Moles are often considered to form quite the nuisance when it comes to keeping your garden clean. Even though it might be hard to catch these tunnel animals by ourselves, it is good to know we can actually leave the sport of hunting moles to other predators around. It begs the question, who are the natural predators of moles?
In truth, although moles remain safely hidden out of sight in tunnels, they do have a wide range of predators waiting for them when exposed above ground. Predators that naturally eat moles include snakes, foxes, coyotes, weasels, skunks, badgers, owls, hawks, buzzards, blue herons, cats, and dogs.
In spite of the fact that it is actually extremely rare to come in contact with a mole, most of us are aware of the havoc the little digging animals can leave in their wake. But what else do we know about moles?
What Do Moles Look Like?
We’ve said it, and you know it, moles are exceptionally rare to spot. However, we do actually know quite a lot about moles, especially since they have been subject to study for quite some time now.
First of all, moles are grey-looking, subterranean mammals. But actually, moles come in various shades of grey, with some moles being more white, black, brown, or orange looking. Their color matters in relation to their survival, as some moles are more ease to spot than others, especially from the air. Apparently, the older moles get, the less grey they look.
Although moles are rather small, the biggest mole around – Townsend’s mole – is said to grow up to 9 inches long. The most common moles in North America are the eastern moles. These moles are born naked and blind. After birth, they grow up to 6 inches while adopting grey-looking fur. In the end, these medium-sized diggers tend to live up to 6 years.
Moles are often considered a garden pest, especially because they can lay serious waste in your backyard. Known for their tunnels and molehills, moles can create quite the nuisance when it comes to keeping your garden and lawn clean and straight for the neighbors to inspect.
How Do Moles Avoid Predators?
As moles are subterranean creatures, it means they spend most of their time living underground inside the darkness of a burrow and a labyrinth of tunnels. As such, they extend their living space with every dig they make and every tunnel they shape.
When active, moles can generally dig around 15 feet an hour. The tunnels are actually close to the surface, some 12 inches removed from the ground, with fewer permanent tunnels situated just under the surface – hence the molehills and occasional signs of digging.
Moles barely have a sigh when it comes to eye-sight. Although they are not entirely blind, the eyes of a mole remain underdeveloped throughout the entire lifespan.
However, as most animals mainly live underground, moles have an excellent sense of touch. As such, their eye-sight is somewhat compensated by their forelimbs, which luckily serve as an extra pair of eyes close to their side.
Having both poor eye-site AND small bodies, moles are extremely easy targets of any predator. Naturally, one of the primary reasons that moles dig tunnels is to avoid predators out in the open.
Animal Predators That Eat Moles
Now that we know a bit better who we are dealing with let us take a closer look at the predators which naturally snack on moles for breakfast. Indeed, the following predators will surely scare a mole back into its hole. Let’s dig into it together…
A patient snake that slithers through the tall grass might be able to catch a mole off guard. In fact, some snakes are just terribly fond of moles!
This is especially the case for Mole snakes, which are known to primarily eat moles besides other small mammals and the occasional rodent – and do so mainly in the southern parts of Africa. What is remarkable about these snakes is that they often live inside a burrow of another animal, enabling them to get closer to the moles in question.
As for the snakes that are commonly found in Northern America, it is said that the species vary from state to state. As such, there exists over more than a hundred different snake species across the United States. Luckily for us and unfortunately for our little diggers, most of them enjoy the occasional mole or two.
In truth, all snakes are carnivores. Therefore, it goes without saying that when the opportunity presents itself, any kind of snake – albeit being big, mean, and lean enough – will try to catch a mole off guard.
Snakes might wait to sneak up on a mole close to a hole or choose to slightly enter the grounds beneath the grass. As such, they can more easily spot the unsuspecting mole. In general, they might catch a mole off guard inside a burrow or when a mole peaks outside its hole. Indeed, snakes are sneaky little animals that are known to occasionally stalk their catch with their strong sense of patience.
However, it must be noted that it is not entirely clear whether snakes can actually catch a mole with a high success rate. There is the possibility that most moles who are eaten by snakes are already found in a weak, hurt or deceased state – as it is not entirely clear how successful a snake is at catching a mole in flight.
Once a snake does manage to put its inwardly bending teeth into a mole, it is surely game over for our little, underground architect.
Foxes and Coyotes
Although foxes and coyotes are natural predators to each other, we group them here together under their respective family of Canidae.
Both animals are medium-sized omnivores who seem to enjoy the dusty taste of mole. Surprisingly enough, even though it is hard to find a snake on camera catching a digger in action, there are various reports which documented a fox giving a mole a good run for its life.
There are even some videos in which foxes can be seen to make a little dive into a hole, catching a little more after a swift brawl. Check out this one above! The fox literally GETS THE MOLE OUT OF IT’S HOLE. Wild.
Coyotes are less frequently spotted within urban areas and in our backyards, yet they do tend to eat moles when the occasion presents itself. Both foxes and coyotes are nocturnal animals, meaning they can spot their prey during cold nights.
Furthermore, although both animals are nocturnal, foxes are generally a bit more active during the daytime – especially in urban environments. As for their interest in moles, both the fox and the coyote go about their business of catching a mole in the same fashion.
When it comes to their technique for preying upon a mole, they are first of all known to remain very patient. They are both quite severe when it comes to maintaining utter silence. Both are even observant and silent in the way they sneak up close to their prey.
Finally, when they have successfully located a mole, they will usually start their endeavor by digging a bit into their burrow or tunnels. Once an opening is created, they will leap and dive into the burrow headfirst when the moment feels right. At long last, after a series of attempts, a mole is left trapped in their midst.
Amongst the weasels on earth, the long-tailed weasels are the most common in Northern America. This is good news for us yet bad news for the moles, as long-tailed weasels are known to feast on little diggers above and underground.
Even though weasels seem cute at first sight, there is a reason why having a weasel’s personality refers to being deceitful and untrustworthy. In point of fact, weasels tend to be rather cunning indeed. They are apt to come close, only to snatch food away in a fraction of a second.
Much like the neighborhood fox, weasels are excellent when it comes to performing a stealthy maneuver. Of course, this gives them the advantage to sneak up close to a mole’s burrow. Then, when everything falls together in place, they are viciously fast when it comes to striking down on their prey – startling their catch into shock.
Despite the fact that weasels are in need of a small water supply in order to safely keep on weaseling, they do tend to live underground when possible. Especially when stumbling upon a burrow, they tend to transform it into their own cozy spot. As such, much like some snakes, they can get very close to their catch, close enough to the moles they may seek.
As weasels venture into little burrows underground, they are also known to prey on small rodents and other mammals such as rabbits. As their menu is rather wide, it increases the chance they stumble upon an inattentive mole.
Skunks and Badgers
Skunks and badgers, which are part of the family of weasels, are also – albeit less frequently – reported to prey upon moles.
Albeit a bit less frequently, skunks and badgers prey on moles by digging into the top layer of their tunnel and catching moles near the top layer of the soil.
We can also find some animals in the air which venture above a mole’s burrow, waiting for a catch with stretched wings in full flight. Amongst the birds in the sky, the bigger owls and hawks are known to occasionally feed on moles, and they usually do so at night.
Both owls and hawks are natural predators of rodents. Although a mole is not a rodent but an insectivore, many rodents do share a mole’s burrow, for instance, rats and mice. As such, moles find themselves close to danger, which makes them a fine target for a big bird that’s circling swiftly through the air.
In general, owls are reported to not fly at great lengths when it comes to their hunt. They even tend to fly low above the ground. This, so they can hover above the surface and scan the terrain for game. In-flight, they can do so at speeds averaging 30 to 40 miles per hour. Besides this, they are known to fly in utter silence, making them quite dangerous indeed.
Quick fact: Moles who are a bit paler of color are easier to be spotted by air – on the rare occasion they do come above ground – than darker tinted moles.
Hawks and Buzzards
More often than not, hawks do engage in flights of greater lengths, and they do so at a greater speed as well. The fastest hawk, the Peregrine, can dive at its prey with a speed of over 200 miles per hour. However, the most commonly spotted hawk in North America, the Red-tailed hawk, does so with a speed of 120 miles per hour.
Although owls are said to catch their prey before turning them into a meal, hawks are reported to be rather quick when it comes to getting things done. Both birds can spot their prey from up to 100 feet in the air. Furthermore, they are equipped with a strong binocular vision, enabling them to maintain a strong visual focus on their prey, with considerable depth perception. This perception of depth subsequently enables them to calculate their diving speed and so forth…Truly amazing!
How do we know that some birds eat moles? Do we catch them on camera? Well, not really, at least not as frequent as one can catch a fox with its prey. Actually, fragments of mole bones are said to be found commonly amongst the remaining big birds. In fact, this is often how we generally identify what animals eat and don’t.
However, if mole activity is frequently spotted near a bird’s nest, a patient and observant owl or hawk might still get what they want.
Once in a blue moon, if the opportunity presents itself, other big birds such as the Blue Heron might prey upon moles as well!
By and large, most big birds are not frequently spotted in urban areas and therefore do not commonly pose a threat to our friendly neighborhood moles. However, under the right set of circumstances, some vultures and eagles have also been reported to naturally eating the occasional mole.
Check out this viral video above of a blue heron absolutely plucking a mole out of its hole. Its long and slender beak is the perfect tool for getting past the first few inches of a mole’s top layer tunnel.
In the end, it is still quite rare for a hovering bird to spot a crawling mole. Therefore, it is said that perhaps birds occasionally spot a deceased mole ready for the taking, as opposed to always striking the lethal blow themselves.
Cats and Dogs
What about them, you may wonder? Well, cats and dogs seem to enjoy their play-time with moles – similar to how cats enjoy teasing a tiny mouse. However, they are not reported to actually eat the moles in question. Curious enough, they tend to just seize and play with them – although arguably without the mole’s consent.
Similar to how other small mammals such as the fox or coyote hunt for moles, cats and dogs may dive into an opening or dig to make a hole for themselves. Finally, they will seize the opportunity to also dive into the action as to startle and grab the mole out of its comfort zone. In general, cats and dogs have been reported to make away with moles – even though they usually refrained from really putting their teeth into them afterward.
Are Humans Predators to Moles?
With the occasional mole-hunter left aside, it is safe to say that it is extremely rare for humans to come into contact with a mole. Besides the fact that moles avoid contact with ourselves, it will be hard to spot a mole as they speed to run around the soil of your backyard.
Even though moles are often considered a pest, there is no real use for hunting moles other than keeping them out of your yard. Indeed, throughout history, moles have therefore rarely been given attention as a sport, nor have they been widely reported to have been considered as a feasible meal.
Humans generally are only predators to moles when moles are found to be digging tunnels in the yard of a human. Thus, humans are predators to moles, but only situationally.
Why is it Extremely Rare to Spot a Mole Outside?
Moles have their entire livelihood underground. Besides their food supply, warmth and comfort, they see their underground tunnels as bunkers, serving as a means of protection. Therefore, it goes without saying that they will rarely leave the safety of their burrows.
However, moles do tend to come above ground on rare occasions, especially when relocating themselves to another burrow.
Moles are best spotted by keeping track of the molehills they leave in their wake.
A molehill, which is a small pile of earth pushed back to the surface, is generally a consequence of the process of tunnel-marking. In short, moles push waste upwards to the surface to make their tunnels a bit more shallow.
Doing so allows for the ground to become somewhat hardened inside. In return, this makes it easier for insects and worms to be drawn to the moisture that is building up inside.
How Do You Keep Moles Out of Your Garden?
Firstly, it is important to know that in some states, getting rid of a mole is considered illegal, as they might be classified as non-commensal species, meaning they do not depend on human activity for their survival – and thus should arguably be left alone. That said, in most states, some measurements are allowed.
Before practicing any of the below measures, you should contact your local nature and wildlife district to confirm using methods of mole control.
Use a Natural Mole Repellent
To begin with, the best way to keep moles out of your garden is to actively patrol your backyard and tightly close every little molehill you come across.
Quick tip: To make things easier when closing a mole’s hole behind them, you can always go with a natural repellent. For more information, you can have a quick look at Victor’s M7002-2 Mole & Gopher Repellent.
These types of repellents are designed to easily penetrate the tunnels of a mole and repel them with scents they hate, causing them to stay away.
Make Your Garden Less Attractive
Secondly, you might want to make your garden less attractive for our little diggers in grey, as they usually are found in places where the soil is deliciously rich in organic matter.
It is, therefore, even said that the presence of moles could be a good addition to your backyard, as they can aerate your soil. This means they can bring more life to your soil, as moles create small gaps and holes for the flow of air, water, and nutrition. In general, it is believed that the aeration of your soil is beneficial to the growth of your lawn.
Although moles serve to naturally aerate your soil, there are others ways to do so yourself. It can be done by physically poking holes in your soil for breathing purposes or by making use of a liquid soil loosener. For more information concerning the latter, you can always have a quick look at SOFTSOIL’s Liquid Soil Aerator & Lawn Treatment.
Of course, some make use of a controlling method to trap moles. Because they do so by placing actual traps inside the tunnels or by flooding the burrow, it can be harmful for the moles in question, so we would suggest avoiding making use of these techniques entirely.
Finally, not sure whether a mole is currently redesigning your backyard? In the end, when in doubt or overwhelmed, you can always contact our nationwide network of pest and wildlife control professionals. Just connect with a contractor near you in a matter of seconds!
For more information regarding moles here on Pest Pointers, feel free to have a look at Why You Have Moles in Your Garden and How to Get Rid of Them.
Thank you for reading!
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Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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