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Bringing back traditional mole-catching skills

Insights

Up until the early 1900s, mole trapping was practised throughout the country by dedicated individuals whose mysterious skills kept moles under control.

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The widespread adoption of the Strychnine-laced worm method (where worms are laced with a poison and dropped down a hole for the mole to consume) brought about the widescale demise of the traditional mole catcher, says Mr Rogers.

Strychnine

Since controlling moles with Strychnine was banned from September 2006, farmers and landowners have been faced with having to find new methods of controlling this pest.

 

Today, trapping is often perceived as being too labour intensive and impractical by many landowners.

 

“People seem to prefer looking at the weird and wonderful methods highly recommended to them in the local pub or over a neighbour’s hedge,” he says.

 

“There are various flawed suggestions now circulating among farmers and gardeners about the best ways to catch moles. These range from gassing with exhaust fumes, putting broken glass in the tunnels and spreading weasel droppings, to blasting their tunnels using the latest gas banging equipment intended for the destruction of redundant burrows.”

 

On many farms, Mr Rogers says mole populations have increased. Problems such as heavily soiled silage, a deterioration of its quality and listeriosis are all common issues on-farm.

 

Trapping is by far the most reliable and effective method of control, but only when done properly, using the right equipment and techniques.

 

But trapping from October until early June is not the most pleasant of jobs.

 

“Digging in the ground, setting around 70 traps a day in mid-winter can become rather muddy and tedious at times.”

Conditions

Plus, freezing conditions as experienced in recent winters, bring mole catching to a frustrating halt, yet the mole continues to thrive, digging deeper to maintain a food supply.

 

Despite the unpleasant working conditions and the stigma that trapping is impractical, Mr Rogers says numerous large farms have now seen the benefits.

 

“Those farmers need no longer worry about the problems associated with molehills in their grass silage or crops.”

 

The once-forgotten skills of the traditional mole catchers of the 1800s are now making a much needed comeback to assist the UK’s 21st century farmers.

 

Mole-catching tips

Not everyone wishes to use a contractor to control their moles. To help those who want to deal with the problem themselves, Mr Rogers has put together his top 10 tips to achieving mole catching success.

  • Mole catching is a skill - the first step is to learn what to do and what not to do. Listen to and copy someone who is successful and ignore advice from those who are not
  • Equipped with the right advice, next you need the right tools - some good quality, strong, well-made traps - compare before you buy
  • Discipline yourself to use your new knowledge and good tools exactly as instructed - this is critical to your success
  • How many traps? Size up your job, generally bigger farms require more traps - about 50 for 81 hectares (200 acres)
  • Devote time and effort. Do not be fooled into thinking you can do this when passing by to another job - make this the job and success will result
  • Trap large enough areas and adjoining fields at once - you do not want moles which are ahead of you, moving into empty runs you have just cleared
  • Remove livestock in advance - moles need time to show their presence as they are often deterred by heavy stocking
  • Do not harrow molehills until after trapping, you need all the hills to help you place the traps
  • Find the correct tunnels using a purpose-made probe - not a screwdriver
  • Mark every trap with wooden or plastic markers, never use metal pegs as these can prove fatal to livestock once chopped and ingested from silage
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