Moles!

Offending molehill - one of many

Offending molehill – one of many

Living en pleine campagne, the animal kingdom is in daily evidence. Some animals are more welcome than others. The baby hedgehogs living under a bush by our kitchen door, the red squirrels and the hares are delightful. I love to see the deer leaping like creatures from a medieval book of hours but I’m not so keen when they eat my shrubs. The wild boar are a pest and dig up everything. Now it’s time to wage war on another vexation – moles.

Offensive behaviour

Previously, they have been satisfyingly discreet, keeping their burrowing to the edge of our lawn. The odd molehill was easily flattened. The finely-sifted earth also supplemented the very poor soil around the garden. We congratulated ourselves on our moles’ good behaviour compared to those that plagued our friends.

This year, the moles (taupes) have changed comportment. They are advancing rapidly towards the centre of the lawn – coming perilously close to some shrubs that I have been nurturing against the depredations of deer. They had already done for some peach trees near the field border, presumably by destroying their roots. Those trees were in the wrong place and never gave decent fruit anyway. But now I am starting to gear up for a declaration of war.

Before I cut the grass last week I had to spend an hour dealing with the molehills (taupinières). Not only were there dozens of heaps of soil – some quite large – but also the moles’ underground tunnels threatened to undermine a whole area of the lawn. The only bright spot was that I filled a wheelbarrow with useful soil.

Moles' depredations

Moles’ depredations

But how do you stop moles making a mockery of your lawn – already far from resembling a bowling green? Take a trip to Pôle Vert, the chain of garden and agricultural equipment suppliers, and you’ll find all kinds of remedies. They range from poison to explosives. I don’t want to kill them, just make them go away. If you have a foolproof anti-mole remedy that doesn’t involve massacre, please share it with us.

The life of a mole

The surrounding pastures must be full of moles. According to my Guide de la faune et de la flore (a useful book for identifying and naming animals and plants in French) moles dig a complex network of tunnels with a central chamber at the hub. They are solitary and very territorial creatures and fierce in protecting their domains. They live mostly on earthworms, insects, larvae and snails (the latter prey being a point in their favour).

Rare view of a mole

Rare view of a mole

You rarely see live moles. They spend their lives mostly underground. The nearest I have come here is seeing a molehill pulsating – like a mini volcano erupting – as the mole pushed up the soil. In England once, I found a dead mole in a wood. The cause of death was not obvious, since it appeared to be unharmed. Its coat was glossy grey-black. In French, taupe is also a colour.

Moles in history

The Jacobites used to drink a secret toast to ‘the little gentleman in black velvet’. William III’s horse stumbled on a molehill and William died in 1702 of complications following a broken collar bone. My researches on Google to find similar stories in France turned up only tales about spies or beauty spots (graines de beauté). I’d appreciate hearing any anecdotes to do with France.

By the way, don’t call anyone une vieille taupe in French, unless you want to insult them. It means ‘old bag’.

Copyright © 2013 Life on La Lune, all rights reserved

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About Vanessa Couchman

My husband and I moved to an 18th-century farmhouse in SW France in 1997. I am fascinated by French history, rural traditions and customs and enjoy seeking out the reality behind the myths. I run my own copywriting business and write short stories and the occasional novel in my spare time. My husband appears here as the SF, which stands for Statistics Freak, owing to his penchant for recording numbers about everything.
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14 Responses to Moles!

  1. My cunning plan for getting rid of moles is to find three lively children to run around on the lawn day in and day out for about three long summery months, and you will find that the moles will have migrated somewhere quieter where they can get some rest, for pete’s sake.

    • nessafrance says:

      Well, if you find any lively children, send them our way. They are a bit thin on the ground around here and my husband’s grandchildren live in Sweden and are no longer small!

      • You live somewhere beautiful, don’t you? Well, I hereby volunteer to come and run around on your lawn for three months until those moles vamoose. :-)

      • nessafrance says:

        It is rather pretty around here – but I wouldn’t set anyone running around here in the sort of weather we’re currently having! Three months in the summer is a different prospect.

  2. Sue Whatmough says:

    Bad luck, Vanessa. Yes, they can be a real pain. Maybe you’d like to refer back to my blog on moles for ways to ‘move them on’. http://blogs.angloinfo.com/pot-pourri/2011/11/05/about-the-ubiquitous-mole-and-how-to-send-him-on-his-way-kindly/

  3. Evelyn says:

    It’s too bad they make such nuisances of themselves! They really are kind of sweet and their diggings aerate the soil. Good luck discouraging them!

  4. pfornari says:

    I remember years ago, Vanessa, in Belgium, they wrecked our lawn. Someone told me to put sticks down the hole – not too big to suffocate the poor little things – but it seemed to send them elsewhere…I hope it didn’t harm them. The lawn looked really odd for a while with sticks all over the place…

  5. Joanna Lamb says:

    We too have the wildlife you mention, the hunters are now sorting out the boar, but only to a point and our young dog who resembles a donkey, loves to dig out the molehills though never rids them from the garden. The moles make it very spongy and unstable. We have considered the anti mole devices which emit a high pitched noise that they don’t like but the trouble is with over 2 acres where do we place them???

    • nessafrance says:

      We also have about 2 acres, so if you put them in one place the moles just pop up in another. I don’t think there is a solution that really works.

  6. I love moles and am always rescuing them from my killer cats. They are very sweet little critters. Please don’t resort to poison or explosives. I have a neighbour who has poisoned all the hedgehogs that lived near us. I also saw two small badgers the other night- only my second sighting in twenty-four years. The first was shot a few days Fter I saw him. I am sure that you could find a deterent on Google.

    • nessafrance says:

      Don’t worry, I’m not planning to massacre them! But I’d like to know how to repulse them, if that’s at all possible. We’ve seen badgers around here, too, but that’s rare.

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