Going underground: inside the world of the mole-catchers
A bitter battle is raging within the mole-catching community over the kindest way to carry out their deadly work
Roger Page purchased his home in East Bilney, a Norfolk farming community, about 25 years ago. For the better part of those 25 years, he bore no ill will toward the moles. He was fond of wildlife, or at least what little of it remained in the country. A family of deer foraged in the backyard. Foxes lolled in the road at dusk. Moles were a rarity.
Page worked as a commercial pilot and when the occasional molehill erupted on his lawn, he would pat it down before departing again to New York or Hong Kong. They seemed to have an understanding, he and the moles. They mostly kept to the woods, while Page mostly kept to the garden.
But after he retired five years ago, Page expanded his back lawn and the moles became more persistent. As more and more molehills sprung up, Page came to feel as if their labours were engineered to produce in him the maximum anguish. He purchased traps at the garden centre, but they would often remain unsprung or – worse – sprung and empty.
He decided to escalate his counter-assault. During a stopover in Amsterdam, he bought a pungent bag of flower bulbs advertised as a natural mole deterrent. (The moles didn’t mind.) Next, he installed a solar-powered mole repeller, a torpedo-shaped device that emits vibrations that are supposed to keep the moles away. (The moles carried on.) He tried flooding them out with a water hose. (Moles are strong swimmers.) Finally, he tried suffocating them with the exhaust of his lawnmower. (Moles can survive in low‑oxygen environments.)