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With winter giving way to spring, homeowners are starting to pay more attention to their lawns. Look closely enough at yours, and you might discover signs of unwelcome pests doing damage beneath the surface.
Moles, voles and shrews are the most common yard-damaging animals in Central Indiana. To employ correct removal techniques, it's first important to identify the pest causing the problem. Voles, shrews and other animals will often use tunnels created by moles.
"(The type of pest) makes a big difference on how a customer should go about catching it," said Chris Hemphill, owner of Mole Mountie in Fortville.
Moles are the most common nuisance. They eat insects and mostly live underground. Their ears and eyes are hidden by fur. They have protruding pink noses, and their paws have angular claws designed for creating tunnels. Moles are active all year.
Wooded areas and moist lawns are ideal places for moles to thrive. They're also attracted to tree stumps, birdseed and mulch -- all places where insects are prevalent. Brown and yellow streaks in the lawn, along with small piles of dirt, are indicators of mole activity.
Robin Wilkes, operator of Critter Control of Indianapolis, dispelled a common myth that treating for grubs will eliminate mole activity.
"Seventy-five percent of the diet of a mole is earthworms and beetles," Wilkes said. "Grubs are a delicacy. Just because you treat your lawn for grubs doesn't mean you won't have a mole again."
Hemphill recommends trapping moles, instead of using chemicals and baits.
"You know what you've got, where you got it and how many you got," Hemphill said.
Shrews, which do their work and eating underground like moles, look like mice with long snouts.
Voles, also known as field mice or meadow mice, feast on plants and eat grass at the surface. They look like mice, only they're pudgier, with shorter tails and smaller ears and eyes.
"They create a path that looks like someone left a garden hose in the yard and it killed the grass," Hemphill said. "They will then make a . . . hole which is a nickel to a quarter size in diameter and will usually go straight down."
Unfortunately, the healthier your lawn and the more plants you have, the more attractive it is to these pests. Hemphill recommends homeowners check their lawns in early spring for signs of trouble and make sure there's still activity before calling in a professional.
"Step down on all the tunnels and try to clean up all the dirt piles, then monitor your yard for a couple of days before you call a wildlife company," Hemphill said. "They very well may have left by the time you call us."
Depending on their services offered and methods used, animal-removal companies should possess a wild-animal control permit and/or furbearers trapping license from the Department of Natural Resources. If they use chemicals, they need a pesticide license through the Office of Indiana State Chemist. Most companies offer a three-month, six-month or year-long contract and will return to the home when there's activity.
Homeowners wishing to trap the critters themselves must have the right equipment in the right place, along with a lot of patience.
"Moles are not an easy animal to trap," Wilkes said. "You have to read the tunnels' activity; how long it's been going on, how fresh it is. Most customers who call us who bought a trap say, 'OK, I can't get anything. Come on out.' They lose patience. It's not an easy task."
Credits: Angie's Advice - Indystar.com