Eastern moles (Scalopus aquaticus)

Life History

Eastern moles, or "talpas," are an animal oddity that are rarely seen. Small and sleek-furred, these mammals possess a remarkable structure adaptation of a body so unique they can flourish in total darkness. Moles move through their intricate chambers of darkness with remarkable dexterity. As they thrive in a subterranean life style, they leave highly visible clues of their presence.

Moles are "master excavators." Their body design is aided by a high metabolism which provides a capability of pushing through and moving hundreds of yards of earth during its short life span of three years. Nothing seems to deter this short-lived animal; from hardpan clay to organic soils, it doggedly seeks out worms, spiders, and other invertebrates to satisfy its voracious appetite.

The short-snouted mole squirms and wiggles their flexible bodies through the earth, pushing dirt balls along, and than flattening the soil pieces against a tunnel wall. Only then will they move these little soil lumps along the wall, using short hind legs, until a lumping mass is behind them. These lumps of soil may be pushed up to the surface forming hollow-centered hills.

Molehills are their ventilation shafts, which connect the tunnels and rooms of a mole passageway. These air holes also allow "talpas" to quickly zoom up to the surface. Highly active periods are coupled with short resting sessions. Moles are truly dependent on an abundant food supply. They will consume their weight in worms and other soil dwellers during a day and night of forging and resting.

Solitary in habit, moles mate quickly, then resume their lone life style in their own space of tunnels and rooms. Small litters of four young quickly leave the nesting area after a two-month growing period.

Remarkable animals are the moles. We can provide a space for them to forage on worms in our yards and gardens. For additional information on animals that create well-designed architecture in their limited environments, seek out the following publication: Animal Architecture, by Nobel Laureate Karl von Frisch and Otto von Frisch.

Non-DNR Links

Scalopus aquaticus (University of Michigan, Museum of Zoology)