Nancy Dunis digs 'em up!
When it comes to history, Nancy Dunis knows her stuff. As a member of the Oswego Heritage Council, she' s helped to educate the community on its roots by giving her NancyTalks history presentations throughout the community.
More recently, Dunis put her skills as an actress to the test, taking on the persona of Oswego's own Lucy Pollard in presentations about the area's pioneer women and the contributions they made to farming, business, education, culture and family.
But there's a little-known side to Dunis that you might only know if you've employed her help in eradicating a certain subterranean mammal from your yard.
You see, Dunis is an expert mole hunter, and for the past 12 years she's run a business called The Molers, helping her fellow Lake Oswegans trap and remove the pesky varmints. (The family-run business was actually started by Dunis' brother in 1978.)
"The key is being able to accurately read the activity and the patterns of the mole," Dunis says, elbow deep in a mole hill in the backyard of a Dellwood Lane home. "Homeowners don't set traps enough to give them the advantage over the mole, whereas we do."
Dunis wasn't always an expert, though, and it's taken her years of experience — and a horrifying tale or two — to earn the knowledge it takes to trap and kill moles professionally.
"When you first find that dead mole with the maggots on it, it's a bit gross," Dunis says. "We usually just put them back in the ground because they're already dead and they decay fast, so we just dig the hole a little deeper."
When Dunis arrives at a job site, she first takes time to survey the yard. She checks the area where the homeowner believes the mole to be active and then attempts to decipher a pattern — where the mole may have dug a network of tunnels leading to and from their nest.
According to Dunis, moles are becoming active earlier in the year than in previous seasons, which only means they have more time to wreak havoc on homeowners' yards. It's up to her to try and accurately assess the critters' movements and strategize where best to place traps along their paths.
"When you look at a yard and you can see where the grass is greener that means the soil is going to be wetter than where the grass is dead-looking," she says. "Moles can dig in soil that isn't soft, but that isn't where you usually find them because that isn't where the food supply is. Moles live to eat, and they hang out where conditions are damp, cool, moist.
"In the winter, they remain deeper than eight inches, so you're not likely to see them at all," she says. "But in the summer, they're up close to the surface, because that's where the food is."
In just one day, an adult mole can tunnel approximately 100 feet. That's impressive, considering most adult moles are only about six inches long. Another misnomer surrounding moles is that each and every mole hill in a yard is the work of one mole, which isn't true, according to Dunis. This sometimes leads to misperceptions that catching a mole is merely based on putting a trap inside each hole.
"People get upset with us because they think we should put a trap in every mound. The whole idea is to find active runways, and that's where you need a professional," she says.
On any given day, spring and summer, you might catch Dunis running around Lake Oswego from job site to job site, checking her traps, assessing the yard and strategizing on where to place new traps.
"A good way to find out if you have activity is to step on the mound so it's flat and then come back in the next few days to see if the dirt has moved," Dunis says.
Although it's a hard job that takes a lot of time, expertise and patience, Dunis continues her mole-hunting business for the simple fact that she enjoys it.
"I like hearing people's stories. It's a chance to get outside, meet new people and it's just kind of fun in general," she says. "I hear the craziest stories sometimes. This one guy told me he hooked up hoses to his gas barbecue and put the hoses down in the mole holes, trying to gas them out. People have tried using water, juicy fruit, hair, all sorts of tricks. I've heard them all."