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Gardening Answers Knowledgebase

Knowledgebase record #67

PAL Question 

I live in Seattle and have, for the first time this fall, noticed dirt mounds on my property. These mounds tend to be located near patios/driveways, and are not in the sod. They are loamy, with no apparent holes, and are about three to five inches high. I wouldn't call them conical. There are no mole tunnels, and, as far as I can see, no bugs. The mounds are bigger than the little fine-grain mounds I have noticed in years past with small black ants crawling in them. Is there someone I can ask about what is causing these mounds, and if it is something to be concerned about? Could it be ants or mice?


From your description of the dirt mounds, it sounds as though the critter in your yard may be either a mole or a gopher. The easiest way to tell the difference is by the type of mound you have. Here is information on moles and pocket gophers from Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's Living with Wildlife website.

Below is additional information from "Of Bugs and Blights" (in Balls and Burlaps, February 1988, pp. 4 and 14):

A gopher mound fans out from a hole near one edge of the mound. This hole remains plugged while the gopher is on the runway system. The gopher mound is relatively flat compared to the mole mound. Gopher mounds vary from 1 to 3 feet in diameter...several mounds often will be found together. They are not regularly found in a line as are mole mounds. The mole mound is somewhat conical and not much over a foot in diameter. The hole is not evident when you look at the mound. Push the soil aside and you will find it under the center of the mound. Each mound is connected with the other in a line by the moles' runway system.

According to the article quoted above, moles are more likely to be found in gardens in Western Washington than are gophers. We have the journal Balls and Burlaps in the Miller Library. The article discusses the problems and benefits of moles, as well as control methods.

I also consulted the Western Garden Problem Solver (Sunset Books, 1998) to see if I could identify your mound-maker. Ground squirrels leave their burrows open, so if your mounds show no opening, you probably don't have squirrels. Mole mounds appear volcano-like, with signs of soil excavation.

Here is a link to information on ants and their nests which you might look at to see if the images resemble the mounds of soil you are seeing.

Keywords Insect pests--Control, Wildlife pests, Moles
Season All Season
Date 2007-12-13

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