Eastern Mole


Scalopus aquaticus
Talpidae (moles) in the order Insectivora

Chipmunk-sized, though not a rodent; has palmlike, short front feet that are held over the head with palms facing outward. The mole uses its large hands to move through the soil in about the same way a person swims underwater. The head looks nearly featureless except for the flexible, piglike snout. Although the mole’s eyes are only good for telling light from dark, its senses of hearing, touch and smell are acute. The velvety fur is characteristically slate gray but often appears silvery on fleshly groomed moles and sooty black on juveniles. A cinnamon-brown staining on the chin and along the middle of the belly is common on adults. The tail is nearly naked and is highly sensitive to touch.

Total length: 5½–8 inches; tail length: ¾–1½ inches; weight: 1–5 ounces.
Habitat and conservation: 
Moles live in a series of tunnels underground and may be found wherever the soil is sufficiently thick, pliable and adhesive enough to support a tunnel system and is adequately populated with grubs, earthworms and other prey items. In most cases it is not necessary to manage moles; to ensure healthy soils, their presence should be tolerated. When their presence cannot be tolerated at all, traps are usually the most effective way to control them.
Grubs and earthworms constitute the bulk of their diet. They also prey on other soil-dwelling creatures such as beetles, spiders, centipedes, ant pupae and cutworms. In fact, a mole can harvest more than 140 grubs and cutworms daily (many of which are destructive to your backyard plants). Moles can eat half their body weight a day!
Distribution in Missouri: 
Life cycle: 
Each mole has its own system of tunnels and lives a solitary life. They are active day and night, resting for 3 hours, then becoming active again for 5 hours. Moles breed in late winter or spring and have a gestation period of about 4–6 weeks. Single annual litters of 2–5 young are born in March, April or May. Young moles are born naked and helpless, but growth and development is rapid. About 4 weeks after birth, they leave the nest and fend for themselves.
Human connections: 
Though moles are routinely disliked for disfiguring lawns and inadvertently damaging plant roots, their tunneling also aerates and mixes soil, permitting air and moisture to penetrate deeper. They also eat many destructive insects such as cutworms and Japanese beetle larvae.
Ecosystem connections: 
Their digging and tunneling makes soils healthier, and their feeding on insects helps keep those populations in check. And although living underground offers some protection, moles still fall prey to snakes, hawks, owls, skunks, coyotes and foxes.
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