Eastern Mole

Eastern mole (public domain)

Eastern moles, also called common moles, are found throughout Connecticut. They have short, pale gray fur, a long pointed snout, and very distinct wide talon-tipped forefeet designed for digging. The palms of these feet face outwards. The nose and feet are furless and pinkish. They have a short, naked tail. The eyes of moles are sealed shut and usually go unseen under their fur. An underground-dweller like a mole does not need vision. Eastern moles weigh 3 to 5 oz and are about 5 to 7 inches long.

Eastern moles range through the eastern half of the US, except for some of the northernmost regions of New England. They are active year-round and dig systems of underground tunnels that are sometimes visible as rounded mounds on the surface. Much of the soil in Connecticut is classified as sandy loams, and this looser soil allows moles to tunnel up to 18 feet in an hour. Excavated soil will sometimes be pushed to the surface through a hole, creating a molehill. In addition to the tunnels near the surface, moles dig deeper passages of a foot or more in depth that are used in the cold winter months. These tunnels are also where young are raised, and several generations of moles may use the same burrows.

Moles are insectivores. They are not the culprits who eat garden bulbs or munch all the roots off of a plant leaving a crown of rootless leaves above ground to wither and die (those are voles). Moles love beetle larvae and earthworms. As moles tunnel they may burrow through grass roots causing the grass in their path to yellow and die. The damage they do to lawns is generally cosmetic. A large number of moles in one's yard can make the lawn bumpy and mottled. Usually these little mammals are feeding on the larvae of some of our least favorite garden beetle pests such as the Japanese beetle and the June beetle.

Tunnels made by moles tend to be a few inches under the surface and may show as a slightly raised ridge along the ground. You may see no sign of the deeper mole tunnels. By contrast, passages made by voles are usually on the surface and resemble channels through the grass. However, the other burrowing mammals such as shrews or voles may make use of mole tunnels.

Moles mate in February-March, and produce one spring litter, usually in May.

The Eastern mole prefers drier ground than another common Connecticut mole, the Star-nosed Mole. Much of the soil in Connecticut is classified as sandy loams. This looser soil allows moles to tunnel up to 18 feet in an hour.

Neat Fact

The first Eastern mole described in records was a specimen found by Carl Linnaeus that had drowned in a well. Because it was found in water, and because its digging forefeet seemed to be partially webbed, he assumed it was an aquatic animal. It is not, but the Latin scientific name for the Eastern mole is still Scalopus aquaticus in modern day. Scalopus refers to a "blind rat" and aquaticus refers to water. Linnaeus thought he'd found a blind water rat.