Eastern Mole (Scalopus Aquaticus)
The eastern common mole is a medium-sized grey North American mole.
Color: Grey-brown, plush like fur with paler or browner underparts, and may appear to have a silver sheen
Size: Up to 6 inches in length, Up to 3 ounces in weight
Habitat: Found throughout NJ
In several respects moles are much more closely related to carnivorous or flesh-eating mammals than to rodents. The mole’s diet consists mainly of the insects, grubs, and worms it finds in the soil. Moles are thought to damage roots and tubers by feeding on them, but rodents usually are to blame.
Moles eat from 70% to 100% of their weight each day. A mole’s appetite seems to be insatiable. Experiments with captive moles show that they will usually eat voraciously as long as they are supplied with food to their liking. The tremendous amount of energy expended in plowing through soil requires a correspondingly large amount of food to supply that energy. Moles must have this food at frequent intervals.
The mole lives in the seclusion of underground burrows, coming to the surface only rarely, and then often by accident. Researchers believe that the mole is a loner. On several occasions, two or even three moles have been trapped at the same spot, but that does not necessarily mean they had been living together in a particular burrow. Networks of runways made independently occasionally join otherwise separate burrows.
Because of their food requirements, moles must cover a larger amount of area than do most animals that live underground. The home range of a male mole is thought to be almost 20 times that of a male plains pocket gopher. Three to five moles per acre (7 to 12 per ha) is considered a high population for most areas in the Great Plains.
Deep runways lead from the mole’s den to its hunting grounds. The denning area proper consists of irregular chambers here and there connected with the deep runways. The runways follow a course from 5 to 8 inches (12.7 to 20.3 cm) beneath the surface of the ground. The chambers from which these runs radiate are about the size of a quart jar.
Most of a mole’s runway system is made up of shallow tunnels ranging over its hunting ground. These tunnels may not be used again or they may be re-traversed at irregular intervals. Eventually, they become filled by the settling soil, especially after heavy showers. In some cases, moles push soil they have excavated from their deep runways into the shallow tunnels. These subterranean hunting paths are about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches (3.2 to 3.8 cm) in diameter. Moles usually ridge up to the surface of the soil, so their tunnels can be readily followed. In wet weather, runways are very shallow; during a dry period, they range somewhat deeper, following the course of earthworms.
Moles make their home burrows in high, dry spots, but they prefer to hunt in soil that is shaded, cool, moist, and populated by worms and grubs. This preference accounts for the mole’s attraction to lawns and parks. In neglected orchards and natural woodlands, moles work undisturbed. The ground can be infiltrated with runways. Moles commonly make their denning areas under portions of large trees, buildings, or sidewalks.
The maze of passages that thread the soil provides protective cover and traffic for several species of small mammals. Voles (meadow mice), white-footed mice, and house mice live in and move through mole runways, helping themselves to grains, seeds, and tubers. The mole, however, often gets blamed for damaging these plants. Moles “swim” through the soil, often near the ground surface, in their search for worms, insects, and other foods. In doing so, they may damage plants by disrupting their roots
Moles remove many damaging insects and grubs from lawns and gardens. However, their burrowing habits disfigure lawns and parks, destroy flower beds, tear up the roots of grasses, and create havoc in small garden plots.
It is important to properly identify the kind of animal causing damage before setting out to control the damage. Moles and pocket gophers are often found in the same location and their damage is often confused. Control methods differ for the two species.
Moles leave volcano-shaped hills that are often made up of clods of soil. The molehills are pushed up from the deep tunnels and may be 2 to 24 inches (5 to 60 cm) tall. The number of molehills is not a measure of the number of moles in a given area. Surface tunnels or ridges are indicative of mole activity.
Pocket gopher mounds are generally kidney-shaped and made of finely sifted and cloddy soil. Generally, gophers leave larger mounds than moles do. Gopher mounds are often built in a line, indicative of a deeper tunnel system.
In practice, packing the soil with a roller or reducing soil moisture may reduce a habitat’s attractiveness to moles. Packing may even kill moles if done in the early morning or late evening
Moles are considered a fur-bearing animal and special permits are needed.