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Life-Changing Experiences of A Royal Molecatcher

by Meredith Mullins on May 9, 2013

Jérôme Dormion, at work in Versailles, with shovel, traps, and molehills in his job as Royal Molecatcher, full of life-changing experiences.

Molecatcher to the King, Jérôme Dormion, at work at Versailles
© Meredith Mullins

The Versailles Version of Whack-A-Mole

Is becoming a molecatcher one of those life-changing experiences?

For Jérôme Dormion, the answer is a resounding and royal yes.

Jérôme has a great job. He goes to work at a palace. He gets free reign over the Versailles grounds, one of the most beautiful landscapes in France. And, as if that weren’t enough, he is honored with the official title: “Molecatcher to the King.”

Palace of Versailles, where Royal Molecatcher, Jérôme Dormion, has his life-changing experiences.

The Palace of Versailles, a 17th century expression of “the good life” by Louis XIV
© Meredith Mullins

The History of the Versailles Molecatchers

The French kings are long dead, but the palace of Versailles (just west of Paris) lives on in royal splendor, visited by more than six million people every year.

Ever since Louis XIV hired the first molecatcher 330 years ago, the job of “Molecatcher to the King” has been a coveted position.

The job went from father to son for more than 200 years, until one son was too much of a party animal for Napoleon’s taste. That son, the last of the lineage, was fired, and the job went on the open market. Fast forward 100 years . . .

Jérôme Dormion stands alone in a field at Versailles, part of the life-changing experiences of being a Royal Molecatcher.

It’s a little lonely being the Molecatcher to the King, especially when you’re
one molecatcher in 2000 acres of land.
© Meredith Mullins

The Lone Molecatcher

Jérôme Dormion is the newest member of this elite club. He’s responsible for keeping the palace grounds free of the unsightly molehills that can pockmark the rolling green lawns and soft forest floors. That means 2000 acres of mole-free territory—no easy feat for a lone molecatcher.

For Jérôme, it’s a noble challenge. He brings to the job a respect for the mole’s ability to evade humans as well as a respect for the environment.

Mole peeking out from molehill, waiting to be caught by the Royal Molecatcher at Versailles, life-changing experiences for both.

Clever and hardworking, the mole pits his intelligence against the mole catcher.
© iStockphoto

Survival of the Smartest

Moles are intelligent. They’re also workaholics. They’re full of energy and don’t even take time to hibernate like their other mammal comrades.

They dig for worms/sleep/dig for worms/sleep in four-hour cycles, with a brief time out for procreation every spring, producing four or five young (technically called “pups” but I like to call them molettes).

With their five-digit digging hands that look a little like Mickey Mouse’s formal white gloves, they can burrow 18 feet an hour, flinging their dirt above ground in unsightly mounds throughout their “territory.”

A molecatcher has to be at the top of his game.

Must We Declare War?

In Jérôme’s book about moles (a bestseller in France), he asks an egalitarian question “Is cohabitation possible? Must we declare war?”

A field of molehills, work for the Royal Molecatcher, a job full of life-changing experiences.

Can we cohabitate with our mole friends?
© iStockphoto

The answer, regretfully, is that moles cause numerous problems—destroying plant roots, creating cave-ins of earth, inviting in other pests and bacteria, and, of course, destroying the beauty of well-manicured lawns and gardens.

And so, war it is.

For those of us who have had mole problems in our own garden, we know how frustrating the mole’s invasion (and evasion) can be.

We no doubt look like fools to them (and perhaps to our curious human neighbors), sledgehammering molehills, lighting firecrackers, flooding tunnels with water, or using chewing gum, garlic, or cayenne pepper. The moles are probably rolling their (little) eyes every time we try something new.

Enter the Expert: The Molecatcher to the King

At Versailles, there are no longer any natural predators (wildcats and weasels), so it’s important to keep the population in check.

Jérôme is unique, not just because he is Molecatcher to the King, but because he uses traps designed in the 1600s—appropriate for the 17th-century palace, but also environmentally sound.

Mole trap for the Versailles Royal Molecatcher, Jérôme Dormion, part of his life-changing experiences.

The archaic, and environmentally sound, mole trap invented in the 1600s
© Meredith Mullins

No poisons. No toxic gases. A quick death for the mole. No killing of the beneficial garden allies. The ecosystem of the garden is preserved.

The traditional traps that Jérôme uses are just three ingenious pieces of metal, “a bit like a guillotine,” he says smiling. They snap together to break the mole’s neck.

To place the traps correctly, Jerome studies the patterns of the earth and the habits of these clever escape artists. It’s a puzzle to be solved. Who can outsmart whom.

Jérôme Dormion pulls a trap from the tunnel, one of the life-changing experiences of the Royal Molecatcher.

The right placement of the trap is critical . . . to outsmart these clever evaders.
© Meredith Mullins

Only the Mensa moles manage to escape. One mole eluded Jérôme for three months. But in the end, well, suffice it to say: man over mole.

And then there was the mole who took a swim break in one of the Versailles fountains on a hot summer day. Jérôme couldn’t bear to interrupt such a sight. Instead, he filmed it.

If the video does not display, watch it here.

A Gentleman and a Molecatcher

It is true that Jérôme’s life experiences changed when he became Molecatcher to the King. He’s well known in the molecatching world and continues to provide innovation and environmental care in this unique niche.

His network of environmental molecatchers (Taup’ Green) spreads over France and is expanding to other countries.

Jérôme Dormion sets a mole trap at Versailles Palace, just one of the life-changing experiences of the Royal Molecatcher.

Molecatcher to the King: Protecting the environment and the beauty of Versailles
© Meredith Mullins

But many of the life-changing experiences in this mole story were mine.

  • I met a person who is a real master at his job—generous with his knowledge and passionate about protecting the environment.
  • I got to ride around like a queen in the “molemobile” on the beautiful back roads of Versailles with the one and only “Molecatcher to the King.” A celebrity—charming and humble despite his royal title.

And then there was that “Oh, I See Moment.” 

I was reminded that every problem has a solution, even if it seems overwhelming.

So . . . best not to make mountains out of molehills.

(You saw that coming, didn’t you?)

For more on mole-catching, see Jérôme’s book Le Piégeage Traditionnel des Taupes (Traditional Mole Traps).

Comment on this post below, or inspire insight with your own OIC Moment here.


2 thoughts on “Life-Changing Experiences of A Royal Molecatcher

  1. Thank you for your comments, Margot. Interestingly, I think the number of Mensa moles is growing, while the number of Mensa humans is, sadly, decreasing. What does the future hold?

  2. Who knew…..!? Whack a mole, Mensa moles and the molemobile! Really enjoyed your article Meredith. I learned so much and had quite a few laughs along the way.

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