General Overview Mole-ology
Identification: This compact burrowing rodent is distinguished by naked pointed nose and large webbed forefeet that are clawed. Hind feet are smaller and narrow with sharp claws. Size will vary between species and also within species because of environments being more arid or moist. Average weight is 4 oz., 6 inches upto 12 inches in length, with smooth dark pelt and tail sparsely covered.
Physical: Can fix oxygen found in tunnel environments that offer low concentrations of oxygen and higher carbon dioxide levels through high hemoglobin levels in their blood. Digging and excavation tasks are enabled by superb muscular structure of mole. Cellular structures on nose, belly and tail provide for an extremely highly tuned sense of feel, which enables them to locate food rapidly, sense tunnel air pressure changes, remember tunnel routes, and respond to intrusion from many sources.
Activity Periods: Works throughout year, typical 3 periods of daily work intensity. Slows down during extremes in weather and relies on stored food supplies in deep nesting tunnel systems.
Social Structure: Colonial during weaning. Broad home range. Typically territorial or solitary. Overlapping runways but generally never share home range systems. Will share common thoroughfare system in historically infested areas. Avoid each other unless during highly charged breeding cycle and weaning process.
Habitat: Live in seclusion in underground tunnel systems,Only social when breeding. Systems are typically made up of shallow feeding tunnels that run downward into deep nesting tunnel systems that can be few feet underneath the shallow systems. Upper systems can leave heaved turf. Infested areas will have above ground conical shaped mounds created by the excavated tunnel soil and debris. Mounds seem to follow a line, unlike a gopher’s random mounding pattern and crescent shaped mounds. Spend about half their time sleeping in their deep tunnel system nests.
Food: Although moles are typically referred to as an insectivore, they are more of an omnivore. They eat methodically on earthworms and soft-bodied insects but will consume vegetative matter as well as other rodents and even birds. A mole will consume 70-100% of its body weight based on the derived calories from the target of their feeding (Endothermic exchange). Since worms offer so little calories per serving, they are forced to consume masses of them to survive. Moles will also clip the worm’s head off and roll the remainder up in a deep food storage vault for later consumption, generally when temperature and soil conditions limit high energy.
Abundance: Typically can find 3-6 per acre in a large population. Populations generally vary with soil and food conditions. Territories will overlap and can be almost 20 times the area of a pocket gopher home range. Prefer lighter more friable soils with corresponding benefit of good gas exchange and higher population of target foods.
Breeding Season: January through April. Breeding follows improved food and temperature conditions. Males will construct and maintain overlapping systems to adjoining female tunnel systems during this cycle. Males will build large radial systems to overlap female home ranges.
Gestation: Between 30-42 days. She continues to forage and build nests. Less digging activity.
Litter Size: 3-6 young. Field (natural) mortality varies but can reach 50%+ over the first year.
Weaning: 4-5 weeks. Female will forcibly disperse young to adjoining or distant areas. Juveniles will travel up to a 1/4 miles. Mole can reach adult size within several months. The male assists in tunnel maintenance, food gathering and nest maintenance and leaves the female when juveniles are gone.
Predation: Badgers, hawks, owls, domestic pets, and weasels. All typically have little effect on general mole population, unless the mole is above ground foraging or moving to another site to burrow.