Ah, to live in the age of mammals. Sure, overall it’s a good thing — as the king of mammals, we humans sit on the top of the food chain — but it’s terrible for your lawn. Mammals, both tiny and large, can wreak havoc on grass, flowers, and shrubbery, turning from semi-cute distant cousins into nothing but lawn pests. Here’s how to identify the worst offenders and get rid of them in a humane way.*
Moles are freaky little hairy things that are about six to eight inches long. You’ll probably recognize them by their hairless snouts and tiny little eyes. They also have huge feet that are designed to burrow into your lawn. Luckily for you, most moles are loners.
How do you know if you have a mole in your lawn? Their volcano-like burrows look similar to giant anthills. Moles feed on insects, like grubs and earthworms, so you may be tempted to control them by getting rid of their main food source. However, that’s generally a bad idea, because you could be killing beneficial insects.
If you don’t mind a little bit of work, try either the barrier method or the trench method. The barrier method requires a wire mesh to be buried underneath the garden that allows roots to pass through but not a mammal. You can also try digging a trench around the garden — moles will avoid the dug out area. Some also suggest using granules of castor oil to push moles away from your garden and lawn. The granules break down in the rain and make your lawn smell like garbage to moles.
Another option: wait three years until the mole dies naturally. Then you can hold a little mole memorial service with a buffet and candlelight vigil.
That’s right — some idiot scientist thought it was a good idea to name a small mammal "vole" even though there were already moles. Alternatively, a poet needed a good rhyme and rallied the scientific community behind her. Voles don’t even look like moles. Instead, they’re way closer to mice and rats.
Voles are about three to five inches long and basically look like mice with shorter tails. They do share one thing in common with moles: their tunnels. Voles will gladly re-use tunnels dug by moles. Otherwise, you might see little runways in your lawn where voles have ripped up the grass and overturned dirt.
You can use the same methods for getting rid of moles on voles as well. You can also try just keeping your lawn short; voles love to hide in longer grass, so they’ll move on if the grass is too short.
Gophers are like moles in that they live underground and ruin everything. Here’s a major difference, though: Moles eat grub worms, an action which can actually be beneficial to your garden. Gophers, on the other hand, eat plants. Your plants. Your hard-earned plants.
Wanna know if you have gophers in your yard? Look at the entryways to their tunnels. Unlike moles, which make volcano-shaped mound, gophers make more of a crescent mound with the hole on the side.
You can get rid of gophers in — you guessed it! — the same way you get rid of moles. If you’re just protecting a small garden, check out barriers and trenches. If you want to push gophers out completely, look into castor oil granules.
Deer are annoying because they are beautiful creatures but they can also really mess up a garden. Luckily, they’re huge, which means you can just throw up a fence around your yard if you want to keep them out.
Of course, fences are unsightly, and some people would prefer to repel deer through other means. There a ton of natural repellents designed specifically to convince deer that they don’t want to hang out in your yard, eating your shrubbery and vegetables and rubbing their antlers on your trees.
You can also try scaring the deer away with motion activated sprinklers. Scaring deer is highly effective — deer will remember your yard is the place with the magic water spouts and stay away for good.
Rabbits are cute, and make good alternatives to cats if you’re allergic to felines. But wild rabbits are the enemy to anyone with a nice garden because they feed on leafy greens. Basically, if you plop a rabbit down in the middle of a food court, they’ll choose the salad joint for lunch. In this case, the salad joint is your garden. And it’s free.
Rabbits aren’t deterred by much, so your best bet is to build a fence around your garden. If you’re not willing to do that, try trapping the rabbit in a raccoon-sized cage and releasing it about five miles away from your home. Make sure to wash the trap of any human scent — rabbits are too smart for their own good, and know a trap when they see one.
*Alternatively, if you want to go full-throttle with the royalty metaphor, you can chop off some heads while screaming "I AM THE KING OF THE MAMMALS," but this probably goes against local neighborhood regulations on slaughterhouses.
Image: Steve Adams