How to Get Rid of Outdoor Rats and Moles

Cat McCabe

Rats and moles are common pests that plague homeowners. Rats can carry diseases such as typhus and salmonellosis. Moles don't carry human diseases, but they can destroy a newly sodded lawn in just a season, digging elaborate systems of tunnels near the surface and turning a yard into a spongy, browning mess.

Rats can squeeze into tiny spaces.

Moles and rats are prolific breeders, a single pair of Norway rats can produce up to eight litters of young per year, but you can do much to discourage these pests from taking over your property by controlling just a few factors of their environment.

    Slugs are an important food source for moles
  1. Eliminate food sources for moles. Moles eat grubs, and if your lawn is soggy, poorly drained and prone to grubs and slugs, that could be the main problem. Buy a soil preparation that contains nematodes (microscopic worms that feed on grubs), and apply it to your lawn.

  2. Secure garbage can lids with bungee cords
  3. Eliminate food sources for rats by covering garbage cans tightly. Stretch a bungee cord across the top of your garbage can from handle to handle so it's tightly secured. Rats can squeeze through a half-inch opening, so if your garbage can has holes in the bottom or sides, replace it. If a rat can't get in, he can't eat, and if he can't eat at your house, he'll go elsewhere.

  4. Install metal rat guards on the trunks of any fruit trees in your yard. These are pieces of sheet metal that encircle the trunk of the tree up to 24 inches and prevent rats from climbing. Rat guards can be found at your local garden center. Rats eat fruit, so keep your yard clear of dropped or decaying fruit.

  5. Bring dishes of pet food indoors each night. Rats are nocturnal, and any species of rat, from to the small, brown roof rat to the larger, more dominant Norway rat will chow down on pet food if you leave it out.

  6. Remove any piles of brush, leaves or debris in your yard, as these are excellent habitats for rats to nest. Even a pile of stones or brick scan be a safe haven for rats to nest and breed.

  7. Allium bulbs repel moles.
  8. Study the natural predators of rats and moles. You'll find that cats and foxes are among their worst enemies. The scent of a predator's droppings or urine will not kill rats and moles, but they will vacate an area where they sense a fox or cat may be hunting. Seek out powdered repellents that contain these additives and sprinkle them where you know rats or moles congregate.

  9. Put down a sensory deterrent for moles. Moles don't like the taste or smell of castor oil. Pour castor oil into a garden-hose attachment and spray your lawn, giving particular attention to the holes and tunnels that appear active. Water your lawn thoroughly, so the castor oil will sink into the soil. Reapply after a heavy rain--it may take several applications and some patience, but this method works well and will not harm your lawn.

  10. Check out your local garden center for more organic mole and rat repellents. Some will include generous amounts of sulfur and pepper. They won't smell bad to you, but the moles won't like them at all. Many come in granular form. Simply sprinkle into holes and active tunnels. It may take several applications, but this method also tends to work over time.

  11. Install plantings that deter moles. Excellent choices include bulb plants like allium, onions, leeks and even the common daffodil. All are decorative, need very little care and will grow and multiply in your yard, year after year. Moles don't like the taste or smell of these pungent bulbs, and they'll go elsewhere.

  12. Resort to baiting and trapping only if all the above steps fail. Trapping is both time-consuming and hit-and-miss, as you may catch or kill other animals or even pets. Without addressing environmental concerns like food sources and habitat, the critters will eventually return and continue to multiply.

  13. Tip

    Patch any holes in the foundation of your house that are larger than a quarter of an inch with cement or sheet metal to prevent rats from entering your house. Patch holes in window screens as well. Trim back bushes and shrubbery so their foliage is kept 3 feet away from walls.


    Do not use pesticides to kill grubs or poisons to kill moles and rats if you have small children, pets, or like to walk barefoot in your yard.