Moles Of North America
Description Of Common Moles
Small, burrowing mammals are moles. Their eyes are poorly developed, but they make up for what they lack in sight in their sense of touch. There are long sensitive snouts in all moles and clawed digits they use to dig tunnels. The moles’ snout is 22 times more sensitive than the human hand.
Eastern moles have dense fur that sticks straight up, rather than having fur that lays flat and points toward the tail like most mammals. If they back up through a tunnel, this prevents soil from becoming trapped in their coats. Though most species do not exceed 10 inches (25 centimeters) in length, male moles are usually larger than females. 1Go To Source nwf.org -“moles”
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Moles have lengths ranging from 110 to 170 mm for the head and body. The tail ranges from 18 to 36 mm in length. The northern populations are larger than the southern and southwestern ones, and males are larger than females. The robust body is covered by a dense velvety black and copper fur.
Their hair is hinged, allowing the mole to move forward and backward without a problem (moles move in both directions within a tunnel). There are scales on the short tail, and it is round, almost hairless. At the top, the feet are somewhat hairy, naked at the bottom, and quite large. Each toe has weeping that helps in the digging. These moles do not have external eyes or ears on them. They may still be able to detect light from their poorly developed eyes, it is thought. 2Go To Source biokids.umich.edu -“Eastern mole Scalopus aquaticus”
Typical Mole Habit
Moles, except for Antarctica and South America, are found on every continent. In urban areas, they live in grasslands, gardens, sand dunes, mixed forests, or in any area with soil to dig tunnels. However, they tend to stay away from regions with acidic soil and mountainous regions.
Tunnels are used by moles to move, but tunnels are more than just underground highways. Moles dig extraordinary chambers that serve as bedrooms or birthing areas. Sometimes, moles live for generations in a series of tunnels before moving.
Moles can be found in most North American territories, Asia, and Europe. The United States is home to seven-mole species, with the Eastern moles being the most common species.
Diet Of Moles
Moles, closely related to shrews, are insectivores. Their diet consists primarily of grubs, beetles, larvae of beetles, and worms found in the soil. Moles eat 70 to 100 percent of their weight daily.
The enormous amount of energy spent plowing through the soil requires an equally large quantity of food to supply that energy. Moles do not hibernate but are more active during the summer months and less active during the winter. During rainy periods in summer, they are most busy finding and storing food.
Moles must cover a larger area than most animals that live underground due to their food requirements. For most locations, three to five moles per acre is regarded as a high population. Moles prefer to hunt in loose, moist soil, which is rich in earthworms and grubs. The mole’s appeal to lawns and parks accounts for this preference. 3Go To Source extension.psu.edu -“Moles”
A Kentucky study found that moles have peaks of daily activity from 8 am to 4 pm and 11 pm to 4 am. The average male home range is 1.09 hectares, while the average female home range is only .28 hectares. Moles don’t practice solidarity. Their home ranges often overlap, and many moles use the same tunnels.
Moles require a high level of energy and require significant amounts of food every day. As a result, this animal forages extensively; there is a low incidence of inbreeding and a fairly high gene flow level. These patterns are unusual for mammalian fossils.
The eastern mole’s major barriers to dispersal are soil type and moisture. They are good swimmers and are limited by the moist, clay-filled soils that accompany watercourses rather than by water itself. Soil acidity provides another potential barrier to dispersal, which determines food abundance. 4Go To Source animaldiversity.org -“Scalopus aquaticus eastern mole”
Mole Tunneling Habits
With their potent forefeet, Eastern moles can dig up to 4.5 meters in one hour. In a single day, one individual may dig 31 meters of shallow tunnels. Their forefeet are as long as they are wide. For muscle attachment, the bones of their shoulder girdles and upper forelimbs offer broad surfaces.
These moles essentially “dive” into the earth when they burrow; they first push their forefeet into the soil and then follow with their head and body as they rotate their forelimbs and pull back the loosened dirt.
These tunnels are divided into two types. One form consists of deep, relatively permanent passages used as burrows and as feeding site routes. The other is composed of surface runways used for food collection. Tunnels in winter tend to be deeper than tunnels in summer. Under a boulder or the roots of a plant, nest chambers of dry vegetation are usually below the surface.
Reproduction Tendencies Of Moles
For most of the year, males and females are solitary, occupying exclusive territories. With the start of the breeding season, males expand their territories, tunneling in search of females over large areas. Moles construct one or more spherical nesting chambers within the tunnel system, each lined with a ball of dry plant material.
Nests are used for raising young moles and for sleeping. In the spring, a bed of 3 or 4 naked babies is born. At 14 days, the fur begins to grow, the eyes open at 22 days, and they are weaned at 4-5 weeks. At 33 days, the young start leaving the nest and disperse at 5-6 weeks from their mother’s range. Dispersal is a time of great danger and takes place above ground. Moles in the spring after birth are sexually mature. 5Go To Source mammal.org.uk -“Species – Mole Mole – Talpa europaea”
Once a mole invades a yard, it can almost immediately cause significant damage, especially if it is in pursuit of prey. One mole can dig 18 feet per hour in suitable soil. These tunnels can result in uprooted plants and damaged grass. Rocks are often left exposed on the soil surface and present a risk of damage to lawn care equipment. Two common signs that a property is infested with moels are mounds of dirt and runaway tunnels.
Molehills are the result of waste from moles digging new tunnels or repairing damages. They are typically found where the animal creates new burrows or where existing ones are damaged. The roots support the tunnel when moles burrow under the roots of trees or shrubs, and the molehills may be difficult to identify.
Molehills are often the only sign indicating the animal’s presence and the easiest way to determine how many moles you might be dealing with. They usually occur in lines along the burrow’s route but may not be directly above the burrow itself.
They create an extensive network of surface feeding tunnels as moles tunnel under the earth searching for food. They excavate soil from their tunnels in their hunt for earthworms beneath the ground’s surface and deposit the dirt on the surface.
These shallow tunnels lead to surface tunnels identifiable by elevated ground areas that appear in the soil as long ridges. Shallow tunnels feel spongy and soft and can cause people to trip, fall, or sprain an ankle. Mole runways often follow the foundation, driveway, or lawn border of a house.
Most Common Moles In The U.S.
- “Moles.” National Wildlife Federation, www.nwf.org/Educational-Resources/Wildlife-Guide/Mammals/Moles. Accessed 19 Jan. 2021.
- Gorog, A. 1999. “Scalopus aquaticus” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed January 19, 2021 at http://www.biokids.umich.edu/accounts/Scalopus_aquaticus/
- Brittingham, Margaret C. “Moles.” Penn State Extension, 26 Dec. 2020, extension.psu.edu/moles.
- Gorog, A. 1999. “Scalopus aquaticus” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed January 19, 2021 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Scalopus_aquaticus/
- “Species – Mole.” The Mammal Society, www.mammal.org.uk/species-hub/full-species-hub/discover-mammals/species-mole. Accessed 19 Jan. 2021.