Mole Species of New York (Upstate)

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About Moles

Moles are members of the Talpidae family and are expert burrowers. They are so well adapted for living and feeding underground, their sense of hearing and vision have given way to enhanced touch and smell, which they use to zero in on underground prey. Their eyes are small and usually covered with fur and they don’t have external ear parts. What they do have are very sensitive noses with a keen sense of touch and smell. Although finding a live mole is a challenge, one could get close easily if careful not to cause much vibration on the ground. Their spade-like front feet are the perfect digging tool, allowing them to easily excavate burrows of living and blaze shallow tunnels for getting around. If they do sense you approaching, they will quickly scurry into the nearest burrow entrance.

Feeding on primarily invertebrates, they have a seemingly unlimited food source. Although some species will often leave their burrows to seek food above ground and even in water. Not only are their specialized feet great for digging, they make great paddles too.

The mole’s trademark, the molehill, is also what makes it a nuisance to homeowners. While excavating, the mole piles small amounts of dirt outside of the many entrances, ruining the perfect lawn. For agriculture, the mole’s activity tills the land, disrupting plant roots and providing opportunities for weed growth. On one hand they are a key player in insect control. On the other they devour large quantities of our helpful soil-conditioning earthworms. In fact, moles are eating machines. They have to constantly be munching in order to keep going. Their small size, active lifestyle, and being surrounded all day by the cold wet ground are all reasons for having to constantly snack.

Mole Books and Field Guides

 

Humane Capture / Control for Moles

New York State Mole Species Identification Guide

Eastern MoleEastern MoleFind more images

Eastern Mole
(Scalopus aquaticus)

AKA: Common mole

Identifying characteristics: A medium-sized mole with a robust body, thick grayish-brown, silky fur and more silvery-gray under parts. The nose is pointed and pink. The forelimbs are short with broad feet, pink webbed toes, and have huge claws for digging. The fore feet will usually be outstretched with palms facing away from the body. The hind feet are smaller and usually tucked under the body. The ears are internal and the eyes are covered with fur. The tail is short and pink (with no fur).

Size: From 4 to 6.5 inches in length and weighing an average of 2.6 ounces. Males are generally larger than females.

Habitat: Spends most of its time underground, burrowing in loose, well-drained soil. Often found in open fields, gardens, and sparsely wooded areas. Nests are within burrows and entrances are usually under a log, stump, or rock.

Food: Omnivore. Diet consists primarily of earthworms and some insects and their larvae, but they will eat some vegetation (roots). They can consume an equivalent of their body weight in one day.

Vocalization: Not known.

Predators: Humans.

Reproduction: Litter size average 3 with1 litter a year. Young will stay with their mother for 1 month. Mating season is late March to early April.

Other Info.: Solitary and primarily nocturnal (though most active near dawn and dusk). Although they are not usually found near water or the accompanying saturated soils, they are superb swimmers. These moles use their large, spade-like fore feet to dig up soil, which it then passes to its hind feet. The hind feet then pass it behind the body. They are capable of digging roughly 15 feet of tunnels in one hour. Winter tunnels tend to go deeper than usual burrows.

Distribution

Distribution

South-east counties. More common in states to the south.

Status: none

Tracks

Mole tracks

It’s unlikely to find mole tracks above ground, but look for 5-clawed prints with small elongated hind prints and large broad fore prints.

Burrows are close to the surface of soft soil and can be seen above ground as ridges protruding from the soil. The entrances to burrows may have adjacent piles of excavated soil (mole hill).

Hairy-tailed MoleHairy-tailed MoleFind more images

Hairy-tailed Mole
(Parascalops breweri)

Identifying characteristics: Looking very similar to the Eastern Mole, the Hairy-tailed species has dark gray to black, silky fur. It is a little smaller in size and most notably has a fur-covered tail, which is constricted at the base. Older individuals may have a white snout, tail or feet. The feet are not webbed. Like the Eastern Mole, the eyes are tiny and covered with fur and the external ears are not present.

Size: Averaging 5 inches in length and 2.2 ounces in weight. Males are generally larger than females.

Habitat: Spends most of its time underground, burrowing in loose, well-drained soil. Often found in hardwood forests, brush, and open fields or gardens. Nests are within burrows and entrances are usually under a log, stump, or rock.

Food: Omnivore. Diet consists primarily of earthworms, insects and larvae (especially beetles). When food is scarce they will feed on small roots as a supplement, but cannot live on roots alone. They can consume an equivalent of three times their body weight in one day.

Vocalization: Not known.

Predators: Foxes, owls, cats, dogs, snakes, humans. During the day these moles are usually underground and at night they travel above ground to feed, making them vulnerable to predators.

Reproduction: Litter size average 4.5 with 1 litter a year. Young will stay with their mother for 1 month. Mating season is March through April.

Other Info.: Solitary in winter and may be active at all hours, they are often found above ground, feeding at night. Families may share burrows until winter, where they separate. Winter tunnels tend to go deeper than usual burrows.

Distribution

Complete distribution

Found all over the state and neighboring states.

Status: none

Tracks

Mole tracks

It’s unlikely to find mole tracks above ground, but look for 5-clawed prints with small elongated hind prints and large broad fore prints.

Burrows are close to the surface of soft soil and can be seen above ground as ridges protruding from the soil. The entrances to burrows may have adjacent piles of excavated soil (mole hill).

Star-nosed MoleCondylura-cristata1Find more images

Star-nosed Mole
(Condylura cristata)

Identifying characteristics: Arguably one of the ugliest mammals in the state, the Star-nosed Mole is easy to identify with its hairless, pink nose —ringed by 22 short, fleshy tentacles. The short, stout body and dark brown to black fur is similar to other moles, but the fur of this species tends to be more coarse. The tail is short, somewhat hairy, and constricted at the base. The tail tends to swell during the winter. The eyes are tiny and fur-covered and there are no external ears.

Size: Averaging 7.5 inches in length and weighing an average of 2 ounces. Males slightly larger than females.

Habitat: Moist soil with poor drainage and a preferred proximity to water. Often found near the banks of lakes, ponds, bogs, and streams. Nests are above the water line in shallow, dug-out areas beneath rocks, logs or stumps. Burrow entrances may either be above the water line or within the body of water.

Food: Carnivore. Primarily aquatic worms, aquatic insects and larvae, earthworms, crustaceans, mollusks and small fish. Aquatic prey are fundamental for winter survival.

Vocalization: Not known.

Predators: Birds of prey, weasels, dogs, cats, skunks, bullfrogs, largemouth bass.

Reproduction: Litter size average 5 with one successful litter a year. Young will stay with their mothers for about a month. Mating season is mid-March through April.

Other Info.: Their highly sensitive, star-shaped nose is primarily used to detect prey. The tentacles move separately to seek out prey when tunneling or diving using feel. The tentacles move so quickly while foraging, they will often touch an object as much as 12 times a second. When feeding they move out of the way to aid in chewing. The star of tentacles is formed in a unique way so far not seen other places in the animal world. Instead of growing in the same way fingers grow outward on a hand, they start as swellings on the face around the nose, and some days after birth they break free and move forward in the same way a banana is peeled. They are excellent swimmers and prefer hunting in bodies of water. Because they expose themselves to hunt in water they are often preyed upon by predators like fish. They may be active day and night. Like the Eastern Mole, they dig shallow burrows, but do not dig deeper winter burrows.

Distribution

Complete distribution

Found throughout the state and neighboring states.

Status: none

Tracks

Mole tracks

It’s unlikely to find mole tracks above ground, but look for 5-clawed prints with small elongated hind prints and large broad fore prints.

Burrows are close to the surface of soft soil and can be seen above ground as ridges protruding from the soil. The entrances to burrows may have adjacent piles of excavated soil (mole hill).

 


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