Tuesday, 9 February 2010

I am a mole, and I live in a hole.

Early last Spring, on one of our walks to Cotter Force in the Dales, I published photographs of the huge mole hills and did a blog about moles. On Sunday, on our way to a dinner date, we called again to walk at the Force (Yorkshire speak for waterfall) and saw that the same field had huge mole hills all over it.
Now there are those among us who feel it is cruel to destroy moles. They certainly are very pretty little creatures with their velvet coats, long snouts and shovel-hands. They are expert at digging tunnels and clever enough to know that as they dig those tunnels worms drop in their laps, so to speak - worms, their favourite food.
The hills of loam which they put up all over the place serve no useful purpose, they are merely heaps of soil which the mole pushes out of the way as he digs his tunnel. Gardeners love to collect this loam to fill their flower pots; it is usually delicious stuff for planting.
But, of course, the farmer finds these heaps of loam all over his grass field a nuisance. To start with where there is a molehill there is little or no grass, and secondly, when silaging takes place this soil tends to get into the silage bales, which is not good. So most farmers set mole traps to catch the moles on their land. I am torn two ways.
They are such pretty little creatures. In the old days gamekeepers used to catch them and skin them and have waistcoats made from the velvet skins. Often they would impale the dead moles, along with rats, crows and other 'vermin' on a string of barbed wire - to advertise to the world (and their bosses in particular) that they were doing their job properly.
Sometimes moles do come above ground and then they eat small dead vermin too. But mainly they spend most of their lives underground and are consequently nearly blind.
There is a little nature piece in the Times today, which says that they make a dome like mound under a bush for Mrs Mole to have her babies in May and they also use this little space to lay up in winter. But from our walk on Sunday I can tell you that once the ground loses the frost Mr and Mrs Mole are up to their tricks again - and long may they continue.
I know some readers in US are unsure of what a mole looks like. Later in the day, when I have a little more time, I will try to put a photograph on to go with this blog.

28 comments:

dinesh chandra said...

good post to read.

Regards

Dinesh Chandra

Elisabeth said...

I've never met a mole, but I love the idea of them. We do not see them in Australia. I can only imagine Moley from the Wind in the Willows and the idea of killing him in my mind is tantamount to murder. Thanks for a lovely post, Weaver.

Jenn Jilks said...

Great post.

We have a ton of moles in Canada, Weaver! Right now they are well hidden under knee deep snow. In summer the cats catch one or two a day!

Titus said...

Moles very prevalent in these here parts, especially in the fields closest to the river. I was astonished to see how active they were once the surface frost had gone!
On the Duke's estate they still hang them up on the barbed wire fences.

And don't forget the Jacobites' toast "to the little gentleman in the black velvet waistcoat" in celebration of the mole that made the hole that made William III's horse stumble so that the King fell off and subsequently died.

Golden West said...

We don't have moles, but their close kin, the gophers, abound. I wish they only ate worms. On the contrary, they love dutch iris bulbs and are known to pull entire mature plants of various kinds down into their holes.

Reader Wil said...

Great post! We have plenty of moles overhere, but they are a nuisance: in our small gardens they push our tiles up and make our neat gardens messy and ugly, so we try to catch them. In the fields they are okay among the cattle, I think.

ArtPropelled said...

I think I might have told you my mole remedy but I have a feeling the farmer might prefer to find other ways of going about it. I shovel dog poop down the holes and believe me the moles head for the hills. It doesn't harm them but they don't take too kindly to large animals pooping in their territory.
http://artpropelled.blogspot.com/2008/06/moles.html

Teresa said...

I don't know about the other parts of the US, but here in the south we have both moles and voles... as my Mom can attest... her garden that she so diligently cares for often looks like little mini mines have exploded all over it! :-)

Jane Moxey said...

Your blog title reminds me of the funny old recording of the song! Now I shall have it on the brain all day! Anthropomorphosis is what we do with critters like moles... think "Wind in the Willows."

Moonstone Gardens said...

We have moles in Oregon and I feel the same way you do. I almost think of them as beloved children's book characters. If they are in the field, I leave them alone, but I hate it when they get into the woodland. The damage they do themselves is minimal, but the voles use their tunnels to live in and the voles will wipe out a garden very quickly. I'm going to try the dog poop method. I'd rather deter them than kill them.
Cindee

Leilani Lee said...

Fascinating documentary set in England was on one of the channels in recent past about moles, and apparently the mounds serve as "air conditioning." I understand why people don't like them, but I tend to root for them. We have them here -- one of my friend's terriers is an expert mole hunter and tore her yard to pieces trying to unearth one (did more damage than the mole).

Heather said...

There is a grass verge alongside a road near us which frequently has mole hills on it, and a field on the way to Monmouth which I call Mole City - there are hundreds of mole hills there. On a visit to Slimbridge once I noticed the leaves of a small plant alongside the path moving. I stopped to see why and eventually the soil parted and a little snout popped out. It must have caught my scent as the mole backed down into the tunnel. I have an affection for them but can understand a farmer's frustration.

Bernie said...

One time when we lived in Minnesota we had some moles move into our yard. It was a family joke that my husband came home every night to battle with the animals that outwitted him so well. He tried putting coke bottles in the hole under the theory that the wind would make them whistle and scare them away. I don't think this worked well. I don't remember all else he tried but they moved to the neighbor's yard so we were o.k. with that:)

Cloudia said...

Charming post.


Aloha, Friend!


Comfort Spiral

Leenie said...

looking forward to the molehill photo. I know a gopher hole but not mole hill

kameleonquilt said...

Have never heard of or seen moles here, - only on TV. We have plenty of "forces" though, - in Norwegian waterfall is called "foss"

Penny said...

I might be a farmers wife but here in Oz if it is a native animal,whatever it does, you may not destroy without a permit. Moles are a native animal as far as I know and really should not be destroyed.
How is that for stirring up comment?

Elizabeth said...

My father, the gentlest of men, used to get in to a lather of fury when moles made pretty molehills in/on the lawn!

A local gamekeeper had all sorts of moleskins tacked up to his barn wall
as a child I would love to touch them

Remember Mole in Toad of Toad Hall?

I must say I love moles.

Much snow expected here tomorrow.
Will keep you posted.

word verification:
muddl

kimber the wolfgrrrl said...

Waistcoats made of little moles... why had it never occurred to me before that "moleskin" really was the skin of a mole?

Dominic Rivron said...

Did they really make waitcoats out of mole skins??? You'd need hundreds!

Dave King said...

My brother has been plagued (as he puts it) with moles. I have been told that they only travel - and form the hills - when looking for a mate. Is that the case, do you know?

The Weaver of Grass said...

I love Titus's Jacobite's Toast - I had never heard that before.

The Weaver of Grass said...

And what about dog poo as a remedy - the farmer was most impressed - he didn't think he would ever find a use for that. Don't know whether it would work but maybe worth a try.

The Weaver of Grass said...

I wonder whether those cats who catch moles for Jenn eat them - they do not look particularly appetising to cats - but then they eat mice and I don't fancy those either.

The Weaver of Grass said...

It seems that we all have a love hate relationship with the little fellows - they have such velvety coats and we are reminded of Moley in Wind in the Willows but when they make havoc on our lawns they seem to release the dogs of war (to misquote the bard)and we are all out to get them.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Interesting that they cannot be killed in Australia - wonder how that big of legislation would go down here with farmers who are plagued by moles.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks to you all for taking the trouble to comment. Interesting as always

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

I could never kill one. I mean, Wind In The Willows and all that!! We even relocate the dreaded opossums when Edward catches one!