Moles are well-adapted animals that live underground. As you uncover the following mole facts, you'll discover that these weird-looking creatures are more than the nuisances they cause. They help in soil aeration and nutrient cycling. They also keep the soil fertile. As insectivores, they help control the population of insect pests.
10 Interesting Mole Facts
1. Moles are not rodents.
They may look related to rats, but moles are small mammals belonging to the family Talpidae, making them closely related to shrews. These animals are distinct due to their soft, velvety fur, spade-like hands, and cylindrical bodies, which made them perfectly adapted to their underground lifestyle.
Moles have a long, pointed snout well-suited for digging through the soil to locate their prey and other moles. This specialized snout helps them efficiently navigate through the earth while burrowing and foraging.
2. There are six North American mole species.
There are six different mole species in North America alone. One is the Eastern Mole, also called the American Shrew Moles, known for its dense fur. Other fascinating species are the Towsend's Mole and the Broad-footed Mole, which creates extensive networks of solitary burrows, displaying impressive burrowing skills.
The Coast Mole has successfully adapted to coastal habitats, thriving in environments near the sea. With its exceptional digging abilities, the Hairy-tailed Mole constructs intricate tunnels for foraging and nesting purposes. Lastly, the Star-nosed Mole (also in our list of ugly animals) intrigues us with its unique nose, which it expertly uses to catch prey and navigate its underground world.
As you have read, no mole rats are mentioned because they are not part of the mole family and are more closely related to porcupines.
3. Moles spend the most time in underground tunnels.
Moles constantly excavate tunnels2. Mole tunnels are sturdy enough to be used for several generations. Their powerful front limbs with large, shovel-like hands enable them to dig tunnels through the soil effortlessly.
They live in grasslands, urban areas, gardens, grasslands, dunes, mixed woodland, or any location with soil where they can dig tunnels. However, their digging can sometimes harm plant roots, making them garden pests. Moles usually avoid acidic soil, high moors, and mountainous regions.
4. Moles are voracious insectivores.
Moles are insectivores with voracious appetites3. Moles eat an impressive 70-100% of their weight in worms, grubs, and insects daily. Their diet consists primarily of these protein-rich soil-dwelling creatures and insect larvae. However, most moles eat earthworms by preference.
Learn about another insect-eating animal by visiting our opossum facts.
5. Moles mate during spring.
The mating season of moles typically occurs during the spring. During this time, male moles actively search for female moles to mate with. They may enlarge their tunnels to increase their chances of finding a suitable partner.
The female mole will give birth to a litter of pups after a gestation period of around four to seven weeks. The timing varies depending on the species and geographic location of the moles.
6. Moles give birth to a few babies.
A female mole can give birth to a litter of two to seven baby moles. At birth, these tiny moles are blind and without fur, but they quickly grow and develop. Their eyes will open at around three weeks old, and they begin to grow fur by two weeks old.
Baby moles depend on their mother's milk in the initial stage of life. The growth is rapid, and they gain strength and size quickly under her care. Around 35 days old, the young moles leave the nest and start venturing outside.
7. Most moles are solitary creatures.
One solitary mole's range can cover an extensive area, often up to 2.7 acres. This range represents a single mole's territory as it digs and searches for food within its underground domain. Moles tend to be naturally solitary animals, meaning they prefer to live and operate independently without forming social bonds or living in groups.
The mole fact below explains the top senses of these mammals.
9. Moles are not blind.
Despite having weak eyesight, moles possess an extraordinary sense of smell that plays a crucial role in their survival. Their keen olfactory abilities enable them to locate their prey, such as insects and worms, with remarkable precision.
With their sensitive noses, moles can detect scents and subtle chemical cues in the soil. This exceptional sense of smell allows them to navigate through their dark underground tunnels and locate food sources efficiently1.
10. Moles are not considered endangered.
Moles live in the fertile soils of North America, Europe, and Asia. Fortunately, the IUCN does not list them as vulnerable or endangered. However, some mole species, such as Towsend's and the Japanese shrew mole, face declining numbers due to habitat loss and fragmentation.
Climate change also impacts mole populations, particularly concerning their favorite food: earthworms. Changes in temperature and rainfall disrupt the earthworms' life cycle, affecting the mole's food supply. Dry spells create hard soil, making digging and hunting more challenging. At the same time, heavy rains can flood their intricate tunnels, leaving them vulnerable to predators.
Similarly, while moles play significant roles in our ecosystem, their activities can unintentionally adversely affect farming. The mole hills, formed as they tunnel through the earth, are often culprits of damage to farming equipment, turning these creatures into unintended pests.
Even if they are not endangered, remember to share these mole facts to spread the love for these mammals.
Related: To further explore the animal kingdom, check out some of the other animals that start with M.
Roellig, K., Drews, B., Göritz, F., & Hildebrandt, T. B. (2011). The Long Gestation of the Small Naked Mole-Rat (Heterocephalus glaber RÜPPELL, 1842) Studied with Ultrasound Biomicroscopy and 3D-Ultrasonography. PLOS ONE, 6(3), e17744.
Aelton, A. V. (1936). An ecological study of the mole. Journal of Mammalogy, 17(4), 349.
Hisaw, F. L. (1923). Feeding habits of moles. Journal of Mammalogy, 4(1), 9.