Did you know that the art of the molecatcher can be traced back to the Roman Empire?
Earthenware pots, which were used as traps, have been excavated from Roman sites. These were similar to large flower pots that were dug into the mole's run and as the mole travelled along it's tunnel it fell into the pot. The molecatcher would check his pot and remove the mole.
Over the years, molecatchers developed their own traps from clay pipes with a snare/loop in, that held the trapped mole until the molecatcher came along and removed it. Further development in the 18th and 19th century brought us traps. Carved wooden plates with a spring loaded loop that caught and killed the mole in a humane manner.
In the 1920's a Scottish shepherd by the name of John Newton Duffus, developed the Duffus or tunnel trap. Which was originally a wooden trap with two metal sprung loops. As time progressed this trap became completely metal and is still produced today. It is favourite amongst many molecatchers myself included.
The molecatcher had always been shrouded in a cloak of mystery and by old wive's tales many of which were started by himself. The art of the molecatcher was passed from father to son, in order to preserve the family’s income from this work.
Molecatchers travelled around areas, stopping at the farms at which they worked and were given free board and lodgings as well as a wage for their services. They were a respected and revered amongst the farming community.
Not only did he receive a wage from the farmer, the moles skin was also sold for clothing and other uses – don’t worry this isn’t done today!
As the country’s population increased, demand for food increased and the small farms became large agricultural concerns. The increased demand for mole control changed and the traditional art of the molecatcher was taken over by the use of poison. Worms soaked in Strychnine Hydrochloride were placed in the runs to poison the moles. A quick but painful death followed. The downside of this method was the occasional poisoning of non target species. Many a sheep, cow, horse, dog, cat and farmer fell to the indiscriminate use of this deadly poison.
In 2006 the use of Strychnine Hydrochloride was banned. In my opinion not before time.
The passage of time has shown that the old ways are sometimes the best. I believe that the art of the molecatcher has shown this. I am proud to be one. I know the mole is a pest but I want to carry out my art and treat the gentleman in the black velvet overcoat with the respect he deserves!