, including flooding the holes and electronic devices, have proven to be ineffective. But Simmonds said there is a safe and effective weapon in a property owner’s arsenal: a cat.

“Get yourself a good mole cat,” Simmonds said. “Some cats are quite proficient at helping you rid yourself of moles.”

Reach Reporter Jim Feehan at 392-6434, ext. 239, or jfeehan@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.

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Comments

One Response to “Voter-OK’d trap ban led to increase in mole population”

  1. Maynard Pillie on December 17th, 2008 12:57 pm

    Regarding your mole story, I seem to remember when they were trying to pass that misguided initiative about trapping that we were told it would not affect our ability to control and trap pests like mice, rats, moles, etc. Only that fur bearing animals were going to be protected from evil fur trappers. Your story even hinted at this where you said in your article: “…any mammal for recreation or commerce in fur”.

    What is the straight story on trapping moles? Moles are hardly an endangered species, and trapping them as pests and vermin wound not come under the heading of recreation or commerce in fur.

    Since this ban went into affect, we have also seen an increase in the number of coyotes and now even bobcats in our area out here on the east side of lake Sammamish. I have seen bobcats around my house 4 times. I have also seen a big increase in the number of sighs posted along the road about missing dogs and cats. We lost a cat to a coyote ourselves. Moles and their mole hills could also be considered a safety issue since stepping in a mole hole can cause an ankle injury, or mowing through mole hills can cause rocks to fly.

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