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Jeff Holper, a.k.a. The Mole Hunter

Age: 52

Title: Owner, Holper's Pest and Animal Solutions (20 employees)

Personal: Lives in Fenton; father of two daughters

As Jeff Holper tells it, he was minding his own business with no thoughts about the future when a sign on a rural byway enticed him to buy jar of fresh honey.

“And by the time I left that driveway I owned a beehive,” Holper says.

The proprietorship prompted Holper to join a beekeeper's association, an affiliation that in turn led eager homeowners to contact him about extracting unwanted hives and nests from eaves and crannies.

As a student at Pattonville High School, Holper thought he might one day be a regional truck driver or a history teacher.

Truth is, he didn't know what he wanted to do until a venture that began as a hobby in 1985 turned into a lifelong business opportunity - Holper's Pest and Animal Solutions.

The region and indeed a fair portion of the country recognizes Holper not as a garden (or attic) variety exterminator but as … The Mole Hunter.

In that capacity Holper has made regular appearances the past 18 years on home improvement shows here and as far away as Florida and Buffalo, N.Y.

The author of a book and the star of an instructional DVD on removing the backyard pests, Holper is also credited with being a a co-inventor of the “Molenipulator Mole Trap” - A “onetime purchase (that) is all you will ever need to effectively rid your yard of moles for the rest of your life.”

Moving to the next level, Holper now has a National Mole Hunter Association in the works. In addition to selling themed T-shirts and baseball caps, the organization will encourage members to share the details of mole kills on its website.

How did you get from beekeeping to extermination?

“I was removing wasps and hornets part-time for a few years and found out I needed to be a licensed pest control guy to do it legally. So I started looking for another niche and bought a $75 videotape on how to trap animals, started to trap and (discovered) I was God-gifted at trapping.... In my mind, I was created to do this. I bring peace of mind to people who get ripped up over a spider or a mole.”

And the transition to mole hunter?

“I was pretty good at killing other animals, but not moles. So one day I got a call from a gal in Louisville who claimed she killed 1,200 moles a year. And she said, 'If you come to Louisville I'll show how you how.' So, I went to Louisville and learned how to use a spear trap.... (A few years later, the St. Louis Home and Garden Show) asked if I could do a presentation on moles and by 2000 I was drawing huge crowds, so I started going on the road. It's my goal in my talks to help people go from victim to victor over moles.”

Do moles pose a threat to humans, animals and plant life?

“They get blamed for killing bulbs. But they don't kill bulbs. And they don't kill trees. They are (in yards and gardens) for one reason: earthworms.”

Why then the aversion?

“It's visual. People don't like what they do to their lawns and it touches them in an emotional way. The tension builds and they keep buying more stuff (to get rid of the pests). Finally, they get to the point where they say, 'This animal has to be dealt with.' You wouldn't believe how many people sit outside with a pitchfork or a shovel and wait for the ground to move so they can flip them out and beat them to death.”

“We've never had a confrontation with them. But even PETA people hate moles.”

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