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Barbara Damrosch

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Updating your home’s landscaping is a great way to increase the value of your property and create outdoor spaces for relaxing and entertaining. Unique ideas here will make your garden fit for a king

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Mole Evidence of Intrusion

Mole evidence of intrusion should be easy to recognize despite the fact that there are only a few types. Because moles spend the majority of their time underground, visual sightings are rare. Due to this the ways to determine if moles are intruding onto your property, and perhaps the cause of some problems in your landscaping are abstract. Read through the following techniques to help you recognize these types of evidence of intrusion.

Mole Evidence of Intrusion-Molehills

Evidence of mole intrusion could lie in small mounds of dirt found in your yard and gardens. Hills are formed when moles push dirt from their tunnel making out to the surface; out of their way and into yours! Look for mounds that are chunky and a have an underground line connecting them. Molehills vary slightly depending on species.

In the eastern portions of North America molehills can be anywhere from six (6) to 24 inches in diameter and from two (2) to eight (8) inches high. In the west the hills are normally slightly smaller in height and diameter.

Keep in mind that Shrew Moles do not make molehills and this method to determine if an American Shrew Mole is invading your landscaping may not work.


Mole Evidence of Intrusion-Tracks

Because the mole spends most of their time underground coming across mole tracks will be rare but not totally out of the question. Look for tracks in soft, wet soils or snow covered ground. Mole tracks will be faint such as the Eastern Mole track illustrated below.

Mole Evidence of Intrusion-Tunnels

All species of moles in North America will tunnel close to the soil surface when feeding. These tunnels will appear above ground and provide evidence of mole intrusion number one! Look for tunnels that are arched, enclosed and able to be flattened with your foot. They are normally found along sewer drain fields and shaded fencerows where insects and earthworms are more prevalent.

Moles spend the majority of their time in their underground homes patrolling the tunnels for food. This can make determining if you have a mole problem very difficult. The techniques above have been gathered to assist you in discovering mole evidence of intrusion.

Mole Interesting Facts

Mole interesting facts are as plentiful as their appetite is uncontrollable. In this section some of the more interesting facts about moles are highlighted for your use.

  • All of the North American mole species have sharp outward facing claws atop their front and rear feet with rear feet narrower and longer than the front.
  • The Chehalis Indian word for mole literally means "hands turned backward".
  • Green vegetation added to mole nests after the young are born add heat to the nest cavity as it decays that keeps the babies warm when mom is out for the day.
  • Young moles disperse above ground at night during the month after weaning, forming their own territories within about 30 yards of their birth site.
  • Moles reach sexual maturity at ten (10) months old and breed in their first winter.
  • Constantly eating, a mole will consume 45-50 lbs of worms and insects each year!
  • Moles are adept at their job and can dig surface tunnels at rates of nearly 18 feet in an hour.
  • Moles are fast and that is a fact! They can travel through existing tunnels at speeds reaching near 80 feet per minute.
    Living underground is serious business. To assist moles in getting enough oxygen underground their physiological make up is such that they contain twice as much blood and double the hemoglobin as other mammals of their size. This helps moles to breathe underground where oxygen levels are low.
    The soft and velvety fur of the mole was once used commercially.
  • In the 1700's and 1800's mole pelts were in demand for linings in hats, purses, pockets and other garments.
  • Townsend's Moles have been known to make as many as 805 mounds per hectare.
  • Broad-Footed Moles have forefeet that are almost as wide as they are long; hence their name.
  • A single Coast Mole may make 200—400 molehills from October to March.
  • The Star-nosed mole has a very unique physical characteristic that, according to experts, is not known to present on any other mammal in world, a star nose! This nose consists of 22 appendages surrounding its nostrils.
  • Researchers have recently determined that these “fingers” are actually sensitive organs used to manipulate objects.
  • The Hairy-Tailed Mole is also known as the Brewer's Mole.
    The Eastern Mole is also known as the Topos.
  • The Broad Footed Mole is also known as Topociego.
  • The Townsend’s Mole is also known as the Snow Mole.
  • The American Shrew Mole is also known as the Gibb's Shrew Mole, and the Least Shrew Mole.
  • American Shrew Moles are not as well adapted for digging as other moles, and have forepaws that are oriented sideways. This allows them to place their front feet flat on the ground.
    Surface tunnels connect with deeper runways that are located 3 to 12 inches below the surface, but may be as deep as 40 inches.
  • Mole tunnels measure about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter.
  • In wet weather tunnels are shallow.
  • The Star-Nosed Mole is an excellent swimmer, and can stay underwater for up to three minutes!
  • The Star-Nosed Mole has been seen swimming under the ice.
    Moles may be well hidden from our sights but they have many unique traits. From creating tunnels at the rate of 18 feet an hour, to patrolling those tunnels at speeds of 80 feet per minute. From eating nearly 50 pounds of worms in year and, in the case if the Star-nosed mole, having “fingers” protruding from their nostrils, these underground patrolmen provide a great

Mole Diet

Mole diet is based on the fact that they are insectivores eating insects and worms and other creatures it finds in the soil. Contrary to what many believe moles do not feed on roots and bulbs. Moles have a very physical existence constantly digging through the soil to get the foods they prefer. Not surprisingly, working so hard cause a very demanding appetite illustrated most aptly by their ability to eat food equal to 70% to 100% their weight every day. Their appetite is so incredible that in scientific tests of captive moles they will continue to eat, and eat, as long as they are provided with food that they like. In fact, it has been shown that moles will eat nearly 50 pounds of earthworms in year. In their never ending quest for food they may even leave the sanctity of their underground burrows which is the where they may run into their short list of predators.

Mole Diet-Food

Living most specifically underground, the mole diet consists only of a select number of foods. All species enjoy earthworms best, but will also partake in the less meaty delicacies of insects and spiders. They will eat slugs, snails and even go after yellow jacket wasps that nest underground. Beetles and centipedes are eaten, as well, and ants are eaten only as last resort. But the most important part of their diet where homeowners are concerned is the common lawn grub. The Star-Nosed Mole will take to the water and eat small fish insects, mollusks and crustaceans.

Mole Diet-Physical Attributes

Moles have a great many physical attributes that allow them to partake in the underground treats that represent the bulk of the mole diet. Moles have poor vision, but they have an excellent sense of smell that allows them to find their next meal. The Star-Nosed Mole’s fingerlike nostril extensions may even detect electrical signals that their underwater prey may be emitting making them easier to catch and consume.

Mole Diet-Benefits and Detriments to Humans and the Ecosystem
The mole diet is for the most part very beneficial to humans and the ecosystem. Their constant and voracious eating habits remove many potentially damaging insects from lawns and gardens include those well known lawn destroyers the grub. Unfortunately, they may uproot a plant or two (2) during the process and the surface feeding tunnels are almost never a welcome site for homeowners.

Leaving their tunnels only in rare instances for most species, the underground world that the animal lives provides plenty of food to appease the constant needs of the mole diet.

Mole Habitat

Mole habitat varies based on species. For instance the Eastern Mole chooses many types of habitats including woodlands, pastures and meadows. Whereas the Star-Nosed Moles like their areas to be a little moister and prefer wet meadows, marshes and peat bogs. Along this same vein, Star-Nosed Moles are often found living along the banks of ponds and streams.

Hairy-Tailed Moles are more at home in edge habitats and meadows and in lower elevations; with the American Shrew Moles more apt to be found in the temperate forests of the American northwest. Townsend’s Moles are often living near river flood plains as well as forests, hayfields, and pastures. And, unlike what their name may conjure, Coast Moles prefer drier areas.

Mole Habitat-Range

Moles are found through the United States and southern portions of Canada. The table below illustrates the more exact ranges of the seven (7) species known to live in North America.
Mole Habitat-NestsHome ranges for moles of all species will be similar. Because of their appetite requirements they must travel large areas to get enough food which leads to very large home ranges. The home ranges of moles can be as large as two (2) to three (3) acres.

No matter what species of mole you may have in your area all moles will opt to have their home burrows in drier areas, while their feeding, surface tunnels may be in wetter portions of their home range habitat. In more populated areas you will find their den sites under trees, sidewalks and buildings. Nests are located in a cavity underground off of one (1) of the main transportation tunnels. Home Sweet Home for the moles will most likely be in a dry spot anywhere from five (5) to twenty (20) inches below ground.

The nest themselves will have a soft matte of vegetation that is woven together to form a compact shell that measures, on average, about two (2) inches thick. After babies are born mom will often add green vegetation to the nest which, while it decays, will generate heat which keeps the babies warm when mom is out getting food.

Mole Habitat-Soils

Mole habitat is very dependent on soil structure as one might expect from an animal that spends nearly all of its time in the dirt! Soil preferences do vary between the species. Coast Moles are more often found in areas with drier, well drained and sandy soils. American Shrew Moles prefer moist, soft and deep soils. Townsend’s moles are not happy in sandy soils at all, but spend their time in loamy soils. Hairy-Tailed Moles like light and well drained soils. Finally, the Eastern Mole can tolerate both dry and wetter soils but will not make their homes in rocky or clay soils.

From the southern reaches of Nova Scotia to the arid parts of Texas, much of North America provides excellent mole habitat.

Mole Behavior

As with most underground animals moles do not hibernate and are active year round. This is most likely due to the warmth retained by the earth below the surface. It has been noted, however, that their activity will remain in the lower portions of their tunnels during periods of extreme cold and heat.

Moles are diggers and, with only rare exceptions, spend the majority of their lives underground. The one (1) exception is the American Shrew Mole which spends a great deal of time above ground and may even climb trees. Moles spend their time in underground tunnels constructed with their large shovel like feet. Moles will build two (2) types of tunnels. The tunnel most disliked by homeowners is their surface tunnels. These tunnels are located only one (1) to four (4) inches below the surface. You might recognize these three (3) inch wide ridges in your yard. These tunnels are used for feeding and may only be used once. The surface tunnels are connected to the second, deeper type of tunnels made by moles.

The deeper tunnels made by these mammals are three (3) to twelve (12) inches below the surface and are represent their main mode of transportation. These tunnels will lead to the surface tunnels and to the main nesting chamber below the earth. The deeper tunnels are about two (2) inches wide.

Moles are able to dig up to fifteen (15) feet per hour! Digging is most pronounced when the soils are moist in the spring and fall. What happens to all that dirt? It gets pushed out of the tunnels to the surface with those wide front feet leaving a mound, otherwise known as the “Molehill”.

The Eastern Mole will create hills approximately 7 inches high and 17 inches wide, but the Coast Mole will produce smaller hills. On average moles will create four (4) hills per day, during the spring and fall when the soils and wetter and digging activity is ramped up. The Coast Mole has been known to make 200 to 400 hills in one (1) season. The American Shrew Mole on the other hand does not normally create molehills at all.

Family interests are simple. The mole normally has only one (1) litter per year. Family size is limited to three (3) or four (4) young who arrive in March or April.

Mole Benefits & Detriments to Humans and the Ecosystem
Moles are very beneficial to the ecosystem. Their constant digging aerates and mixes the soils in your yard creating a much healthier yard and wild places where they live. Unfortunately all that digging sometimes dislodges plants that homeowners may be particularly fond of. Additionally, other animals including voles and house mice utilize the burrow passages of moles.

Mole Physical Appearance

Moles of every species have certain common physical characteristics because of their underground lifestyle. Living underground requires certain senses more than others. For example you will hard pressed to find moles with good vision. Their eyes are very small and covered with a layer of skin followed by a layer of fur. The same goes for their ears only more extreme; they do not have any external parts to them and the ear canal/opening is covered with fur.

The fur of these animals is also conducive to the dirt filled underground world in which they live. It is very fine and short with a flat shaft. Perhaps the most interesting trait of the mole’s fur is that it can lie flat facing frontwards or backwards. The direction depends on the direction the animal is moving at that particular time.

Diggers by nature moles have distinctive features to assist them during their travels that vary by species. The Eastern, Hairy-Tailed, Coast, Star-Nosed, Broad-Footed and Townsend’s Moles have forepaws that are oriented sideways whereas the American Shrew Mole has feet that face front. In all varieties the paws are wider than long and are webbed. The Broad-Footed Mole has, as its name hints to, has a wider foot than the other varieties. All of the North American mole species have sharp outward facing claws atop their front and rear feet that are narrower and longer than the front. In fact, the Chehalis Indian word for mole literally means "hands turned backward".

The most common, and most well known physical feature of the mole is the long slender snout. This snout is normal hairless and in the case of the Eastern Mole extends about ½ inch in front of the mouth.

The Eastern Mole will reach an average total length of seven (7) inches including a one and a quarter (1 ¼) inch tail. The weight of the Eastern Mole is about four (4) ounces.

The Star-Nosed mole has a very unique physical characteristic that, according to experts, is not known to present on any other mammal in world, a star nose! This nose consists of 22 appendages surrounding its nostrils. They have recently determined that these “fingers” are actually sensitive organs used to manipulate objects.

Mole Natural History

Living most exclusively underground all moles have many traits that make this type of life tolerable with visual sightings of the animals quite rare. The seven (7) species include the Eastern, Star-Nosed, Hairy-Tailed, American Shrew, Broad-Footed, Coast and Townsend’s Moles. Several more species live in China and Europe.

Eastern Mole

Scientific Name: Scalapus aquaticus
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Soricomorpha
Family: Talpidae
Genus: Scalapus
Species: aquaticus

Moles in your yard and garden may be one of more than seven (7) species of moles that reside in the United States. Common visitors to yards and garden areas and, as many have found, they can cause a bit of a headache.