Tips for Identifying and Repairing Mole Holes

Updated: Apr. 26, 2023

Are moles making those holes in your yard? The answer may surprise you.

Looking out at your lawn and seeing a bunch of holes, hills or tunnels can be jarring. Where did they come from? How could a critter move so fast? It looked fine yesterday! Maybe you race to Google to research “mole hole in yard.” Well…

First, if you have holes in your yard, don’t blame moles.

“Moles do not make holes in the ground,” says Roger Dickens, a wildlife technical services manager with Ehrlich Pest Control. “They simply tunnel through the soil.”

Really? Really.

Moles spend 99% of their lives underground. They make hills, not holes, by pushing up the soil while tunneling for grubs and earthworms. No opening, no hole. “Typically they only emerge above ground by accident when a tunnel is too shallow,” Dickens says.

This still leaves the question…

Who Is Making Holes in My Yard?

Possible suspects include gophers, groundhogs and Norway rats, according to the University of Iowa.

According to Dickens, “mole activity can be confused with gopher activity and vice versa,” particularly in the southeastern U.S. But if you know what to look for, the hills are easily distinguishable. “Gopher mounds have a distinct plug of soil where the gopher closed the opening,” Dickens says. “Mole hills lack this plug because the hills are pushed up from underground.”

Insects also make holes. Ants, yellow jackets and cicada killer wasps live in the soil. Their holes can range from 1/8-in for a cornfield ant to a couple of inches across for wasps and cicada killers. And don’t forget wolf spiders! These beneficial arachnids also make holes in lawns and grassy areas.

Voles — aka meadow mice — also make tunnels. “Moles are often confused with voles or meadow mice,” Dickens says. Again, the type of tunnel will give them away. “Moles have underground tunnels,” Dickens says, “while voles tunnel through the grass above ground.”

How To Fix Holes in the Yard

You can flatten them if you like, but Dickens says there’s no real need to fix them. “Mole tunnels and hills will collapse on their own over time,” he says. Mole tunnels aren’t routine travel routes, and they’re used irregularly.

If mole hills bother you, just grab a shovel or rake and redistribute the dirt. If you do this as soon as you see them, you can save the grass below. For a few bare spots in the soil, distribute grass seed and water regularly. As for the tunnels, you can flatten them with your foot.

“There is no concern about an actual mole being in the tunnel if someone chooses to flatten them,” Dickens says.

To fix holes made by other animals, or holes generally, first make sure the hole is not active. Different animals will have different removal recommendations. Consult a pest control pro if you need help.

To fill the hole, follow these steps:

  • Add topsoil or a mix of soil and compost to the hole.
  • Water the dirt to settle any air pockets. Add more if needed, but leave room for sod if installing any.
  • For seeding: Sprinkle grass seed and rake it in to cover.
  • For sod: Cut to fit the hole and tamp down.
  • Water regularly.

What To Do if the Hole Is Still Active?

To determine if a mole tunnel is active, Dickens suggests making a quarter-sized hole in the tunnel with a screwdriver. Come back in a day or so. If the mole is using the tunnel, it will have moved the soil, closing your hole.

If you choose to get rid of moles in your yard, knowing which tunnels are active will help you know where to trap and remove them. Or you can point them out to a pest control professional.