A PMP EDUCATIONAL UPDATE  |  APRIL 2020  |  View online
DTY Rodent Management
Know the mole to gain control


Do you know the infamous, burrowing, insectivorous mammal? It has dark, velvety pelage, a long muzzle and very small eyes? No? Get to know the mole and achieve control of the pest!

Know the mole, or Eastern mole, known as Scalopus aquaticus (meaning "water dweller with digging feet") is distributed in Wyoming, South Dakota, Texas, Michigan, Massachusetts, New England and to southern Florida. In most states, it's considered an unprotected species. The mole prefers moist, sandy and loamy (equal parts of clay, silt and sand) soils. It damages lawns, landscapes and gardens through digging and injuring root masses.

Know the mole possesses a robust body covered with thick, velvety copper, silver or black pelage. It possesses a head and body length 4.5 to 6.5 inches, and a tail length approximately 0.75 to 1.5 inches.

  • Weight is approximately 1.10 to 5.0 ounces (average 2.6 ounces).
  • No external eyes or ears.
  • Eyes poorly developed with no vision, but may detect light.
  • Ears covered by a layer of skin, and may detect sound and vibration.
  • Closely related to carnivorous mammals with a tooth count: 36 I3/2; C1/0; P3/3; M3/3.
  • Vocalizations of high-pitched squeals, guttural squeaks, short snorting and teeth grating.
  • Navigate and detect prey through acute touch and smell.
  • Short, round tail is almost hairless and indistinctly scaled.
  • Spade-shaped feet possess sparse hair above and hairless below.
  • Webbing between toes aids digging.
Know the mole is energetic. The critter possesses an average basic metabolic rate (ABMR) of 0.378 Watts (a Watt is one Joule per second or the energy to lift an apple 1 meter). ABMR is the rate at which the body uses energy while at rest to maintain vital functions.

Know the mole is constantly hungry.
  • A large surface-to-volume ratio, and high metabolism, requires a daily food intake of 70 percent to 100 percent of the mole’s body weight.
  • It is a carnivore, feeding upon earthworms, slugs, snails, centipedes and larval/adult insects.
  • Forages over large areas.
Know the mole can live about three years and is a diligent animal.
  • Few natural enemies (threatened by spring flooding).
  • Does not readily inbreed, so gene flow is high (rare for a fossorial mammal).
  • Gestation period is approximately 42 days (three to five young are born March through April).
  • Active 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 11 p.m. to 4 a.m.
  • Male possesses an orange strip on its belly (skin gland secretions).
  • Morphologically developed forefeet are broader than long with claws (possess a specialized wrist sesamoid bones to facilitate digging).
  • Forefeet are held in a vertical position with the palms facing outward.
  • Forefeet and small hind feet are fringed with sensory hairs to facilitate excavation.
  • Hip girdle is narrow, permitting a somersault turn-around within the tunnel.
  • Plunge forefeet into soil, followed by the head and body (rotate forelimbs to pull soil backwards).
  • Excavate approximately 15 tunnel feet/hour (up to about 100 tunnel feet/day).
  • Volcano-shaped molehills are new tunnels where excess soil is pushed-up through vertical shafts.
  • Spends 99 percent of time within tunnels.
  • Large spleen provides abundant red blood cells for survival within tunnels with an Oxygen level as low as 14.3 percent and Carbon dioxide level as high as 5.5 percent.
  • Female range averages 0.7 acres.
  • Male range averages 2.7 acres.
  • Numerous individuals travel permanent tunnels.
  • Deep tunnels (approximately 10 inches below surface) contain nest chambers (burrows), feeding routes and facilitate overwintering.
  • Nest chambers of dry vegetation are under portions of large trees, buildings or sidewalks.
  • Shallow tunnels for food collection.
  • Aerate soil.
  • Respectable swimmer.
  • Soil acidity is a potential dispersal barrier (determines food availability).
  • Clay-filled soil is a potential dispersal barrier.
Know the mole from head to toe. Know the mole by where it may go. Know the mole and get control!

Stuart Mitchell, DO, DVM, PsyD, BCE, is an entomologist, veterinarian, observing physician and consulting clinical psychologist, and a regular contributor to Pest Management Professional's Direct to You series.

PMP’s Direct To You provides pest management professionals with educational refreshers on timely and critical topics essential to operational success. This content is not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from an attorney licensed to practice where you live. Look for the content-rich PMP Direct To You archives at mypmp.net/direct-to-you-archive.

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