Animals

Moles

by Marcia Malory

Moles are small, burrowing placental mammals.

They live throughout temperate regions of the Earth's northern hemisphere.

Moles are usually about 6 inches long with black or gray fur.

The body of a mole is well adapted for a life spent digging underground.

Its eyes are small and covered with skin or fur.

European mole, photo by Hannes GrobeA mole can sense changes in the level of light, but is otherwise blind.

Moles' ears do not stick out from their heads. This allows moles to fit inside narrow tunnels.

A mole's sense of  hearing is very acute, as is its sense of smell.

The ends of moles' noses and tails are very sensitive to touch.

Moles have strong legs and use their broad front feet as shovels.

Large claws help them to dig efficiently.

When a mole digs, it leaves behind a pile of soil known as a molehill.

A mole must eat every few hours or it will starve. It is therefore active both during the day and at night.

It must consume about half of its own body weight every day.

Small invertebrates, particularly earthworms, make up a mole's diet.

Moles catch earthworms that fall from the walls of their tunnels.

Sometimes they will bite the heads off worms and then store the injured worms in mole larders, so that the worms can be eaten later.

Some species of mole use a poison in their saliva to paralyze earthworms before they store them in their larders.

Sometimes moles will eat small mammals, such as mice.

A few species of mole spend some time in the water and are good divers and swimmers.

Sometimes moles are called true moles, to distinguish them from golden moles and marsupial moles.

European Mole

The European mole, also known as the northern mole or the common mole, has a home that consists of a row of horizontal tunnels a few inches below the Earth's surface and a another row of tunnels about a foot below them.

It builds an underground nest that is lined with leaves or grass and has several escape exits.

The European mole's tail is short and furry. Its nose is pink and pointed.

Its eyes are hidden behind fur, and its ears consist of small ridges in the skin.

European moles are solitary animals. They only associate with other moles when mating or when raising young.

Japanese Shrew Mole

The Japanese shrew mole is less than five inches long.

Its fur is grayish brown.

It lives underground among the roots of small, stunted trees and eats grubs, earthworms and insects.

Like the European mole, it has long claws.

However, its front feet resemble paws rather than the paddle-shaped hands of the European mole.