Except for their smaller size, it is difficult to distinguish the Coast mole from the Townsend's mole. Coast mole are generally between 4 and 6 inches (10 - 15 cm) long, Broad-Footed moles are usually from 5 to 7 inches (13 - 18 cm) and Townsend's moles vary from 7 to 9 inches (18 - 23 cm) in length. The American shrew-mole is our smallest mole and it rarely exceeds 5 inches (12 cm) in length. Townsend's mole and the Coast mole possess short, sparsely haired tails while those of the Broad-footed mole and Shrew-mole are relatively hairy. Also, the tail of the Shrew-mole is conspicuous and is usually 1/3 the length of it's body. Shrew-moles also differ in that they spend their lives both above and below ground (in tunnels) searching for food - they can even climb small bushes! On the other hand, the Coast, Townsend's and Broad-footed moles are all obligate fossorial mammals and spend their adult lives underground in tunnels. The mole is blessed with a dense coat of velvety-soft hair that helps to keep them toasty in their cool, dark earthen world. The colour of their coats vary from light grey to black.

Moles belong to the order Insectivora so they are insectivores, not rodents - therefore, the majority of their diet is comprised of worms, insects and their larvae.

 FACTS & MYTHS

Mole Facts

  • Moles (family: Talpidae) have been around for about 45 million years and they inhabit most of the world except Australia, Greenland and Antarctica.
  • The mole's dense, velvety-soft coat is made up of 3,000 hairs per square centimeter.
  • The European mole constructs mounds that occasionally contain over 750 kg of soil!
  • Moles contain twice as much blood as other mammals of similar size.
  • The oxygen content aboveground at sea level is about 21%, but below ground in the mole tunnel it can drop to as little as 6%.
  • The carbon dioxide levels in mole tunnels can be as much as 10 times those found in the atmosphere.
  • Marathon runners possess roughly 6% body fat; the mole rarely has more than 3%.
  • Moles prefer grassland habitats because they generally support the largest variety and quantity of food.
  • Moles consume about 50% of their weight in food daily; the average mole will eat close to 20kg of food annually!
  • Moles spend more time sleeping than digging tunnels and constructing mounds.
  • Moles are very territorial and they will aggressively defend their home ranges from trespassing neighbors - sometimes to the death!
  • Moles use a personalized liquid scent to mark their territories; it also reveals their sex to their neighbors.
Mole Myths

Many myths on how to remove these elusive creatures are circulating, however, only trapping has proven to be a reliable and positive method of long-term mole control. Lets take a look at some of the outlandish methods that have made the rounds.

1. Poisonous Fumes: Specifically mole bombs and car exhausts. With those big feet, the mole has probably burrowed out of range at the first whiff! Also, fumigating your soil with poison gas has the tendency to kill all the good bugs and bacteria that assist you in your gardening.

2. Mole Baits: Remember that long narrow mouth? If the bait doesn't have the consistency of a 'wet noodle' then the mole probably can't eat it. Besides, it is dangerous to spread poisoned pellets a few inches under the soil surface because small pets and other animals may dig them up. So far, there is no hard evidence to prove or disapprove of the effectiveness of mole baits.

3. Chewing Gum: With such narrow mouth parts, the mole isn't capable of biting into a piece of gum - no matter how badly we would like to gum him up!

4. Noxious Substances: Ocasionally, moth balls or Draino placed in the tunnels will temporarily move your mole next door, but he will be back to cover or expel the substance out of the ground in no time. Just remember not to put these chemicals near your vegetable garden. Environmentally speaking, this is a very unsound practice.

5. Drowning: Flooding is a natural occurrence that the mole has evolved over millions of years to deal with. In fact, they are capable of traveling through water and mud filled tunnels during periods of intense flooding. Moles are excellent swimmers and that long snout allows them to travel between available air pockets within a flooded tunnel system. Also, mole tunnels are so twisting, turning and uneven that they are almost impossible to totally flood.

6. Vibrating Windmills: Perhaps if you happen to place one directly over its nest you may move him four feet or so - but don't count on it.

7. Hair: As a repellent, it is hard to believe that an animal covered in so much hair would find a handful of it offensive. However, if human hair does disturb moles, then a quick plug of soil would immediately bury the inconvenience and the tunnel could be easily re-routed.

8. Others: And there are many for example: broken glass and blackberry branches inserted into the tunnels for the mole to cut themselves on, buckets or pails for them to fall into, open bottles buried into the ground above tunnels to produce distressing noises, mixtures of soaps and laxatives inserted into tunnels, used oil and even kitty litter!

Dogs will often go after moles and sometimes even capture them, but the mounds and holes they leave behind often put the mole's work to shame.

Moles are known to require half of their own weight in juicy earthworms daily to survive (captive moles are reportedly able to consume nearly 100 worms daily!). Upon finding an earthworm, the mole quickly pins it
writhing prey to the ground with its forefeet. With the assistance of a dexterous snout, the mole then locates
the earthworm's head and ravenously beings to tear and swallow chunks of its snack.

The forefeet and head of the mole work in unison to produce a stripping effect, which eliminates most of the soil and grit from within the worm - similar to squeezing a tube of toothpaste.

Moles are also known to stockpile earthworms by nipping off their first few segments which immobilizes them. They are then carted off to a subterranean pantry for future use. The small, secretive and harmless Shrew-mole is not considered a pest so it will be excluded from the remainder of this discussion.

Our focus will now turn to the Coast mole, Broad-footed mole and the Townsend's mole who many consider pests because of their prolific molehill production. It is these three species that are the target of professional mole trappers.

Moles have evolved into tunneling specialists. Their broad, powerful forefeet are each armed with five strong claws designed for shearing soil. In fact, these three species have an extra bone in their forefeet which effectively widens their shoveling surface. In stark contrast are the hind-feet which are small and narrow. With this equipment and their streamlined bodies a mole is capable of digging over 60 feet of tunnel in one day! This may result in the production of up to 200 mounds in the course of a fall and winter per mole! A mole can literally swim through the loose soil found in the flower beds and vegetable gardens while searching for prey. Occasionally, this action will uproot small and newly bedded plants.

 MOLE HABITS

Can moles do anything else but dig? Yes, they spend half of the day sleeping; however, they are active throughout the day and you can never be sure when the next mound will pop up on your lawn.

Moles appear to be loners and they are naturally intolerant towards each other. Captured moles will usually fight violently (rolling, biting and punching with those big forefeet) if placed together in confined quarters.

Although their tunnel system may overlap, the results of radio-tracking experiments suggest that a mole's activities are confined to a personalized home range called an encampment.

Moles depend upon their encampment for food - it's like a personal grocery store - so it is regularly patrolled by the owner who marks its active territory by laying a trail of liquid scent to discourage others from trespassing. However, abandoned tunnels are usually adopted by neighbouring moles.

The anti-social mole becomes amorous for a brief period. The males begin to burrow ceaselessly in search of a welcoming female. The breeding season begins in early winter and usually ends sometime in February. Moles are capable of breeding during their first year of life and most females will give birth to between 2 and 4 young by May.

Nestlings mature rapidly on their mothers rich milk and in one month they weigh 15 times their birth weight.

Around this time the young are given the 'heave-ho' from the nest and have to embark upon the mission of securing their own encampment and thus, the main business of mole life which is tunneling, eating and sleeping in blissful subterranean solitude beings.

Stories About Moles

From the late 19th century until World War II, moles skins and furs were and article of high fashion. Furriers made such items as money bags, ear muffs and coats. King Edward VII started a rage for mole skin vests; it took over 70 skins to make such a product. In the United States, a 1939 Saks Fifth Avenue catalogue featured an elegant woman in a stylized lumber jacket that was made from several hundred mole skins. During the peak period of demand for mole skins over 12 million animals were harvested in one year! In fact, Germany drafted legislation during this time to protect the European mole from being wiped out in that country.

Many years ago mole meat was boiled and rubbed on a bare scalp to stimulate hair growth.

Mole Joke

A mole catcher told an audience this joke about a rich person who woke up one morning and found molehills all over his lawn. He had spent a lot of time and money to make his lawn look beautiful and was obviously furious at the mole. In fact, he couldn't sleep or eat because he was so troubled. His attempts to capture the mole were unsuccessful and only added to his frustration. Eventually he placed an ad in the local paper looking for a mole catcher. It was the neighbourhood mole trapper who answered the ad and he asked the rich man, "How much will you pay me if I catch the mole?" Without hesitation the rich man replied, "I'll give you 500 dollars, but I also want you to give him the worst death you can think of because of all the sleepless nights and stressful days that mole has caused me."

The next day the mole catcher showed up and said, "I've caught your mole and I've come to collect." The rich man was jubilant, but he had to inquire, "And what death did you give him?" "I gave him the most horrible death I could possibly think of", the catcher replied, "I buried him alive!"