That pesky varmint you see scurrying under your cabinets and pilfering your food almost certainly is not a mole. With sightless eyes and large, paddle-like front feet, moles are highly specialized for life underground. The only circumstance that might result in one being in your house willingly would be the presence of a large indoor garden -- which is where the mole would be. If you saw the critter come into your house from a tunnel, it could be a vole or a shrew. Otherwise, it's probably a mouse.
What's the Difference?
It's rare to see moles above-ground, but when one does occasionally poke its head up from a hole, its large snout, lack of visible eyes and ears, and large claws on the front feet make it easy to identify.
Shrews are smaller than moles -- in fact, with a body length of 3 to 4 inches, they are among the world's smallest mammals. They have long snouts, dense fur and small eyes. Although they don't make their own tunnels, they often seek food in abandoned mole tunnels. Shrews resemble mice more than they do moles.
With a body length of 4 to 6 inches, voles look even more like mice; in fact, they are often called field mice -- although they aren't actually mice. Voles are burrowing rodents, but they are often content to use existing mole tunnels.
Of the three species, only voles are rodents, and only moles are carnivorous.
Mole, Vole and Shrew Control
In the off-chance that a mole gets into your house, keep in mind that it's a mistake, and the mole would rather be outside; the same is true for shrews and voles. Unlike mice and rats, these animals are more at home in the ground than they are in your walls, although an errant one may take shelter in your insulation in winter to get out of the cold. To encourage the critter to go outside, put your food away -- especially grains and vegetables -- and leave a door ajar. Arrange furniture -- if possible -- to create an easy-to-follow pathway to the door. If that doesn't work, and you don't have a police cat, you can try trapping a shrew or a vole, but it's a long shot.
You don't have to trap a mole. Seriously. If you see one in the house, open the door and let it go outside. Once it figures out how to get there, that's where the animal will go.
Like the lead character in a certain Shakespearean play, shrews are aggressive and pugnacious -- never try to catch one by hand; it will bite you, and some shrews have toxins in their saliva. Set conventional mousetraps along the walls in areas where the shrew has been seen, and bait the traps with peanut butter or oatmeal. You can also try live mousetraps. If you catch a shrew in a live trap, wear protective gloves when releasing it.
Voles look like mice, but they don't eat the same things, and you might have trouble enticing one with bait. Forget cheese -- a better bait for voles is peanut butter, oatmeal or sunflower seeds. Set conventional or live mousetraps along the walls, and cross your fingers. The best outcome for you and the vole, however, is that the varmint vamooses through the door you left open.