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COLUMBIA - Mole trappings have risen across mid-Missouri, and experts vary on the reasons for the increase.

Kelly Stiefermann traps moles, among other animals, for a living. The small, nearly-blind creatures are on the rise according to a report published by the University of Missouri Extension, and so is his business.

Stiefermann said, "Mole populations are cyclical. The past few years they've been on the rise, and that's been good for me. I'm afraid if we have a very hard winter or a dry summer that their numbers will begin to decline."

Paul Ratcliffe is one homeowner who will be rooting for several months of cold temperatures. He said moles come with the territory on his property.  "I've lived here 17, maybe 18 years, and I've had moles for every one of them. They come and go, and are a nuisance to deal with."

The Extension report credited an increase in the white grub population--the main diet of moles until earthworms arrived from Europe several hundred years ago.

However, Stiefermann mentioned other factors which might contribute to above-average levels, including the hatching of cicadas last spring, the many pockets of woods on properties, and urban encroachment.  "I can't tell for sure what has caused the increase because I've also done a lot of advertising and grown my business over that time so I think I'm catching more moles also because I have more clients."