Moles are remarkable animals known for their specialized abilities for life underground. They are seldom seen  by  humans  and  are  often  mistaken  for  pocket  gophers,  mice,  or  shrews.  In fact, the mole is not closely related to any small mammal except the shrew, both belonging to the mammalian order Insectivora. Moles often come into conflict with homeowners when they burrow in yards.


Moles  are  not  rodents  and  do  not  have  characteristic rodent  features  such  as  large,  sharp  front  teeth.  Rather, they have sharp, pointed teeth (like a cat) used for catching and eating grubs and earthworms.  The mole’s most remarkable features are its adaptations for life underground. It has greatly enlarged paddle-like front feet and enlarged toenails uniquely adapted for digging. Mole fur is short, soft, and velvety, and when brushed, offers no resistance in either direction. These two adaptations allow moles to literally swim forward and backward through the soil. Other adaptations for this life include a cylindrical body, a long, tapered snout, and eyes and ears so tiny they almost appear to be missing. The hind legs are very small, enabling the mole to turn with ease in a narrow passage.  Fully-grown moles measure 4 to 7½ inches long complete with very short tail. Fur color varies from black to brownish to grayish with silver highlights.


Mole Facts and Biology
The eastern mole (Scalopus aquaticus) is the most common and abundant mole in Kentucky and can be found in a variety of habitats dominated by loose, well-drained soil. Moles  are  found  in  suburban  lawns,  cemeteries,  golf courses, pastures, meadows, woodlands, sandy soils near streams,  and  light,  loamy  soils  in  the  Bluegrass  region. Since  they  are  adapted  for  life  underground,  they  construct  extensive  underground  tunnels,  using  two  types: shallow  surface  tunnels  in  the  spring,  summer,  and  fall and deep permanent tunnels used year-round as the main avenues of travel. Nest cavities and home areas, 6 inches in diameter and lined with vegetation, can be found 12 to18 inches beneath the soil surface connecting the deep tunnels.  Moles are antisocial, solitary animals; they live alone except to breed. Males and females come together only for a brief encounter during February to mate.  In April, after a 45-day gestation period, two to five large, hairless, helpless young are born in the underground nest chamber.  They are about half grown at five weeks and leave the next week to fend for themselves. They become sexually mature in one year. Eastern  moles  are  active  any  time  of  the  day  but  are most active from 4 to 7 a.m. and 6 to 9 p.m. all year. Moles must be very active to meet high energy requirements. Infect, they can burrow as fast as 1 foot per minute. High-energy  mole  food  comes  as  grubs,  earthworms,  beetles and  beetle  larvae,  insects  and  insect  larvae,  snails,  and spiders. Moles eat small amounts of plant parts occasion-ally. Their appetite is almost insatiable, and captive moles eat constantly as long as suitable food is put in the cage. If captive moles do not get suitable nourishment, they die within several hours. Thus, one mole can be responsible for considerable damage to a lawn or garden. A mole typically travels 1/5 acre. No more than three to five moles live on each acre; two to three moles is a more common number. Thus, one mole will usually use more than one person’s yard. For effective control, several neighbors may need to cooperate. Moles live three to four years in the wild. Predators such as  fox,  skunk,  owls,  and  even  dogs  and  cats  kill  and  eat moles. One method of control may be to get a good dog.


Burrowing and Tunnels

As mentioned previously, moles create shallow and deep tunnels. It is the only animal that creates a surface tunnel. These tunnels are usually temporary feeding burrows. Some may be used as travel lanes, while others may be travelled infrequently or abandoned immediately after being dug. Surface  tunnels  are  most  abundant  after  a  warm  rain  ordering the spring and fall when moles are actively searching  for  insects  or  earthworms. Underground  tunnels  are  often deep, and the only evidence that moles exist may be mounds of soil (molehills) pushed up to the surface. They are used as highways leading from cavities to feeding areas and are used most during hot, dry, or very cold weather when earthworms and insects move deeper into the soil.

See FOR-42 Managing Mole Problems in Kentucky by Thomas G. Barnes, Extension Wildlife Biologist for more information.