to the insect-eating group of manmmals and are highly specialized
for their life in the soil. They are sometimes confused with meadow
mice or shrews, but can be easily identified by their greatly enlarged
forefeet, which are modified for digging. Adults range from 5 to
8 inches (12.7-20.3 cm) long and have very small concealed eyes
and ears and short, thick, soft, dark velvety gray fur, which is
smooth if brushed either way. The two species commonly encountered
in the Northeast are the Eastern mole (Scalopus aquaticus)
and the star-nosed mole (Condylura cristat). The star-nosed
mole has 22 pink, fingerlike projections around its nose, which
readily distinguish it from the Eastern mole, whose nose is more
pointed and lacks the numerous projections.
most of their lives within their extensive systems of underground
tunnels, where a circular nest chamber is excavated and lined with
leaves and grass. A single litter averaging four young is produced
in late April or early May. Young moles leave the nest in 4 to 5
larvae (especially white grubs) and earthworms make up the bulk
of the mole diet, but moles may also feed on plant material such
as bulbs. They occasionally damage lawns, gardens and golf greens
as they tunnel though soil, searching for insects and worms. When
Easten moles tunnel near the soil surface, soil is forced up in
sinuous ridges. Star-nosed moles usually tunnel deeper in the soil
and build up scattered mounds of soil on the surface; they do not
make the snakelike ridges.
Moles are difficult
to control because of their subterranean habits. They can be controlled
most successfully through the use of special mole traps designed
to overcome the difficulties of trapping them within their tunnels.
Mole traps of several types can be purchased from garden supply
moles traps, locate tunnels that are in current use. The Eastern
mole digs a network of deep tunnels as well as a network of surface
burrows. Although the deep tunnels are in more or less permanent
use, some of the surface tunnels are only temporary structures dug
by the mole in search of food and perhaps used only once. Ative
surface tunnels can be located by pushing down the surface ridges
on a number of tunnels and noticing which ones are repaired within
a day or two. Those are the places to set mole traps.
Where the star-nosed
mole's tunnels come to the surface, they leave a mound of soil.
It is necessary to dig around these mounds to locate a tunnel before
the trap can be set in place. The trap should be set in a straight
section of tunnel; the harpoon or wire loops (depending on the type
of trap being used) should be worked up and down several times to
be certain that nothing is in the soil to impede their action.
traps can also be used to catch moles. The traps are placed with
the trigger at right angles to the tunnel, after excavation down
to the tunnel floor. It is not necessray to bait these traps, since
the mole should be caught when attempting to clear the trap from
the tunnel. After the trap is set, the hole should be covered with
a board or box to exclude light.
from James W. Caslick and Daniel J. Decker, Cornell University,
2001. Image from the
University of Nebraska-Lincoln.