moleIt’s no wonder that one of the smallest little critters that basically live in the dark, can do the most damage to managed landscapes. Though they simply look like a deformed, eyeless mouse, moles are not rodents. Moles are known as insectivores, an animal family that survives by feeding on invertebrate prey.

There are seven known species of moles in North America and of all mammals, the mole is least understood. It is very difficult to maintain moles in captivity, and their fossorial existence makes studies very difficult. Still, there are basic facts known about them, and successful control in managed landscape systems requires a basic understanding of mole biology.

Moles spend most of their lives underground feeding on invertebrate animals (worms, grubs, larve, centipedes, slugs) living in the topsoil. The diet patterns usually parallel the fauna found in the given environment. Moles lack the dental features for consuming plants such as roots and stems and, as a result, are considered carnivores. Occasionally moles will cut surface vegetation and bring it down to their nest, as bedding, but this is not eaten. Moles are well-adapted to living underground and their most-known feature of wide hands with long claws allow them to penetrate loose soil, similar to the motion of swimming the breast-stroke. The other notable feature, or lack thereof, is their eyes. Nearly invisible since they are of little use underground, they remain concealed. Moles also have very sensitive ears; however, there are no external signs of them and evolution also kept them a non-factor since sound travels well underground than in the air.

Though a mysterious critter to most, they still have a complex origin and unusual lifestyle and ecosystem that continues to baffle gardeners, golf course managers and landscapers.