Eastern moles are small mammals with velvety gray fur, a slim pointy nose, tiny eyes, large front paws, scoop-shaped for digging, and short hairless tails. It is a secretive animal and rarely seen, but it leaves obvious signs of its activity - mounds of excavated dirt (molehills or “push ups”) - and raised earth tunnels that it builds in gardens, lawns and fields. They have no external ears or eyes though it may be that their poorly developed eyes can detect light. One individual in captivity lived for longer than 36 months but in the wild it is thought that they live for less.
The Eastern mole is a native of Canada (Ontario), the United States and northwestern Mexico, and has the most extensive range of all the North American moles. It is found in the US from southern Wisconsin and South Dakota to eastern Massachusetts and down to Louisiana and the tip of Florida and west to Kansas, Nebraska, and central Texas. It prefers fields, pastures, meadows, and open woodland. It does not occur in stony or gravelly soils or clay but in sandy, moist loamy soils.
Habits and lifestyle
Eastern moles inhabit subterranean tunnel systems, and only occasionally go above ground. Under the ground is where they find shelter and food. Eastern moles are solitary animals for most of the year, defending their tunnels from others, until in late March or early April when males will search for mates in neighboring tunnels. These moles are active at all hours, peaking in activity around dawn and dusk, which means they are crepuscular. They probably use their acute senses of touch and smell to find their way around and to detect prey. Because their burrows are generally below the frost, moles do not hibernate, and they remain active in winter. They make high-pitched squeals, squeaks that are harsh and guttural, short snorting sounds, and they grate their teeth.
labor, company, movement
Diet and nutrition
Eastern moles are carnivores and primarily eat earthworms but will also eat insects and their larvae, vegetation, and, when in captivity, dog food, ground beef mice, and small birds.
Little is known about the mating system of Eastern moles. Mating is from February to March. They build nests from grasses, leaves, and parts of plants in a burrow under a boulder, log, or stump. Gestation is usually for 45 days and a litter of two to five is born between mid-April and June. The young can be born in March in warm climates. When born they are blind and naked, and relatively large compared in size with their mother. At 10 days old they have a light-gray fine, velvety fur, which lasts for several weeks. Fast growth means that they can leave the nest and forage for themselves at around four weeks old.
Eastern moles are not endangered but have suffered persecution by keen gardeners and farmers objecting to the mounds of earth they make and the root damage they cause.
The IUCN Red List and other sources do not provide the Eastern mole total population size, but it's presumed to be large. This species is common in most of the USA. Populations in southern Texas and Mexico are considered extremely rare and possibly extinct. According to the Species at Risk Public Registry, the total population size of the Eastern mole in Canada is 2,000-13,000 individuals. Overall, eastern moles’ numbers are stable today and currently they are classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List.
Eastern moles are important as predators of invertebrates such as insect larvae and can profoundly impact their prey communities. They aerate and turn the soil in their environment due to their extensive tunneling work.
Fun facts for kids
- Moles have short, strong legs and very broad front feet, which they use as shovels, and which have enormous digging claws.
- Moles can move backwards nearly as fast as forwards, and are usually good swimmers.
- One mole can tunnel about 20 yd (18 m) in a day.
- Eastern moles can be active at any time during the day but they are most active between 4 and 7 am.
- Eastern moles can dig further than one meter in an hour. Their tunnels may be as long as one kilometer.
- Although these moles cannot see, they may be able to sense when light is present or absent. Their ears are covered in a layer of skin yet it is possible that they can detect sounds and vibrations.
- These moles are 99 per cent of the time in their tunnels underground.