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After Washington Forbids Animal Traps, Mountains Of Molehills Make It Reconsider
Wall Street Journal | Jan 22, 2002 | Robert Gavin

Posted on 01/22/2002 6:00:11 AM PST by tom paine 2

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- When Washington state voters banned fur trapping, the idea was to spare animals from cruelty. Little did they know they also were sparing one animal that many gardeners and lawn-lovers agree deserves to die by whatever means necessary: the mole.

Washington's Initiative 713, passed in November 2000, with 55% of the vote, bans the use of "body-gripping traps" on "nonhuman vertebrates." While the law created exceptions for mice and rats, it overlooked one other pest. The result: A scissors-like trap, an extremely effective means for eliminating moles, has been outlawed, too.

Now moles are popping up everywhere, digging up parks and yards with seeming impunity. The green plains of Marymoor Park in Redmond, east of Seattle, have been transformed into a Himalayas of molehills. In Snohomish, a well-to-do town north of Seattle, Richard Lund has watched his manicured half-acre turn into a moonscape dotted with nearly 60 molehills. Mr. Lund, who used to hire a trapper at the first sign of mole activity, has turned to smoke bombs and a battery-powered sonic device that promises to blast the pests from their holes. But as the tube-like device emits its series of noises -- sounding strangely like snickering -- the molehills grow higher. "My yard looks like Mount Rainier," says Mr. Lund.

On a Mission

Homeowners are growing desperate. They're pouring gasoline, castor oil and their own urine into mole tunnels, flooding them with garden hoses and inserting chewing gum, said to be both irresistible and lethal to moles because it supposedly either chokes them or blocks their digestive systems. At Del's Farm Supply in Monroe, an exurb northeast of Seattle, manager Jeff Groves reports that customers dissatisfied with smoke bombs that emit suffocating sulfur dioxide gas are now grabbing handfuls of road flares to toss into mole tunnels. "They are definitely on a mission," says Mr. Groves.

Behind this mole invasion lies a political disagreement that has spawned other unwanted proliferation of wildlife. In 1996, the Humane Society of the United States, which pushed the Washington initiative, persuaded voters in Massachusetts to pass a similar antitrapping law. The state's beaver population exploded to an estimated 63,000 in 2001, from about 22,000 in 1996, creating flooding problems with beaver dams, according to wildlife officials. Beaver complaints more than quadrupled, to 650, in 1999, leading the Massachusetts Legislature the next year to amend the law to allow local authorities to issue special permits for body-gripping traps to dispose of problem beavers.

"Traditionally, we managed beaver [with a three-month trapping season] as a valuable natural resource," says Rob Deblinger, assistant director for wildlife in the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. "Now it's a pest. It's treated like a pest, trapped like a pest and thrown away."

Wayne Pacelle, senior vice president of the Humane Society in Washington, D.C., says voters in Arizona, California and Colorado approved similar antitrapping initiatives in recent years, and those states haven't seen sharp rises in animal problems. He says wildlife-agency officials in Washington state and Massachusetts are sympathetic to hunters and trappers and are hyping animal nuisances as a way to undermine support for antitrapping laws. The initiative passed by Washington voters, for example, is clearly aimed at fur, not mole trapping, but wildlife officials nonetheless interpreted the law to include the yard pests, says Mr. Pacelle. "This is a politically driven issue."

In Washington, Lt. Steve Dauma, problem wildlife coordinator in the state Fish and Wildlife Department's enforcement program, says the agency is merely following the "plain language of the law," which bans body-gripping traps and doesn't exclude moles from the ban. So far, nobody has been prosecuted for illegal mole trapping, which carries penalties of as much as $5,000 in fines and a year in jail, but several warnings have been issued, says Lt. Dauma.

Destroying Landscaping

Ranging from five to 10 inches in length and weighing from about two to six ounces, moles are equipped with powerful flipper-like forelegs that let them burrow as deep as five feet from the surface to devour worms, insects and larvae. Since a mole needs to consume half or more of its weight in bugs each day to survive, a single adult foraging for food can destroy thousands of dollars of landscaping in a couple of days. They're a particular problem in the coastal Northwest because of its conducive mild, soggy climate.

Moles' handiwork can drive some suburbanites to an obsession comparable to Ahab's search for the White Whale, says Patrick Thompson, a West Linn, Ore., entomologist who wrote "Of Moles and Men: The Battle for the Turf," a book published last year.

"Moles have no redeeming value," says Lorraine Luschen, a 70-year-old real-estate agent who lives in Snohomish. Ms. Luschen, who describes herself as an otherwise gentle person who leaves out food for neighborhood cats and dogs, recently took to flooding mole holes and beating the escaping animals with her garden hose, because, she explains, "I didn't have a chain saw."

The mole has its champions. Barbara Freeman, a zoology professor at the University of Nebraska, in Lincoln, calls moles vital to the health of the ecosystem, sparing plants and people from insect infestations. "I don't think we have a clue what would happen if we killed the predators of insects," she says, "but I know I don't want to test the system."

Burning Lawn

Many homeowners are willing to chance a world without moles. Kelli Larson, who owns the Mole Patrol Inc., a mole-control company in Bothell, a Seattle suburb, recalls that one man set fire to his lawn after pouring gasoline down the tunnels and lighting it. A suburban woman, upon hearing that urine might drive away moles, saved hers to pour down the holes, says Ms. Larson.

In Startup, a small town northeast of Seattle, Gary Nordquist turned to explosives. Last summer, after failing to drive his moles out by piping car exhaust into their holes, Mr. Nordquist tried mole mines fashioned from pill bottles, gunpowder and nine-volt batteries. The devices were designed to blow up on contact with a mole. "Every time I heard one go off, I jumped and whooped," says Mr. Nordquist.

The best hope for halting the mole madness may be the Washington Legislature, which has been asked -- with the Humane Society's blessing -- to exclude moles from the trapping ban. Last year rural Republicans blocked the move, claiming a double standard that would allow wealthy suburbanites to trap moles but prevent ranchers from trapping coyotes preying on livestock. The bill may have a better chance this year, because more sympathetic Democrats have taken control of the legislature.

Until lawmakers act, Mr. Nordquist, the mole bomber, has become somewhat more philosophical about the advancing armies of moles that dug up his yard. After a heavy rain last fall, he noticed that molehills slowed runoff, thus helping to prevent erosion. "I had to find a use for them," he says, "so I could live with them."

Write to Robert Gavin at

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Front Page News; News/Current Events
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1 posted on 01/22/2002 6:00:12 AM PST by tom paine 2
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To: tom paine 2
This would be one law I disobey, if moles were ripping up my yard.
2 posted on 01/22/2002 6:02:54 AM PST by NittanyLion
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To: tom paine 2
Jeepers, what's wrong with Hav-A-Hearts (or however they spell them)?
3 posted on 01/22/2002 6:06:38 AM PST by mewzilla
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To: tom paine 2
Gary Nordquist turned to explosives. Last summer, after failing to drive his moles out by piping car exhaust into their holes, Mr. Nordquist tried mole mines fashioned from pill bottles, gunpowder and nine-volt batteries. The devices were designed to blow up . . .

Gosh, I hope nobody at the BATF reads The Wall Street Journal . . .

4 posted on 01/22/2002 6:09:04 AM PST by Crowcreek
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To: NittanyLion
Having lived in the Maple Valley, WA area for 4 1/2 years I can say the little monsters left trenches in our beautiful lawn. Not to mention the danger of the horses tripping. My husband finally turned to Mole Masters. 5 moles killed with the traps that were since outlawed. I'm glad we left!!! I would rather deal with termites in the desert than the moles in WA
5 posted on 01/22/2002 6:12:23 AM PST by JHENN22499
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To: mewzilla
Two things:

1) They're expensive. And

2) Where do you take the live animal that you have trapped?

There are actually laws forbidding you from disturbing a beaver dam on your own property. Someone (a local anti-hunter, tree-hugger) finked me to the local conservation "turn in your neighbor hot line" (I actually didn't know the law which, although no excuse doesn't make the law any less ridiculous).

I had to pay a $50 fine, and it cost me boo-coo time.

So, what's the proper response? Get a beaver control permit from the conservation service, and a trapping license. Proceed to grease (KILL) everyone of these destructive rodents on your land.


6 posted on 01/22/2002 6:15:09 AM PST by prambo
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To: tom paine 2
Typical urban liberal nonsense! I say save the moles! Rural folks ought to start breeding moles by the truckload and start dumping them in urban/suburban areas at night. That'll fix 'em!
7 posted on 01/22/2002 6:36:19 AM PST by FormerLib
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To: prambo
The PETA people have once again triggered the law of unintended consequences. I hope it bites them in there dumb asses.
8 posted on 01/22/2002 6:38:38 AM PST by tom paine 2
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To: NittanyLion
That is one law I did disobey! I had a mole or moles invade my Western Washington yard last summer and hired a service, which trapped them. The issue of this ban never came up.
9 posted on 01/22/2002 6:39:10 AM PST by TheConservator
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To: tom paine 2
Two words: fox terrier.

Foxies absolutely love a mole diet--and while initially they destroy your lawn going after the beasties, the moles eventually quit the area.

10 posted on 01/22/2002 6:40:30 AM PST by Own Drummer
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To: Own Drummer
A couple of cats would fix the moles right up too. Cats love to hunt moles.
11 posted on 01/22/2002 6:41:22 AM PST by Black Agnes
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To: tom paine 2
They dug their own hole, so they will have to settle for what they did to themselves. I have no pitty.

To help out these rouge states, I will contact the EPA and the ATF for them. Introducing gasoline into the ground is a big no-no...big fines. Making your own bombs calls for and Reno type ATF seige. We can pull their snipers out of retirement for this just cause.

12 posted on 01/22/2002 6:50:21 AM PST by Deguello
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To: Crowcreek
Mr. Nordquist tried mole mines

Was this guy the model for Carl the greenskeeper in Caddyshack?

13 posted on 01/22/2002 6:53:59 AM PST by PBRSTREETGANG
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To: tom paine 2
recently took to flooding mole holes and beating the escaping animals with her garden hose

A baseball bat works better.

14 posted on 01/22/2002 6:58:12 AM PST by Overtaxed
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To: tom paine 2
All yes, the state of Washington, which loves Fidel Castro and all animals over humans. This PETA agenda now endangers all animals and humans who have walk amid the dangers of the mole holes!
15 posted on 01/22/2002 7:41:16 AM PST by Grampa Dave
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To: Grampa Dave
A chemical solution?

Call the land care company and have them put lots of that grub killing chemical on the lawn. Since grubs are a main food source of moles, you can starve them out by poisoning the grubs. Also put out poison peanuts for the hungry moles.

Now make the PETA people justify why they prefer, chemical, man made clothing that is usually made from petro chemicals. When they are placed in a land fill by the PETA people, they contaminate the ground. How many non recyclable, non renewable items are consumed by PETA pets?

Beaver coats are nice warm items that do not reek of chemical oxidation. Now because people cannot harvest beavers, they have become rodents, much like other animals that were once a productive part of the ecosystem consumed for the benefit of mankind.

PETA promotes poison, rat infestations, disease, starvation by over population, and just plain idiocy. I think they should be classified as a terrorist organization.

16 posted on 01/22/2002 9:27:43 AM PST by o_zarkman44
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To: tom paine 2
this makes me happy. I hope to hell government will learn the stupidity of such laws. Won't happen, but I can dream, can't I?
17 posted on 01/22/2002 9:30:39 AM PST by WindMinstrel
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To: o_zarkman44
PETA is a terrorist organization that hates Americans and loves critters!

You have no arguments from me re what you posted about PETA.

18 posted on 01/22/2002 9:31:19 AM PST by Grampa Dave
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To: Black Agnes
We have cats and have never had moles. Of course, you have to have rugged outdoor hunting cats, not pampered silk cushion indoor cats.

This is really just another indication of what idiots we have running Washington state. I think they're determined to get us back living in caves after they drive all the industry out of the state. That seems to be their big goal. Run up costs, raise taxes, make ridiculous laws and drive most of the working people out.

19 posted on 01/22/2002 9:39:10 AM PST by angry elephant
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To: tom paine 2
This is precisely what happens when people in crowded urban areas are allowed to vote on measures which will not affect them, but rather affect people living in sparsly populated rural areas. It is also what happens when people who have no understanding or knowledge of wildlife management are allowed to dictate such at the polls.

A similar thing happened in Colorado a few years ago. The people were swindled by a very effective advertising campaign into passing a ban on the spring bear hunt and the use of dogs in bear hunting as "cruel to the bears." People who don't hunt and had never seen a bear outside of the zoo lined up to vote for this measure.

Now there are freaking bears everywhere and the Division of Wildlife has to come out and shoot them regularly. As there is nowhere to relocate them, it is a "1st Strike Your Out" policy.

20 posted on 01/22/2002 9:44:59 AM PST by Drew68
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