Mole-ested?

Most people are enthused about seeing wildlife around their home, but I have yet to hear about anyone excited about having moles in their lawn. Whales, ducks and wild turkeys have ardent supporters, but moles have no benevolent organizations dedicated to their well being. There is no Wild Mole Federation, Moles Unlimited or Mole Anti-Defamation League.

Instead, moles are cursed, stomped on and shot at. They are trapped, gassed and flooded. Indignant homeowners use insecticides to kill moles' food supply and vibrators to shake their territory. Moles are offered poison peanuts and chewing gum and sprayed with the oil from castor beans. But no matter what is thrown at them, moles remain mostly unaffected and continue tunneling through the ground in search of food.

The eastern mole is the beast that does the most damage to turf and to the pride of turf owners. Eastern moles average 7 inches in length and weigh about 6 ounces. They have short gray fur. The most notable feature of a mole is its large front feet, the primary tools of its digging trade. Paddlelike, each front foot has five strong claws that aid in digging.

Voracious eaters, moles prefer invertebrates. Grubs and earthworms make up three-fourths of the mole's diet, but moles also will gobble down other creatures, including beetles, ants and crickets.

The mole's insatiable appetite, plus its ability to dig, equals trouble for the keepers of the turf. Tunneling a foot a minute-as much as 300 feet a day-a mole can ripple a smooth lawn or golf course in short order. Add two or three moles per acre to the equation, and you have a formula for aggravated assault.

Most turf keepers don't like moles, even though they perform an important function in the ecosystem. Their tunneling mixes the surface organic matter with the more sterile subsoils and permits water and air to penetrate deeper into the ground. Moles also feed on destructive insects such as white grubs and cutworms. If you can tolerate their digging, moles should be left alone.

Several predators, including hawks, owls, foxes, coyotes and house cats, occasionally prey on moles. But compared to most prey species, a mole has few worries-even when dealing with humans.

There are as many home remedies for getting rid of moles as there are for getting rid of the common cold. Most remedies persist because of the unpredictable behavior of the quarry. Moles may be active in an area