Saturday, March 27, 2010


As I was crossing the lawn, I noticed the sod heaving as a mole extended one of its surface tunnels. I decided to pop the mole out of the ground for a few pictures. I stepped on the tunnel about a foot behind the mole to cut off retreat and then ripped the already loosened sod from the end of the tunnel where the mole was trapped. I found no trapped mole, but loose dirt was being pushed up from below. The mole was headed down. He was descending faster than I could dig with my hands, so I ended up running for the shovel. If he hadn’t been stopped by some buried rock, I never would have caught him. I hadn’t realized that moles used that strategy to avoid capture. Now I know why a dog digs such a big hole when chasing a mole.

This is the mole’s digging apparatus. Long, sharp claws loosen the dirt and the large, flattened feet push the dirt to the side. I wore gloves while holding the mole because those claws are sharp and a captured mole will try to dig through anything, even the palm of your hand. It has some nice sharp teeth, but I’ve never had a mole try to bite.

The hind feet are smaller than the front, but they are also equipped with a nice set of claws. The mole anchors the hind feet as it digs and then pushes itself forward into the newly opened tunnel. The hind feet are also used to propel loose earth back and out of a tunnel. As I pursued the burrowing mole in its downward flight to freedom, the back feet fed out a constant supply of loose soil.

Moles eat a variety of soil dwelling insects and worms. Surface tunnels are created in their search for food. This highly sensitive snout is used to detect potential prey items. The nose is highly animated and can be bent in any direction or retracted.

Although it can move quite quickly on the surface, the mole isn’t designed for running in the open and moves with a rapid waddle. The mole is aided in its underground travels by an absence of guard hairs, the stiffer hair that makes up the coat of most mammals. The mole is covered completely in under fur, making it one of the softest of all mammals.

There are two species of moles found at Blue Jay Barrens. Shown here is the Eastern Mole characterized by the naked tail. The other is the Hairytail Mole which, as you have probably already surmised, has a hairy tail. This tail reminds me very much of those worms and grubs eaten by the mole. I guess they’re lucky the tunnels don’t allow them to turn around and find their own tails. The mole was released unharmed following the photo shoot.