This section is from the book "The Balance Of Nature And Modern Conditions Of Cultivation", by George Abbey. Also available from Amazon: The Balance Of Nature And Modern Conditions Of Cultivation.
The natural enemies of the mole are now so few in number that once a colony of moles becomes established in any locality the occupier of the land has to consider whether the work of the subterranean creature is useful or injurious to the crops. The sportsman has good reason to complain of mole-hills on glades and drives in woods, also alongside of coverts, as a cause of stumbling, the soft and hollow ground impeding the hunter's "mount" speedy and safe gallop. To game, the mole is innocuous; but, by devouring ground pests it may deprive winged game of some insect food,'while in itself affording some of the fox's dietary. The forester suffers in the nursery from the disrooting, upheaval, and covering up of seedling plants, but in woods and plantations the mole does practically no harm other than blocking ditches more or less, thus necessitating scouring periodically in return for the great benefit conferred by the destruction of ground root-destroying pests. On commons and moors, even grazed hill pastures, the mole may be regarded as a blessing rather than as a curse. The farmer is affected by the mole in two ways: first by the food it eats, and secondly, by the work it carries on to obtain that food.
The food largely consists of the earthworm, which, like the mole, tunnels in the ground and casts up earth that has passed through its body and surface-dresses the vegetation with vegetable mould, while by its borings through the soil air and water is let into the ground and a sort of tillage effected. The mole also feeds largely on insect larvae, particularly grubs, notably wireworm. On the other hand, by driving its tunnels in all directions it lets the air into the soil, and throws up loose soil on the surface in the form of mole-hills, thus acting much after the manner of the earthworm in tilling and surface-dressing the ground. In tunnelling the mole cuts the tender and actively feeding roots, and the hills frustrate effective grass-cutting by either the scythe or grass-mower. In winter and spring the greater part of mole-hills are thrown up, hence, if the mounds are spread just before the field is "shut up" for hay, followed by chain or bush harrows and roller, not much further throwing up of hillocks takes place, as the mole works near the surface, and betakes itself to hedge-banks or outskirts of coppices and woods for breeding, and there forms the large mounds so objectionable in meadows.
Though the mole prefers to work in grass fields, it invades arable land; and among winter wheat, oats, and beans, also rotation grasses and clovers, is very annoying, making its surface runs and hillocks in all directions, and by up-rooting and covering over of the young plants, is prejudicial. But by the time barley is sown in spring or the wheat has been hoed, the mole's activity will have abated and few hillocks remain to incommode the reaping machine in harvest. Nevertheless, the mole's feeding runs are mainly trenches just beneath the surface, and when these are considerable, the plants suffer seriously, particularly in light soils. The runs are often made in potato and root crop ridges, and for this reason moles are not tolerable in cultivated land during the cropping season. In the garden the mole is particularly energetic in tunnelling through lawns, flower beds and borders, while in vegetable grounds the trouble, annoyance and damage to plants caused by the tunnels and cuttings and soil upheavals soon convince the most kindly owner or occupier that the garden is no place for the mole either as pleasure or profit.
This applies to all outdoor crops of the horticulturist; indeed, in all highly cultivated land, the mole is an intolerable nuisance, hence recourse must be had to trapping.
The Common Wood Mole Traps, as used by professional mole catchers from time immemorial, are shown in the illustration, Fig. 77. The Tube Trap A is formed of lime, sycamore or willow, 5¼ in. long, 2§ in. diameter, 2-in. bore (f), piece cut out of lower side to admit of adjusting table (g), ½-in. hole bored in centre of upper side where ½-in. thick (h), ¼-in. holes at each end for snares (i). The other parts are identical with those described under B, the tube trap being shown set, main string (j) secured by forked piece and tube by pegs (k), with the spring stake (l) adjusted.
The Common Wood Bow Mole Trap, Fig. 77, B, consists of a piece of half-inch board, 5¼ in. long by 2 5/8 in. wide, through which four holes are bored in the four corners and one in the middle. A piece of ½ in. hoop-pole is split, the ends pointed a little, and so bent flat side inwards as to form bows, when fitted in the end holes, about 2 in. deep, then appearing as the two pieces (m). Another forked piece of the same material (both preferably hazel), but unsplit, is cut, and rounded at the straight end, so as to fit in the centre hole of the main part of the trap (n). A hole is then bored at each end midway of the bows (o) to admit the snares, which are formed of fine brass wires double or triple twisted, and long enough to reach from the string above the hole round the inside of the loop. A piece of whipcord (s) exclusive of the loop and knot at the other end, has affixed to it two pieces of similar cord about 3 in. long and that distance from the knot, and to the ends of these the snares are secured.
For this trap four pegs (r) are required, and also a spring stake (usually hazel) about the thickness of the thumb, and a small spade C for taking out the soil to set the trap.
Fig. 77. - The Common Wood Mole Traps.
A, tube trap: f, tube 2 in. bore; g, forked piece or table; h, catch-string hole; i, snare holes; j, main string; k, pegs to secure trap in position; l, stake spring. B, board top trap, the form most approved by mole catchers: m, bows; n, main string aperture; 0, snare holes; p, snare strings (slack); q, table; r, peg to secure trap in position; s, main string (tight); t, spring stake; u, ground level. C, small spade, commonly called mole-trapper's spade.