Eastern mole

Scalopus aquaticus

SUBFAMILY

Talpinae

TAXONOMY

Scalopus aquaticus (Linnaeus, 1758), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. Sixteen subspecies.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

French: Taupe a queue glabre; German: Ostamerikanischer Maulwurf; Spanish: Topo de agua.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Adults range from 5.9-7.9 in (15.0-20.0 cm) in total length, and 0.8-1.5 in (2.0-3.8 cm) in tail length. Adults generally weigh 3.2-5.0 oz (90-143 g). On average, males are slightly larger than females. An often glistening, stocky mole with brownish gray, sometimes black fur. It has a short, hairless tail, and large, wide feet sporting long claws.

DISTRIBUTION

Eastern half of the United States, except the far northern reaches. Extends south to extreme northeastern Mexico.

HABITAT

Although it has webbed feet and its species name is aquaticus, this mole shuns aquatic habitats, opting instead for the moist, sandy or loamy soils of forests and fields, as well as lawns, and other cultivated areas.

BEHAVIOR

This is a solitary, fossorial mole, making shallow tunnels for foraging and deeper tunnels up to 2.5 ft (0.8 m) underground for winter denning. The shallow tunnels are evident as trails, or "mole runs," of loose dirt across the forest floor or a lawn. This mole also makes small molehills, which are piles of dirt pushed out of the tunnels and onto the surface.

During breeding season, moles make a large room, and line the floor with grass and leaves for a nest.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

This species is an omnivore. Its diet includes mostly insect larvae and earthworms, but it also eats other invertebrates, including slugs and centipedes, as well as roots and seeds. Predators include hawks and owls during the rare occasions when the mole is on the surface, or digging mammals, such as foxes, and domestic cats and dogs.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Promiscuous. Mating occurs in early spring, with a litter of three to five altricial young born 40-45 days later. Females have only one litter per year. The young are weaned at four to five weeks and become sexually mature by the following spring.

CONSERVATION STATUS Not threatened.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Moles are a pest species to many gardeners who lose crops to their foraging, and to homeowners who find their impeccably groomed lawns irregularly patterned by mole trails. ♦

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