Moles
Scalopus aquaticus and other spp., Talpidae, INSECTIVORA


DESCRIPTION

Adult -- Covered with velvety gray to black fur, moles are small (14 to 16 cm, 85 g) mammals with short legs and tails. The fore feet are enlarged and have stout claws.

Young -- Newborn moles weigh 3.5 g and are 4 cm long. They are pink but are covered with fur in 14 days.


BIOLOGY

Distribution -- Moles are found throughout the eastern United States.

Hosts -- Moles feed on earthworms (especially Lumbricus), grubs, wireworms, and adult beetles. They also feed on millipedes, slugs, snails, and earthworm cocoons. Moles also feed on carrion.

Damage -- Moles do not feed on plant roots or tubers. However, as they tunnel along in their surface runs, moles damage turf roots and may destroy newly seeded lawns. In established turf, the mower may skin the tops of the runs and dull the mower as well as create gaps in the sod. Moles also tunnel deep, and they throw the excavated soil out of the opening thus forming mole hills.

Life History -- After a period of 4 weeks gestation, young moles are born in a den which is lined with dry grass and other leaves. Most moles are born in April and May, although some are born from February through June. Five weeks later, the young are weaned and begin to fend for themselves. This new generation overwinters as fully grown but sexually immature individuals which mate the following spring. Moles do not hibernate and may even tunnel in the snow.

Moles dig two kinds of tunnels: surface runs and deeper galleries. Moles burrow in fresh soil to seek food, but they also maintain older burrows and patrol them regularly to catch insects and worms which crawl into the burrows. All digging is done with the fore feet. The snout of some moles is apparently exceedingly sensitive to touch. There are sensory vibrissae (whiskers) on the snout and tail which are doubtless used in maneuvering in the burrows. Moles' eyesight is notoriously poor. Their sense of smell is not remarkably developed. Hearing is well developed and moles twitter and squeal while they feed or fight.

Moles seem to be quite aggressive in establishing territories and sometimes fight to death over possession of burrows. Moles can be tamed in captivity. They can be trained to come when called to feed. Barring accidents, moles probably live about 3 years.


CONTROL

Foxes, owls, and herons feed on moles. Control of grubs and earthworms will help eliminate food, but trapping is the only viable method of control. For control of earthworms and white grubs, consult the state extension service recommendations.